I’ve been hearing the phrase who owns your website on non webmaster sites for some time now. It always sounded silly to me as a web designer. I host sites and I design sites. I’m paid for both of those things. I figure that everything belongs to my clients once I have finished and been paid for my work.
However, there are few things to consider. Some companies offer templates that can be customized. These templates may belong to the webmaster, not to you as the business owner. Some of these same companies may offer a certain amount of free content that can be customized. This content too may belong to the webmaster. If it is very customized at some point, it may no longer belong to the webmaster but to the writer (which in many cases is the business owner). This would be an issue for copyright if it went to court.
If something happens to the webmaster, what happens to the site. This is a good question for any web host or design company. While I believe my clients owned their sites, I was always a one person show. Certainly I had a plan for it I needed to go out of business. I could move sites into the names of the businesses and they could then use any new webmaster or maintain the site themselves with full access. What happened if something serious happened to me? What if I fell off a cliff and went into a coma? What happened if I died? My husband knew about the workings of the business and has enough web savvy to get the company I was using as a reseller host to port the sites to their own hosting accounts with the help of the clients. Certainly, I would hope that clients would be a little patient given that it might not go as smoothly as I’d like but at that point, probably wouldn’t be around to care.
Given how many people do this work on their own, what are their plans? It’s a tough question to ask. Perhaps asking what sort of assistance they have if they can’t work would be a way to start. This way you know that your site is safe no matter what happens to the other person. Yes, it would be hassle to have to find someone else but at least you have a working website and don’t have to start from square one.
Ownership may not be the best way for phrasing these issues, but it’s a good way to think about it. Who are you entrusting the care of your website to? Will they love it and understand it’s importance to your business? Do they have contingencies in place if they can’t work?