You worked with the designer and/or developer to get your business website up on the internet. It has your business’ name as the .com.au and it has your logo, and everything! You paid off the balance, and it’s great! 

So you have full access to everything you paid for, right? RIGHT? 

Surprisingly, the answer is not always a straightforward “YES.” 

Emphasize yes on full access to your website

Let’s do a quick checkup. 

Do you have a place where you can log in and look at your domain?

It should be the place where it allows you to change the nameservers and DNS. It should be in a “your domains list” or similar. You should be paying between $14-18 a year for it. 

Yes?

OR is the designer/developer telling you that the domain is “secure” and “can be handed over at any time” and that it’s “just been done this way for convenience?” 

Do you have a place where you can log in and check on your hosting?

Hosting is where your website files and database is kept. It’s also most likely where the backups are kept. Once you log in, you should be seeing words like “server” and “hosting” and “database.” 

Yes?

OR is the designer/developer telling you that the hosting is “not structured like that” or it’s done this way “for security” or that it’s “just been done this way for convenience?” 

Do you have full admin access to the backend of your website?

In WordPress, you would be logging in to yourdomain/wp-admin/ or /wp-login.php or if the developer believed that obscuring it (to prevent spam bots) was necessary, then it could even be some random safe word in the url, like yourdomain/pineapple. Once you log in, you should be seeing menu items like appearance, plugins, settings, etc 

Yes?

OR is the designer/developer telling you that you’re not allowed full admin access because they need to keep it that way “for SEO,” “for maintenance,”  “for security” or that it’s “just been done this way for convenience?”

If your answers to these questions fall into the “OR…” part, so essentially, NO, then unfortunately, you’ve been lied to. 

Major Neon - Do you have full access to your website?

Let us explain. 

How designers/developer lie to you.

To “debunk” their claims, it’s pretty simple. 

The domain should be yours.

The domain should be registered under your name, your email, your details, and you should have full access to it, no excuses. It’s true that domains can be transferred ownership. That does not mean that the designer/developer can just go out and register 11 domains for YOUR business name under THEIR name and charge you 11 hours worth of work. (It takes about 10 min to register 11 domain names.) Sadly, we’ve seen that happen. 

The domain is the most important part of a website. It proves ownership. If you own your domain, then ultimately, you control everything. Buying your own domain is easy as pie, and should be under your name and your business, so saying it’s for your convenience is a… convenient lie. 

You should have full access to your hosting.

Hosting. Because a lot of agencies manage the websites for their clients, it’s common to have it on their hosting service, legit for convenience. Nothing wrong with clients having it on their own, but it’s fine to have it on the agency’s hosting. However, most, if not all, hosting accounts made for client management have the ability to share the instance with you. All it needs is an email, and you’ll get a notification telling you to sign up, and you’ll be able to access your hosting. 

Unsurprisingly, there are hosting services that do not offer this, and that’s because they are either super budget-friendly low spec’d and/or they are intended for personal use. That’s also another reason why the clients are not allowed inside. They can view other clients’ sites and files. This is not only risky and amateurish, but also a sketchy way of making it harder to move away from them. Very uncool. 

You should have full admin access to your website.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but there are a surprising number of agencies that limit client access to the website that they paid for. You should have access to your website theme, page builder, plugins, and even code. We had a recent client that was told that they were admin, but when I checked, they didn’t even have access to any site settings, let alone theme or plugins. That was just a simple lie then, wasn’t it? 

Being secretive and defensive about the site and the build and inner workings is very unprofessional and shows insecurity. There are countless people in the web design groups asking if there’s a way to obscure the page builder, trying to hide what tool they’re using. There are also countless people advising others that “clients are not allowed in the backend.” We feel that’s condescending, insecure, and outright fraudulent. 

There are many ways for the client to have full access to the site, but not break it by mistake. PK gave a presentation on this at a digital summit before. It’s also perfectly fine for you to break the site. That’s why we’re here; to fix it.

Major Neon - Do you have full access to your website?
Safe delivery of your … website

We believe it’s unethical to limit your access to your website. 

You paid for the site in full, it’s yours. Their contracts saying whatever to justify limiting it (usually in the form of “if you break it, you pay for it”) is just a ruse to scare you out of it. Why would you not even be able to just look at the stuff you paid for? 

They can bring up many reasons for this, but nothing that holds any water. 

Are we on a crusade? No. We just believe in respecting clients and their businesses. We’ve been around the block and then some. We’ve inherited many many websites and services that have not been built with the client’s best interests in mind, and we don’t like being a negative Nancy, but it’s hard not to be frustrated at some of our competitors. 

Honestly, we might advise on (or even in some cases, against) design, verbiage, or usability issues, etc, but we would never force or try to wheedle any unethical practice on the client.

You paid for it, it’s yours. We just look after it, help it run smoothly, and get you where you’d like to go. You bought the car, we’re only the chauffeur and mechanic, and you should be able to take it out for a spin (or mod it, or crash it) any time you want. 

Pretty simple, right?