A guide to registering domain names on behalf of clients
A cautionary guide as to why website designers should register clients’ domain names in the client’s name rather than their own name.
Numerous times over the years of offering domain services, we’ve seen website designers and developers registering their clients’ domain names in their own name rather than the clients name; inevitably, this can lead to various problems. When a client has a new website built by a designer, the domain name is an integral part of the process, as that is what visitors will use to navigate to the website.
Client Ownership and Control
When the domain name is registered, it is imperative that the client whose website is hosted on the domain is named as the owner of the domain. Should that not happen it can lead to disputes over both the control and ownership of the domain name.
When a client commissions a web designer, they are placing their trust in them and the designer has an ethical responsibility to act in their best interests when handling the client’s assets. Registering a domain name in the designer’s name may breach that trust.
Web designers may want to register the domain name as part of their full service for their client and add a markup on the registration fees for ordering and managing the domain name which is perfectly acceptable, but this does not mean that they can’t register the domain in the name of the client listing them as the legal owner.
The client may have an invoice from the web designer listing the registration fees, however if the domain name is registered in the name of the web designer then regardless of who owns the content of the website, legally the web designer owns that domain name which can then lead to a messy dispute of ownership.
The owner of the domain name also bears the responsibility of the content of the website hosted on it. Therefore a domain being registered in the name of a designer would not be in their interest as they probably don’t want to involve themselves any in trademark disputes, court action or law enforcement relating to something they might not have any control over.
If the designer has both control of the domain and is registered as the legal owner it means they can do whatever they like with it such as pointing it elsewhere for personal gain, holding it hostage in case of a disagreement or even letting it expire, which could cause significant damage to the client’s online presence. The registrar (purely.website) has little to no immediate power to step in and help in favour of the client if the domain name is not registered in their name. We have also seen numerous cases where a designer has been deceased and the client has further complications of dealing with the designer’s estate who often don’t understand domain names or even have access to them.
Transfer and Handover Processes
Should a client wish to take control of their domain in the future or switch their website to be managed by an alternative web designer, by having the domain registered in the clients name it makes this a much smoother process. Even if there is an amicable handover when the domain has been registered in the web designers name there is still additional processes to go through as it is not just a transfer of control, there would also need to be a transfer of ownership which can in some circumstances incur additional fees.
Our recommended approach
We would always advocate for a client-centric approach by allowing clients the flexibility to manage their domains independently. With purely.website clients can have their own account and then invite and grant their website designers to have access to the account which will allow them to manage and make changes to domains or web hosting for their client. Maintaining a positive client-designer relationship is crucial for future collaborations, and by ensuring that domains are registered in in the client’s name contributes to this.
Overall, transparency, trust, and professionalism between a designer and the client is critical in all aspects of their relationship, especially concerning domain name registration and website hosting.
purely.website are a leading domain name registrar within the UK, offering over 500 TLDs for registration. Being a Nominet accredited channel partner they have managed domain name registrations for their members since 2002. ISO/IEC 27001 certified, they have also achieved the internationally recognised accreditation for Information Security Management.