6 Things To Check To See If You Control Your WordPress Website

If your WordPress website is bringing in money to your business, and I hope that it is. Wouldn’t you be annoyed (to put it mildly) if suddenly it stopped working because of something you didn’t know that you had to do?

I’ve listed the top SIX things to check on your WordPress website. In my 10+ years of experience with WordPress, these are the things that can trip up business owners when something unexpected goes wrong with their website. My intention with this article is to educate you to be able to check whether or not YOU are in control of YOUR WordPress website.

There can be a lot of assumptions by business owners when they buy a website design service. Assumptions are not needed if it’s not written in the proposal or contract before it’s signed.

Zen Businesswoman

One: check your domain ownership and domain contact links

If you type in Whois into your favourite search engine you’ll see a list of Whois checks that can be done. If your Australia domain ends in .com.au then you can use Auda (https://whois.auda.org.au/)

It’s simple to use. Type in your domain name, in my case kisswpwebsites.com.au then enter the control text to check that you're a human being and click on submit. Displayed information includes your domain registrar, the registrant contact details, technical contact details, and the hosting.

The registrar may show the original registrar, rather than the company that you registered with. An example of this is I registered my domain with Prompt Web Hosting but they do not show on the registration. They are a partner of Synergy Wholesale and their name appears. You must keep the information of who you registered with in case of any issues. If a web designer registers for you then you still want that information.

The registrant should be you or your business. It should NOT be your designer.

The technical contact can be your designer if you are on a website maintenance care plan with them, otherwise, it can be your contact details.

The name server states the hosting for your website. The hosting is where all your files are kept for your website, like files on a laptop.

I would strongly suggest that you are the contact for your domain that you own, and you take responsibility for it.

If you receive an email that you don't understand about your domain, you can always contact somebody about it and if you're on a website care plan with a designer, you can forward it to them to ask for help.

You need to be in control, you need to be responsible. Your website is your online real estate. It’s like owning a shop. If you had a physical shop you would be very careful about who had keys to that shop, the lease etc. It's the same with your website.

You need to be in control, even if you decide to delegate to someone else you need to know what's going on.

Two: Who’s in charge of your hosting?

Your website has two main technical parts - the domain and the hosting. You’ve checked the domain in the section above so now it’s time to check your hosting.

You may have a hosting package with the company that designed your website. If it’s a one-person company have you asked them what happens to your website if anything happens to them?

I had one client come to me because they had issues with their website. We had a hard time tracking down where the website was hosted because the client hadn’t still got those details. After all, it was an old website that hadn’t been used for a while. Although we could track the hosting company, they were a large reseller and they couldn’t tell us (or wouldn’t tell us ) which company had sold that hosting to the client. It was a real mess. The client didn't remember paying for the hosting recently. We assume that hosting had been paid for several years and the hosting business itself had closed down.

In another case, the website designer was receiving, and paying the clients invoices. Those charges were then passed to the client. However, if the designer doesn't pay the invoice you can lose your hosting because you’re not in control of the hosting.

I know it’s easy to pass everything over to someone else. It feels relaxing, but it’s not relaxing when I have clients come to me because their website has vanished and they don’t know why and they can’t get hold of the original designer.

Whoever you decide to use for your hosting, keep the contact details safe and make sure you know how often you will be invoiced.

Three: administrator access to the back end of your website

Whether your website is with WordPress or any other type of Content Management System you need to have access to the back end of your website.

I know some designers will disagree with me on this one, but I honestly believe you should have administrator rights. You have the right to stuff up the website you’ve paid for, or to delegate the back end of your website to someone other than the designer who made it.

Ideally, you would have two logins. The first login is an administrator user access which has full rights to your website which means you can really stuff up your website if you don't know what you're doing. The second login has editor access for updating website content. Editor access doesn't have access to the other things such as plugins so yes it can stuff up content, but it can't stuff up the entire website. Administrator access has full access which you have paid for since the website belongs to you. It's up to you what you want to do with it.

You are not forced to use administrator user access. You can use editor access if you're updating the content. If you feel confident with the administrator access you can update the content and ignore the rest of the options that you see there. If you take a website backup before any changes are performed then any errors can be corrected.

I’ve had business owners come to me when they’re in trouble so I ask them for their website access and all they have is editor access. They're no longer in touch with the website designer, or the designer is no longer in business. With editor access, you don't have complete control of your website.

From a support point of view, it's easier for us if you don't have administrator rights, because frankly, there's less for you to screw up. The reason that business owners stuff up is that they receive their website with little or no training.

From my point of view, yes, it is easier if you don't have administrator rights. From your point of view, as the owner, and the one who's ultimately responsible for the website I feel you should have full access rights. If you don't want to use it, that's fine. I don't have an issue with that, but I do feel that you should have it.

Four: Who owns the images on your website 

This may seem to be a no brainer for you because it's like I paid for it so it's my website. A website has many different parts to it so different people can own different parts of that website.

I realise I may have just blown your mind by saying that you may not own all of your website.

If you supplied all the images on your website, the logos, the happy faces of yourself and your team, any product images, then that's fine. All the images belong to you.

If, however, you have used stock images that have been brought from somewhere else, unless you actually paid for them they may actually belong to the designer and not to you.

This might not be the designer's fault. I only found out recently that Deposit Photos in the small print says that if I buy photos or images that I use for my clients the actual license of the images is with me, and not my clients. I thought because I was signed up as a business, it was obvious that I would be using this for my clients. Because my business paid for them the license is actually with me.

You're actually better off buying your own images, so that way you know that the image license belongs to you.

As a side note, you cannot simply find images on Google, or any other search engine, and download them to use. You should not use those images unless they explicitly say that they can be used for commercial usage.

Five: Who owns the theme on your website?

The theme is the look and feel of your website. It's where the logo appears, how the images appear, what colours you use, what fonts you use. Everything to do with the look and the position of the website comes under the theme.

If you created your own website you may have used a free theme, or you may have paid for a theme. In that case, there is no issue with who owns the theme.

If you have a designer do your website for you, you need to know whether the theme is free or premium. If it's a premium theme then somebody paid for it and you need to know whether it’s an annual licence or a lifetime licence.

For example, I use Astra theme Pro. It's a theme I use a lot for myself and my client's websites. I have an agency developer's lifetime license which means that I can use it on a clients website and they don’t have to pay for it.

A licence is important because without it a theme will not be updated. A theme may need an update for a variety of reasons including, additional functions, security, and changes because WordPress itself has changed.

If a designer uses their own annual license you are relying on them to renew it each year. If for some reason they decide not to renew you may find that your website no longer looks the same as it did, because the theme cannot be updated.

Six: Who owns the plugins on your website

Plugins are small programs that add functionality to your website, getting it to do something different. For example, WordPress does not come with an online shop built into it. One of the popular free plugins that can be used to add a shop is the WooCommerce plugin. However, other plugins need to be paid for such as special WooCommerce plugins.

Another example would be a page builder. A page builder is a simple way of designing your website. Popular page builders are Beaver Builder and Elementor which are added to your website through a plugin. They both have premium plugins, plugins that need to be paid for.

Who owns the license for any premium plugins on your website? Some may have an annual license, and if they expire you won't get updates for that plugin, including any security updates. Security is an important reason to keep your plugins updated.

If you don't have the license for that plugin. If you don't pay the license fee for that plugin, then you may not be able to update that plugin. You can't perform an update, because the license for the plugin has expired so you are not being informed.

Plugins that are not updated for a long time can seriously stuff up your website. Not only is there a security risk to your website, but your website may also stop functioning or change the way it looks.

WordPress websites need to be checked regularly to see whether they need updating or not.

Speaking as a WordPress website support specialist, when people come to me with a website that has not been updated for a few years, it's often quicker and cheaper for them to start again.

In an ideal world, your website proposal would contain all of the above points. After the website launch, you would receive website information which included your domain registration, website hosting, login access to your website, a list of plugins and the theme, and licensing.

Another thing I should point out. If you buy a lifetime license, this may not last for your particular lifetime. The license is for the lifetime of the product. This may be decades, years or months. Usually, the person with the lifetime licence is informed when the product is coming to an end.

In short, there are six things for you to check to see who's controlling your WordPress website.

  1. Domain contact information
  2. Hosting information
  3. Whether you had administrator access to your website
  4. Who actually owns any bought images on your website.
  5. Who owns the theme for your website if it wasn’t a free theme
  6. Who owns any premium plugins on your website

I know it’s easy to pass everything over to someone else. It feels relaxing, but it’s not relaxing when I have clients come to me because their website has vanished and they don’t know why. Knowing this information will help you relax but you have it stored somewhere when you need it.

You need to be in control of your website because it’s a business asset and needs to be protected like any other asset.

If you need any help finding out any of the above information please book in a chocolate and a chat 30-minute complimentary session (one per client).

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