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Restaurant Website Design – Avoiding a Website Hostage Situation

tug of war 300x201 Restaurant Website Design   Avoiding a Website Hostage Situation

Many restaurateurs are hesitant to hire a new web developer or designer because of past negative experiences, which may include getting nickel and dimed for content rights. Who better to help you understand what to expect from a positive client/developer relationship than a web developer with tons of experience in the business? Today, we're honored to feature a guest post by Joe Schaefer who runs Untypical Marketing, an SEO Consultancy. Joe is also getting set to launch Spilled Milk, an all inclusive website and SEO strategy website that will empower clients from the start (and not have them play catch up later). Joe helped with the development of GarnishMarketing.com, and has been a true collaborator from start to finish.

As a restaurateur, I bet you wish you had a dime for every crazy customer story you've ever heard. The same is true in the website design and development world. At this point in my career, I could write a book, or at the very least, have a lot of dimes. But as with every client/vendor relationship, it’s a two-way street. There are a lot of nutty designers and developers out there too!

Recently, I’ve heard stories about designers and developers holding code, images, and even domain names hostage, only to give them up for a price. On one hand, it's the responsibility of the client to know their rights before hiring a developer or designer. On the other hand, it's good business practice for developers and designers to empower their clients to have control of their content. As a busy restaurateur, you probably don't have time for lengthy negotiations over your own site. The key is to know what to expect from a good client/web developer relationship from the get-go.

Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst

When freelancers and agencies are hired to plan, design, and build a website, they are often responsible for the purchase of the domain name for the client. Let’s be perfectly clear: designers, developers, and agencies should not own the client’s domain name. They also shouldn’t hold claim to anything that has been created for you, including code, images, or XML files. If they’re doing so and hiding behind fine print in a contract, I have to ask, "Are they running a business or a racket?"

It gets even sketchier when the designer, developer, or agency then tries to make the client pay even more to get what should already be theirs in the first place. That’s hostage stuff! I’m pretty sure that most of us got into the business because of our love for the industry. We didn’t get into the business to gouge people or be overly secretive. The outcome from losing client trust is never pretty.

Clients Beware: A “Real World” Example

Let’s say I build a house for you. It’s gorgeous. You move in and settle down, but a few years later when you get ready to add an expansion to the house, I inform you that you don’t own the studs that hold up the walls and roof. You'd probably laugh at me, right?

If you hired me to paint a picture for you, you wouldn't need to ask me permission to hang each individual element of the painting on your wall: paint, canvass, and frame. You would own the end result and all that makes that painting… well…a painting.

Same goes for web design. I don’t expect clients to request all the books I have purchased about web design, development, and marketing. But everything I create for my clients is theirs: the domain, code, and design. But clients beware! This situation happens far too often, and never ceases to amaze me.

A potential client will come to me to redesign and relaunch their site. The client approaches their first design company and asks for full access to all files. They are denied. Or, for a price (above and beyond what they paid for the design and development of their site) they can have the files. It’s later learned that the design company registered the client’s domain as their own and for a price will transfer ownership along with all of the files.

Does this not sound like a hostage negotiation? It does to me. As a designer and developer, I couldn’t imagine holding files and domains from one of my clients (nor would I even think of putting this in my contracts). I want you to be happy and successful. Angry, bitter customers are not part of my business strategy.

Preparing Yourself for Hiring a Designer/Developer

As someone with very little time to devote to marketing, you may hire a developer or designer with the expectation that your exchange will go smoothly and you can trust their work. Consider these tips to empower yourself before hiring your next designer or developer. They can save you a ton of work and money on the other end of the contract:

      • Get educated. It can be uncomfortable, but ask questions. You may want to invest some of their consulting time in learning about their process and how your website will be set up.
      • Ask for success stories and find out exactly what deliverables helped achieve that success. Most people won’t know to ask for ownership of the domain, hosting and hosting terms, sitemaps, robots.txt files, analytics, post-launch support, etc.
      • Ask if you can speak to a couple of their past clients.
      • Ask (ahead of time) if you’ll have full access to code, images and any related files used in the creation of your website.
      • Ask and know exactly what post-launch support you’ll get and what they offer above and beyond that.
      • Ask and know how portable your site is. In other words, if in a few months you want to pick up and move it somewhere else, can you do that? Understand whether or not they'll support the migration of your site.

This is just a start. There are great resources out there to help you learn what questions you need to ask:

It sounds like I’m being hard on the design and development community, but I’m really not. I’m one of them. It’s just that I’ve endured horror stories with clients and have heard the horror stories clients have about their designers and developers.

I think it’s best to understand that we don’t speak the same language. As web professionals we need to understand that and make more of an effort to be as clear and transparent as possible. And just to show you what we, as the professionals, deal with from time to time, I strongly recommend this video to both designers and clients:

About Danika Atkins

Danika Atkins is the owner of Garnish Marketing, LLC. She works for food. Well, the food industry, anyway. Connect with Danika on Google

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