This behavior is sickening. Completely unethical in almost every case. If only someone had told the owner of the site to "always secure your own domain name!" . . .
In case of an unethical site designer/developer, the "professional" tells the business owner that s/he will secure (purchase) the domain as part of the site-building package. For as long as that designer/developer manages the new Web site, s/he keeps it live by having the domain pointed to the site. A newcomer to the process may think this is great; it's one less thing the business owner has to do.
But a business owner has to think of building a Web site like building a house. You expect to own the land, which is your domain, or your address (www.yourdomain.dom), and you have a house built on it, which is your Web site. The domain and the site are actually two separate entities but working together to make a home. In real estate you wouldn't hire a builder to purchase the land, build you a house, and then lease the land to you every year. What if the builder ends up being a lousy landlord? Or drops out of site and can't be found? What if you want to sell your house but you can't because someone else owns the land on which it's built? What if, for any reason, the builder decides to not to pay the property taxes or to block you from entering the property?
Terrible as it sounds, it happens. Don't let it happen to you or someone you know.
Domains cost about $10 a year (for the most common top-level domains, or TLDs) from the right registrar and it's simple to purchase one. Set up your own account at a domain registrar which you've researched and trust. I've used my preferred registrar since 2008 for many reasons, including the facts that they're priced most competitively, they're easy to use and every time I've called for support I've gotten top-notch, respectful assistance within minutes. Choosing the right name is another article, but just a few pointers here on the actual purchase:
- Choose the "automatic renewal" option, which will automatically renew your purchase each year so your name doesn't expire before you've had the chance to manually renew it. With or without automatic renewal your registrar should send you at least one reminder e-mail prior to the date that your name/s are set to expire, but auto renew takes away the risk that you'll miss the e-mail or forget to log on in time to manually handle it. You can always go back to your account and un-check (disable) auto renewal if you decide you'll no longer need the name.
- Consider paying the few dollars for "Who Is Privacy" if you don't want the public to know who owns your domain name. Anyone can go to who.is, type in a domain and see the registry record, which includes name, phone number and address of the domain name owner, as well as information such as when the name is set to expire (although there's no way for people to see whether or not it's set to auto renewal). Most domain owners don't mind this public display of their contact information; it's akin to being listed in the phone book, and the same contact information might in fact be right on the home pages of their websites. But for some, privacy is a real issue. In that case the "Who Is Privacy" option is useful. Prices vary; at the registrar of my choice, WhoIs privacy costs only $3 - $4 a year, and they've given me a promo code for you to use for the first year free.
- If you think you'll want to keep a domain name long-term consider purchasing it for a period of two or three years or longer. Depending on the registrar, the price may end up being a few dollars less per year this way.
- Keep a binder for your website and include all account locations (website addresses) and your log-in information for these accounts, as well as other information that will pertain to your site as you develop it. You might be surprised at the number of accounts you'll eventually have associated with your new site--your domain registrar is only the first. You'll also want to print out your receipt after purchasing your name/s and keep the receipt in the binder. Keep the binder in a safe, secure place. Be sure to entrust its location and contents to a designated appointee in the case of your untimely passing (it's always "untimely," right?). Someone will need to be able to access this in order to close or maintain your website's numerous associated accounts.
If your developer plans to secure/purchase the domain for you tell him/her that you plan to secure it yourself--and then do so. Need help deciding on a name? Research that first; it's not rocket science. In general, think short and sweet, easy-to-remember and keyword rich (if possible). In addition, research not only how much the name will cost to register initially, but how much it will cost to renew annually and to transfer, if ever necessary. For example, the .co extension costs about the same as the .com extension to register, but .co costs about three times more to renew each year. If your developer seems to have any problem with you owning your own domain, that should be a big red flag. Unless you're willing to embark on a difficult and possibly risky relationship, find another developer.
Or contact me about having your site built or attending a Design, Build and Manage Your Own Web Site workshop and really take control!
Love to hear your feedback,
Has something I've written helped you? You can thank me by thanking someone else--someone who's really made a difference in your life--at ThankingOfYou.com. No matter how much time has passed, nor where on Earth they are today, the people who've had a lasting, positive impact on your life deserve to know. Recognize, affirm and honor their goodness today. :)