Why you should own your website - the importance of developer independence
Early on in my career, I remember the frustration of inheriting a website that was locked into a development company that provided terrible service. It was the first website I had managed, built using a bespoke Content Management System (CMS) developed and managed by this company.
Requests for bug fixes or changes were often ignored or done badly, and I spent a lot of my time chasing up the developers to get anything done. I also found that the charges were far higher than they should be. However, we were stuck with this developer as they built and owned the software. I had to start planning for a brand-new website.
Bespoke website software was common in those days, but open-source CMS systems were on the rise. Open source is code that other people can freely use and modify. The rise of open-source CMS software meant that new websites could be build much more easily and cheaply, without the need for licences or reliance on a single development company.
"I am amazed by how many organisations and companies still end up being tied into a single development company. This ignores one of the biggest advantages of open source: developer independence"
Nowadays, most websites are built using standard CMS software. The three most popular in the world, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, and all open source. These can meet the needs of most websites. For example, WordPress is great for small, simple websites while Drupal is powerful, and can meet the most demanding requirements and security needs.
Despite the fact most websites now use open source, I am amazed by how many organisations and companies still end up being tied into a single development company. This ignores one of the biggest advantages of open source: developer independence. If your website is built on one of these off-the-shelf systems, your organisation should own the website.
Own your website
When I work on a new website, as a point of principle I ensure that it’s made clear the organisation fully owns the website. This is also clarified in the contract.
If your organisation is developing a new website, clarify with the development company that you’ll own the website, and ensure this is clear on the contract.
We also ensure that the client is provided with a full admin account for the CMS. This isn’t used for day-to-day work, but having access allows migration and a change to a new development company if needed. I’d recommend every organisation with a website takes this step.
There is still the need for bespoke websites - when requirements are unique and complex. However, most sites are now built-in standard CMS software. If you’re creating a new website using off-the-shelf software, make sure your organisation owns the website – and not the developer.