A web designer friend of mine told me this horror story: she took up a new client and when she wanted to access the website to do the redesign she was hired for, she couldn't.
She spent two days trying to figure out how to log into the back end when it turned out that the designer who initially created the site wouldn't give her access.
She was shocked and frustrated - and so was the so-called owner of the site. Sucks, right?
When I was hired to redesign a site last year, I was similarly up the wall when I saw that everything - the domain, the hosting, and the CMS - was owned by the designer who created the site.
I had to start with "freeing" everything and making sure everything belongs to the rightful owner, by hiring a new host and transfer the domain (fortunately this designer was willing to co-operate).
What can you do to avoid this deadly mistake and be the owner of your website?
1.Register your own domain
When I'm hired to design a site, I always ask my client to register the domain and pay for the hosting for themselves.
If they don't know how to do it, I help them - usually start the process or show them how to do it (depends on the hosting company).
GoDaddy, for example, lets us, designers have a special account and clients can give access to us - we can even add products to their carts this way, but it's the client who approves the payment and owns everything.
2. Sign a contract with your designer/developer
Never-ever jump into a project with any designer without signing a contract.
A contract should include the details of the design, the deadline of the work, payment schedule, cancelation, and refunds (if any) and the rights of ownership.
Usually, when the design and payment are final, the (trustworthy) designer transfers the usage rights to the client.
We, designers might retain some rights (like displaying the design in our portfolio or having a URL at the bottom of the site linking to ours), but you should be the owner of your site after paying for it.
So make sure you ask the designer you want to hire if they have a contract and if it includes the transfer of usage rights.
Save yourself from having a hard time later.