Do you own your website?

Do you own your website?

Guest Post by Natalie Rose, NOVA Web Group

You might assume that since you paid to create your website, you own it. Chances are, you are wrong!

I’ve had several issues lately where clients don’t have complete access to their own site.

I am in the process of completely redoing a site for a client because the former web developer would not provide any access to the existing site. Don’t make this expensive mistake.

Do you have the website “keys”?

To truly control your website, you need the following:

  • Domain registrar name and login credentials
  • Web host login credentials
  • Website content management system (CMS) administrator credentials
  • A contract free from any language limiting your access or your ownership

The Complicated Rules of Ownership


One of the most common questions I get is “who owns my website domain?” Well, technically it’s not you. You won’t ever “own” your domain name. You pay a domain registrar a fee to obtain exclusive rights to it.

However, you can (and should) secure rights to it apart from your web design company. Be sure to register your domain(s) using your own account and name. Don’t let your web developer do this for you or they can wind up with the rights to the domain.


The HTML, CSS, and JavaScript used on your site is also a tricky issue. Many websites use similar scripts and open source code, so you don’t own those. However, you should retain control over your website’s specific CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files.

Likewise, many foundational elements of a website’s source code are open building blocks for most websites, making it almost impossible to guarantee 100% ownership. At the minimum, however, your developer should give you exclusive rights to your custom programming and any files associated with your code.

WordPress and other CMSs

You don’t own the CMS that your site uses. You can choose your CMS and ask your developer for a website that can be easily transferred from one CMS to another.

Web Developer Contract Checklist

  • Make sure you will own your website and the developer is not retaining any ownership rights.
  • Create your own hosting account and give your developer access, not the other way around. If hosting is included, it could mean that you’re leasing a spot on their proprietary platform and can’t take your site when you leave.
  • The contract should not have any ongoing leasing fees.

About the Author

Natalie Rose is the owner of NOVA Web Group. She is the technical lead the Kurtz Digital Strategy website development and maintenance team, allowing KDS to provide complete website solutions for small businesses.