One of the most important questions you need to ask when getting a new website is “Do I have full rights to this website?”

You may think the obvious answer is YES but you’d be surprised with the fine print of some of the DIY and low cost website alternatives out there.

A few months ago we wrote the article “Are You Held Hostage by Your Website?” in which we discuss three main ways you may be controlled by your website, including licensed websites.

Today I want to discuss the topic of licensed websites in more detail. A licensed website means that the web designer or host or software owns the code for your site and you use a monthly or yearly fee to use it. This is like renting a house – when you decide to move on you don’t own anything and you don’t have any equity built up to show for all your months of payments.

The two main questions I want to address today that will hopefully give you a better understanding of whether you need to “own your own website” are:

  1. What makes licensed websites so attractive?
  2. What’s in the fine print (“terms of use”)?

What Makes Licensed Websites So Attractive?

Today, everywhere you look you can find ads and app resources promising you a free or almost free website that will bring you instant success. You can quickly build these user friendly sites, or you can give the information you want put on the website and it will all be done for you. After all, these type of websites promise to be affordable, simple and fast and will help you to:

  • Stand out from the competition
  • Increase your sales
  • Bring in more customers
  • Support your brand

However as we discuss in our article Benefits of SEO Web Design vs DIY Websites there are several common disappointments in a licensed or DIY website ownership:

  • Looks cookie cutter, unprofessional or poorly branded
  • Constricted to what you can edit
  • Doesn’t show up in Google Search results despite the promise of being “SEO Friendly”
  • Other websites look the same as yours
  • Time spent on the website is much more than you anticipated
  • Prices that add up or increase over time.

You may be thinking, “When should you choose a licensed website?” There are a few situations where it may make sense for you, such as:

  • The website is only needed for a short period of time.
  • It is a temporary website to use until you can afford to design the final version.
  • The code or design required is so complex it would be too expensive or impossible to build on your own.

Reading the Fine Print on Licensed Websites

Before you sign any type of contract you’d read the fine print- and buying a website is no different.

Example 1: YellowPages 360 Solution

Advertising departments know the high (and often increasing cost) of traditional YellowPage ads as well as the fact that people are no longer using a physical phone book to look up businesses. YellowPages 360 is a more affordable solution that helps small businesses get listed online with a customized website or profile.

The website can be turnkey or customized, crafted to send out a branded message to everyone searching for you. It sounds great but here are some fine print details from YPG Terms of Use:

5. License.

By posting, uploading or submitting any information, material or content to this Site, you automatically grant (or automatically warrant that the owner of the rights to such material or content has expressly granted) YPG a perpetual, royalty-free, irrevocable, non-exclusive right and license throughout the world to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, create derivative works from, publish, translate, license, transmit, distribute and otherwise exploit any or all portions of such information, material or content in any manner and media and by means of any technology now known or hereafter developed. In addition, you hereby irrevocably waive all moral rights in any such information, material or content posted, uploaded or submitted by you.

9. Copyright.

All Content published on or otherwise accessible through this Site is protected by copyright. The Content, and the copyright in the Content, are owned or controlled by YPG or YPG’s content suppliers. You may only use or reproduce the Content for your own personal and non-commercial use. The Content may not be otherwise used, reproduced, broadcast, published or retransmitted without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. You must abide by all copyright notices, information and restrictions contained in any Content on or accessed through this Site and maintain such notices in the Content.

Source: http://www.ypg.com/en/legal-notice

Example 2: Squarespace

Squarespace makes it easy to design your own website! Just select a template (you can switch at any time), start a free trial (no credit card is required) and then get a free domain.

 1. What We Own

All material and services available on the Site, and all material and services provided by or through Squarespace, its affiliates, subsidiaries, employees, agents, licensors or other commercial partners including, but not limited to, software, all informational text, software documentation, design of and “look and feel,” layout, photographs, graphics, audio, video, messages, interactive and instant messaging, design and functions, files, documents, images, or other materials, whether publicly posted or privately transmitted as well as all derivative works thereof (collectively, the “Materials”), are owned by us or other parties that have licensed their material or provided services to us, and are protected by copyright, trademark, trade secret and other intellectual property laws…

3. What You Provide to Us

You are legally responsible for all information, data, text, software, music, sound, photographs, graphics, video, messages or other materials uploaded, posted or stored in connection with your use of the Services (“Content”).  Squarespace is not responsible for your Content.  You hereby grant Squarespace a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to host and use the Content in order to provide you with the Services and hereby represent and warrant that you have all the rights necessary to grant us such license.  You are responsible for any Content that may be lost or unrecoverable through your use of the Services.  You are encouraged to archive your Content regularly and frequently. 

4. Giving Us Access to Other Accounts and Services

Some of our Services may require you to give us access to or require you to provide login information and password information for accounts or services you may have with third party providers.  When you provide this information to us or give us access to these third party accounts you agree that you have read all contracts and written agreements governing such access, login information and passwords and that you have all the necessary contractual and legal rights to give us such access, login information and passwords.

12. Termination

d. Notice of termination of Services by Squarespace may be sent to the contact e-mail associated with your account. Upon termination, Squarespace has the right to delete all data, files, or other information that is stored in your account.

Source: http://www.squarespace.com/terms-of-service/

Where is this information?

A link to preview the fine print is typically in the footer of their website listed under “Legal” or “Terms of Use”. If you are in doubt ask a customer service representative before buying:

  • Can I take my content if I cancel?
  • Can I transfer the domain to myself if I cancel?
  • What is your cancellation procedure?
  • What will I need to provide for the website?

Help is available

If you haven’t already, read through our Website Hostage article and let us take you through the ramifications of not owning your site or domain name. We’ll also help you understand what you can do to protect your business from the dilemma of a contract domain.

A 1st on the List Consultant is ready to work towards the independent ownership of your site. When we set up your website – you own it.  Our goal is to create a web presence that is uniquely yours – owned by you, directed by you and paying you.  Check out our website design information.

Time to Count the Cost

Yes there is a cost in paying someone to design your website just the way you want it. Your site will take time to rebuild, and because the old content is owned by your host, it will need to be rebuilt. That takes time.

But consider the cost of your own time spent on DIY websites and the cost of not owning your website down the road. For a closer look costs check out our SEO Marketing Budget article to get a good idea of work that goes into “fixing” websites and the average costs involved.

If you still have questions regarding your website give us a call at 1-888-262-6687 or send us an email at contact@1stonthelist.ca.