website domain theftPart of researching the right website design company for your project is knowing what questions to ask. This article is addressing one simple but very important question to ask; who will own my domain name? Registering a domain name is one of the very first steps in the web design process and it is one of the most common services that is taken for granted. Any reputable web design firm will help you through all aspects of the website design process and explain to you the importance of each step. Here’s one point that many website design companies neglect to mention – whoever registers your domain name owns your domain name.

What does this mean for business owners? This means website owners beware! Register your own domain names!

I have been in the website design business for many years and have seen some pretty shady practices from several web designers that include holding domain names hostage. I encourage all of my clients and all small business owners to register their domain names in their own names. It is of the utmost importance that the website owner has control over his or her domain name. By controlling your own domain name you can control who hosts your website and ultimately who has the right to maintain your website. Any legitimate website design agency would want their clients to be able to have control over their business information.

Many unsuspecting business owners simply assume that they have control over their website and are free to change hosting or web designers as they please. They certainly should be able to, however, I was inspired to write this short article or warning to business owners after receiving a surprising amount of phone calls recently from people who were being held hostage by their web designers. They were all similar situations where a web designer helped a client set up a site from scratch and everything seemed fine until the website owner wished to transfer hosting or change web designers only to find out that they could not. Finding out that your domain name is being held hostage for more money or out of spite can be devastating.

Here is a summary of one of the domain name horror stories that I recently encountered that illustrates the importance of owning your own domain name very clearly. A real-estate agent, we’ll call her Maggie, was working with a web designer for several years. This web designer then got her real estate license and became a competing real estate agent. Once the “web designer” became a real estate agent she no longer wanted to update and maintain Maggies’ website. Maggie also noticed that her website started falling from Google search results. Maggie came to my website design company to see if we could help her make some updates and regain her Google Search engine positioning.

Maggie was unhappy with her current web designer and wanted to move her hosting to a new hosting company when we initiated the work. Maggie, like many business owners, thought she could do whatever she wanted with her website. Unfortunately, there are people out there who scam, extort, and retaliate. Maggie was the victim of the latter. We were unable to make any headway with the former designer and had to advise the client to contact a lawyer. Unfortunately, this is often the only alternative and can be a tedious and costly process. Many people holding a domain name hostage will release it immediately when confronted with a letter from a lawyer, but there are always those willing to ride out the process to the bitter end.

My recommendation is to avoid any domain name complications that could derail your website from the beginning and register your domain name through a reputable registrar like GoDaddy. I personally recommend using GoDaddy as a registrar due to their exemplary customer service and streamlined processing. It only takes 5 minutes to set up. Having to fight for a domain name you spent years establishing a business with will certainly cost you much more.

Author: Chris London is the art director for, a strategic graphic and web design company where his focus is to continually find creative and innovative strategies to implement with businesses who need brand design and marketing with impact.