Why YOU - not your web designer - should own your domain name
This post comes as the result of a nasty little experience I had recently with a current client and their old website design company. Let me start off by saying I in no way blame the client - 100% of the blame falls on the web design firm, which shall remain nameless.
Several years ago, this particular client called on the web design firm to design and build their first website. Because the client does not know anything about website design and domain names, they mistakingly allowed the firm to purchase the domain name in the firm's name. BIG MISTAKE! But, again, I don't blame the client, because the firm should know better.
Long Story Short
To make a long story short, a few weeks ago (which is several months after I finished up their new redesign), the client calls me wondering why their website is down. After a bit of investigating, it is clear their domain has expired. "No worries," I tell them. "Just call up your domain registrar and have them renew it." Come to find out, they didn't even know what their domain name was ("How is the domain name separate from the website? I thought everything was with you?"), nor did they know that their domain name was still controlled and owned by their previous web designer.
After several emails back and forth with the previous firm, we agreed to renew the domain name for an additional year (at 3.5 times the going rate...another Network Solutions ripoff!) and the firm would unlock the domain name for transferring and provide the security code. After much frustration, we were able to accomplish this, and we are now in the process of transferring the domain name to GoDaddy. All in all, this has been a 4 week process.
The Moral of the Story
So what's the moral of the story? The client should ALWAYS own and be in control of the domain name. Now, did I just tell them to go sign up at GoDaddy and do the transfer? No way! They'd never be able to do it on their own. But I did just about everything for them, but this time the domain is in their name on their credit card so the client is the actual owner - not me! We set it up on auto-renew so their site would never experience any down time and now they simply are charged $10 annually for the domain that they own.
They now know who their domain registrar is. They have their account login and password. They have the support telephone number for GoDaddy. I've given them everything they need to manage their own domain. Now, who will be the first person they call if they have questions or problems with their domain? Me, of course! But, now, I can politely refer them to GoDaddy and assist when needed, but they are always in control of their domain.
Do You Own Your Domain Name?
I've seen it time and time again - web designers hijacking the domain names of their clients and it is simply WRONG! There is nothing wrong with registering their domain for them, but hijacking a domain and charging exorbitant fees is absolutely crossing the line. If you are a website owner and you are not sure who owns your domain name, go to Whois.net and find out. Just type in your domain and it will spit out the ownership information.