I’ve worked with a lot (like, a lot) of website clients have come to me after having bad experiences in the past. They typically have websites that are half-finished or woefully out of date. I’m always more than happy to help these clients, and as part of the process, I have to gather some basic information about their existing websites so that I can jump in and start making repairs and updates.
What shocks me is that when I ask clients for this information, they don’t know. ????♀️
They often feel embarrassed and they absolutely shouldn’t, because it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of a poor (or non-existent) offboarding process with their prior web designer or developer. That experience has driven me to ensure my client offboarding process is solid, and leaves my client with all the information they need.
So, how do you know if you know what you need to know…? ???? Ha ha!
What I mean is: If you hired someone to write content or help you with your website or internet marketing related to your website tomorrow, do you have the information you need to give them in order for them to do their job?
If you have no idea what those things are, here’s a checklist for you. If you don’t have these things, go back to your web designer/developer TODAY and ask for them; don’t wait till your site is crashing or someone buys your domain name away from you because you didn’t renew it!
For every single one of the services below, you should know:
- The name of the company
- The URL for their website (and where/how to login if needed)
- Your login credentials (username + password)
- If it is a paid service: How much will it cost, what credit card do I have on file with them, and when does it renew?
✅ Domain Registrar
What it is: A domain registrar is the website where you registered your domain name (e.g. yourname.com). Popular domain registrars include GoDaddy, Namecheap, and my personal favorite, Hover. Sometimes your domain name and web host (below) are the same company.
Why it’s important: Your domain name will need to be renewed regularly. Typically the renewal is annual, but most domain registrars also allow you to pay for multiple years at a discount. It’s important to make sure you keep a current credit card on file and check for any email alerts from your domain registrar so that you’re always up to date renewing your domain name. If you allow it to expire, someone else can buy that domain name away from you.
✅ Web Host
What it is: Your web host is the company that you essentially rent server space from. They host the files (content, images, etc.) that make up your website, and they make those files accessible on the internet to your site visitors.
Why it’s important: First, it’s important to know your web host so that you can keep your hosting paid and keep your site online. Second, if your website ever crashes, one of the first places you’ll reach out to for help will be your web host. Lastly, if you ever want someone to do additional design or development on your site, they will need to know who your web host is, and how to access their admin/control panel area.
✅ WordPress (or Other CMS)
What it is: WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) used on the internet. I mention it by name here because it’s the platform I design and develop for, but of course there are others out there – SquareSpace, Drupal, etc. Whatever platform you use, make sure you know WHAT it is, and how to log in to it as an administrator (full permissions) level.
Why it’s important: Once your web designer finishes your site and hands the keys over to you, you’ll need that admin access to log in and maintain or update your site. You’ll also need it if you ever plan to have others perform work on your site for you.
Bonus tip: It’s a good idea to log in to the WordPress admin dashboard and take a peek at the Users > All Users screen. Filter the table to view who has access at the Administrator level. If you see any names/emails you don’t recognize, delete them (!!) and update the passwords for the remaining admins.
✅ Email Host
What it is: If you have a firstname.lastname@example.org type of email, then this is whatever service you use to access that email. Note, I don’t mean Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail. I’m talking about the mail server those email applications connect to in order to send and receive mail. This could be your web host, or it could be totally separate. A lot of my clients use Google Workspace for this so they can have their custom domain for email, but utilize the Gmail interface and all the associated Google applications (e.g. Drive, Meet, etc.)
Why it’s important: If you’re using a third-party service for email (like Google Workspace), then there will be recurring billing for that. You need to know where/how to log in and manage the email users for that system, and how to access the billing as well. I had a client recently that lost all access to their email and Google Drive files because something happened to her Google Workspace account and she didn’t know WHO the admin was to login and fix it. It took nearly a week to fill out forms with Google to recover her account. (Don’t let this happen to you!)
If your email is run through your web host, it’s STILL important to know that too. If you ever have a developer helping you move your website to a new host, make any changes to your DNS, etc. they’ll need to know that you have custom email accounts for your domain, and how they are managed. Otherwise, making changes could cause you to lose your important emails!
✅ Email Marketing Sevice
What it is: Sometimes, your web designer/developer might help you get your email marketing started for your site. If they do, you want to make sure you have all the info to take over that account at the end of your project. I recommend ConvertKit to all of my clients, and some other popular options include MailChimp, FloDesk, and Constant Contact.
Why it’s important: If you are building a list on your site, you need complete access to that list! You’ll want to be sending regular communications, so make sure you can login and that you know how to work with your list.
✅ Google Analytics
What it is: Metrics for analyzing your website usage and demographics.
Why it’s important: If your designer/developer set up Google Analytics for you, make sure to ask for access to it with full permissions. You want to make sure you can access the reports and information here, even if you hire someone later on to help you analyze that data.
✅ Social Media Accounts
What it is: I think this one is pretty obvious – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. – If your designer/developer created ANY social media accounts on your behalf, you should have all the associated credentials for those accounts.
Note that depending on the platform, how you gain access might be different. For example, with Facebook or LinkedIn, you login as yourself under your “personal” account, then you are granted administrator rights TO your business page. On the other hand, for platforms like Instagram or TikTok, your business will have its own username and password.
Why it’s important: If you lose admin login privileges to your social media accounts, they can be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to recover, and you’ll be faced with having to pick a new username on that platform and start from scratch, with a duplicate “old” version of your page that you can’t access and can’t get rid of. (It’s incredibly frustrating. Just trust me. You do not want to have to deal with that.)
Bonus tip: When your designer/developer gives you these credentials, test them immediately. Make sure you can log in and have full permission to add/edit content, manage the profile, etc. Frequently, social media accounts have two-factor authentication (2FA) or other security measures in place that can make it difficult to log in from “unrecognized” IP addresses later on, so you want to make sure you can manage these accounts right away in case your designer/developer isn’t available to help you with that later on.
✅ Odds + Ends
What it is: This is a hard one to encapsulate because it really depends on the project. The short version is: if your designer/developer registers for any third-party services on your behalf that are related to your website, you should have all the information for those platforms at the end of the project. (Assuming the account is in your name and/or you paid for or licensed the product/service.)
Why it’s important:
- So many of these services renew on a monthly or annual basis, so in order to keep your site online and functioning, it’s essential you know how to log in to their systems and pay their invoices.
- If you ever need to hire someone to do more work on your site (e.g. a copywriter, social media manager, or new website designer/developer), it’s very likely they are going to ask you for some of the information above so that they can do their job. If you don’t have that information they may not be able to help you OR it’s going to cost you more to pay them for their time to assist in tracking down the info they need.