Ethics in Site Building – Transparency and Integrity
There are a large number of Homestead users who have gone into the website design business. Some with integrity and others not-so-much. Everyone in business is there for one reason (or should be) and that is to make money. But where is the line between making money and ripping off the client?
Many designers are not being forthcoming with their clients about where/how their site is being hosted and are charging their clients over and above what the actual Homestead package costs. One designer we found even charges clients extra for email addresses (included in the Homestead package) and for a Site Stat report (again, included in the Homestead package and probably not all inclusive). Outrageous!
Homestead allows multiple sites to be built on one account so designers are building the client sites within their own accounts (piggybacking). Basically they are holding that account hostage – for obvious reasons the client would not have access to the account, thus they also don’t have access to site stats and there is a question of whether or not the domain name is in the client’s ownership or the designer’s.
Designers can and should promote their services for extras like continued site maintenance, link development and search engine optimization. This is just good marketing. Charging extra for services that are already included in a client’s package with Homestead is, in our opinion, not an ethical practice.
I’ve spoken with designers who use the piggyback practice and their reasoning is that if the client knew they were using Homestead they would just build their own site. Granted some might, but our personal experience is that many simply don’t want to be bothered with it – they just want a website, others have tried and failed miserably. The mainstay of our design business is re-designs for those who have tried and failed because they don’t understand design, usability and search engine optimization and their sites have fallen through the cracks. Several of these clients have become long term customers even after the re-design. They use our services for updates, maintenance and on-going SEO.
When we design a new site the client is made aware of the hosting/design program used and the costs involved. The account is opened in the client’s name and the domain is registered to them. They have full access to their Homestead account. This way, the client knows exactly where their site is hosted and how to access it in the event something happens to the designer. We have run into instances where people have a site, the designer has vanished, they have no idea where the site is hosted or anything else about it. Once we complete a site the client has the option of taking it over or using our services. It is not held hostage, stats are readily available for the client, all the options in their Homestead account such as email addresses are also available to them.
A designer’s job is to create a quality, professional website that will serve the client’s needs while making money for their work. In the long term it is infinitely better to be upfront with the client, charge a reasonable design fee and offer continued service than to overcharge the client and withhold their ability to access their account and the information available through the Homestead package.