Small businesses make a key mistake when selecting web design firms.
Here’s a common mistake small businesses make.
They know they need a web site, so they contact a couple web design firms in town. The web designers pitch them on a project that includes site design, web hosting, and registering the domain name. The small business signs on the dotted line and everyone is happy.
So what’s the problem? The domain is registered in the web design firms’ name.
I was reminded of this problem (again) when reading a recent UDRP decision. The town of Easton, Connecticut filed a UDRP complaint against their web design firm, Lightning PC Inc. Lightning created Easton’s web site at EastonCT.org and registered the domain name in Lightning PC Inc’s name. Lightning pulled the plug on the site later when it said the town owed it money. The UDRP was denied because this really isn’t a cybersquatting case and Easton, CT doesn’t have a trademark to the EastonCT.
Regardless of who’s at fault in this case, this is one of the most common blunders I see companies make with domain names. I know of a case in Texas where someone spent tens of thousands of dollars getting a web site created. When she wanted to switch web developers, the company held the domain hostage and demanded more money to release it.
Unfortunately there are no easy ways to spread this message to small businesses. We can’t expect them to be sophisticated about the web. After all, that’s why they called the web design firm in the first place: to outsource their web presence.