Do You Own Your Website Code? A Cautionary Tale

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There's a problem:

It’s not unusual for Unidev to have a prospective client contact us about their website thinking that they own their site and not realizing that they only own their domain name. They don’t understand exactly what they’ve paid for in the past, and it is horrifying when they discover that they’ve lost everything, except the domain. Consumers often think that because they’ve hired someone to build a website for them they own it, but upon further inspection, they learn that they’ve lost the design, the development, the CMS, the content, images, and everything. Without these details from their website, they find themselves having to hire a web development company to build a new website from the ground up.

A Sad Story:

A potential client, Matt, approached Unidev needing help with a horrible website situation. He had been working with a developer who made all of his website updates for him. The problem was that the updates weren’t being made in a timely manner, and Matt wasn’t happy with having to wait on them. He didn’t know how the updates were being made to his site, just that he had to have developers do them.

Matt approached his development company to tell them that he wanted to go elsewhere for his web development and hosting needs. That’s when the nightmare began. Matt found out that by switching development companies, he would lose everything other than his URL. He learned that he was being held hostage by his site and his developers.

That’s when Matt turned to Unidev as a potential partner. Unidev’s developers looked into the source code of Matt’s current site and discovered that it had a lot of WordPress themes and plugins as well as other indicators that the site was built in the WordPress CMS. The beauty of a CMS is that it gives site owners the freedom of updating their own sites on their own time. The problem was that Matt didn’t know his site was built in WordPress. He should have been able to make quick updates to his site at any time, but he couldn’t because he didn’t have access to the CMS, hadn’t received the training, and didn’t even know he had a content management system.

The Lesson:

Beware of the developers you choose to work with and what development contracts you sign. Understand exactly what you own and what you do not own if you walk away from the developers.

The Solution

When Unidev builds a website in a CMS like WordPress, the code belongs to the client. The client owns the administrative rights to the site, and the client is trained in how to make updates, if they care to do their own, otherwise, Unidev developers are here to do updates as needed.

There's More

The problem does not only exist with development companies, organizations can also run into problems with build-your-own-website solutions. There are many inexpensive and free platforms that allow you to build your own website. You are forced to use their templates to build your site, and when you are ready to expand your site, you can’t take it with you to another developer. In order to keep your original site, you have to stay with that platform. When you choose to go, you lose all the hours and work that you’ve put into building your site. Some of these platforms advertise a lot of features, but many of these features are very basic, and if you choose to upgrade, then you are charged as you add more premium features to your site.

Before building a website on one of these free or inexpensive platforms, keep in mind the value of your time as well as how dynamic you want your website to be. Be forward thinking. Your site will be stuck on this platform forever, and you will always be the one doing the updates. These platforms sound great because they can be so inexpensive, but realize going in, that your options will be very limited. When your business grows and you outgrow your current site, you’ll be starting a new site from scratch.


Ready to take back control of your website? Contact us today.