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Contracts again

4:03 pm on Apr 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Naively I've kept my terms and conditions to a minimum. Recently however i had a customer who i built a site for a year ago saying that she shouldn't have to pay for hosting. Once she'd paid for a website that should be it with no further charges. It was not that she objected to paying me for hosting but that she objected to paying for it full stop! However she thought that she should have freedom to get anyone to host it for her. So it's made me look at the question of who "owns" the website and how I handle that.

My modus operandis is that I design small sites for one man businesses in a particular niche. The purpose as far as my customers is concerned is to advertise their services to potential customers. By and large they are not interested in adding any of their own content to the site subsequently.

I have a set of template designs that I have created. They choose a template, I can customise it a bit for them and I input the text for the pages. In the majority of cases they provide bullet points and i create some text around those bullet points. As for the domain name, unless they already have one, I register it for them in their name (usually they are .co.uk). I have a reseller hosting package and the initial price includes domain registration and one year's hosting. Subsequently each year they have to pay me for hosting. It's very rare that anyone wants to move away from me, but I think I should cover myself for this in my terms & conditions.

Do you think, given my business model (using my own template designs), that it is reasonable to say people cannot move the site away to another host? So people can keep control of their domain and point it to a new site but cannot do anything to their site except through me. They don't get ftp access to upload their own stuff. What about if they want someone to seo the site - maybe some keyword stuffing? Is it reasonable to say - you want SEO? - then I'll do it.

What about if they sell their business. Can they sell their website? Most lay people would think they can. However, if I still own the site, not the customer. then they don't actually have anything to sell! They have a contract with me for hosting. Presumably they can't sell that contract so the buyer needs to have a new contract

Thoughts would be appreciated
5:44 pm on Apr 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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the initial price includes domain registration and one year's hosting

Does it also include development fee? If yes, then there is no reason why she shouldn't host it somewhere else unless it is part of the agreement.

If it doesn't, then you should explicitly mention the development fees are waved as far as it is hosted and managed by you. If they decide to host somewhere else, they should cover the initial development fees.
9:34 pm on Apr 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Firstly, you might be best advised to discuss this with a lawyer who specialises in this area.

There seem to be several issues here.

What is your/the client's definition of a website? The name, the space, the content?

So, the client owns the name. That can be pointed to another web host as they wish, I assume.

Are you offering a tied hosted design which is part of your site?

Is the content bought or leased? Was this made clear at the outset?

Were the limitations of the clients options explained to the client or implied before entering the contract?

I can't offer a way for you to resolve your issue with this client. If it were me and the client can't be made happy to stay, I'd be happy to let them go. Much better, from my point of view, than having an unhappy client.
4:50 pm on Apr 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Hi thanks for the replies. The issue with the original client is (Ithink) resolved. She has agreed to pay.
What I'm more interested in is getting a view of what would be the most appropriate way ahead in terms of terms etc for the future.