Your WordPress Website Bill of Rights
Your website is a major part of your interaction with the world, but all too often the process of creating one is complex and intimidating, requiring enormous amounts of intellectual, emotional, and financial effort.
And while we wish it were self-evident, on the World Wide Web it’s not always clear what rights you have once your site is built.
At Kalamuna, we create websites that are yours in every sense of the word so they can continue to advance and enhance your organization’s mission. And you can’t do that if you don’t know what your rights are, whether we build your site or someone else does. Granted, there is no official Bureau of Web Design Client Rights, but as a web design and development agency, we believe in a handful of principles by which to abide.
So, what should you demand from anyone wanting to create a website for you? I’m a WordPress developer, so I’m fixated on what our clients should expect from our WordPress work.
Your WordPress Website Bill of Rights
- The right of ownership
- You should own your content and be able to modify its code without having to get permission from others to access or change it.
- You should be able to edit, change, and update your site yourself.
- The right to accessibility
- Your site should be accessible to as many people as possible, not gated off to only a select few.
- Your site should be equally functional on any size device.
- Your site should be usable on all of the most common browsers and platforms.
- The right of mobility
- You should be able to move your site wherever you deem best without losing content or assets.
- Your site should not be so specific and complicated that only a limited number of places can host it.
- The right of creativity
- Your site should allow you to update and change pages and content within your content management system, not lock access behind templates that require a developer to work on.
- Your site should be simple enough to update that any person in your organization could, in theory, work on it.
- Your site should help enforce your brand and identity by displaying curated color, font, and layout choices.
- The right of performance
- Your site should be lean, efficient, and responsive, not bloated with excess scripting and third-party plugins.
- Your site should serve your mission, not vice versa. It is here to support you, not to drain your organization’s resources.
- The right of longevity
- Your site should be solidly and professionally engineered to stand the test of time; it shouldn’t break in a few months when a server or core file or plugin gets updated.
- Your site shouldn’t excessively depend on third-party code, out of your control to the point that it will stop working should that third party fail.
Great, but what does that mean in the real world?
Imagine wanting to add a new feature to your site, but whoever built it can’t do it for some reason. When you try to get someone else to work on it, though, it turns out they can’t because the original builder has complete control over the code. You can’t get to it, or the code is proprietary and no one else is legally allowed to develop it. You’re stuck.
Beyond the legal and ethical considerations you normally think of when you hear about accessibility on the web, your site needs to be available to as many people who want to use it as possible. You can’t advance your mission if people can’t get to the site on whatever device they’re using. Whether it’s a phone, a laptop, or a desktop computer, visitors need to be able to get the full experience.
A scenario we see all too often is that as your organization evolves, you need to move your site to another web hosting service. But the original developer still owns the code, so you have to contract with them—and only them—to move it. Or, worse, they own the design and you can’t move at all, forcing you to recreate the entire site.
Imagine being given a month’s notice that your web hosting company is shutting down, and that they’re taking all of your content with it—this happens. You wouldn’t be allowed to export your site’s full design, and instead would have to scramble to recreate everything from scratch before the site is completely lost.
You shouldn’t need a developer to add content to your site. It should be built so that your marketing intern could use it. The point of investing in a new site is to let it help your organization achieve its mission, and you can’t do that if updating it is so painful no one wants to work on it.
As much work should go into making the site flexible, editable, and easy for your internal team to use, as goes into making it beautiful, accessible, and helpful for people who visit it. It is a tool, your tool, for advancing your mission—updating it should never impede creativity.
Mission-driven organizations learned long ago that to succeed they had to be efficient and focused. Your website should be the same. Bloat and unnecessarily complex code not only slow down your site’s speed and responsiveness, they also make it harder to keep up-to-date. It doesn’t matter how amazing your site looks if it’s so cumbersome to use that no one waits around long enough to see it.
We’ve seen clients whose sites were so poorly built that two years later, they had to build them all over again. And it’s heartbreaking. It can be hard to tell in the WordPress world who’s professional and who took a single online course and “built a site for their friend”. A site built by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing might be cheap to start with, but it will cost so much more in the medium and long term.
Keep your rights in mind
When interviewing prospective agencies or individuals to create or update your site, ask them who owns the content and design, how easy it will be to update, and if they put as much care into crafting the editing experience as they do the flashier front end of the site. If you’ve been struggling with your current online presence, critically examine it in light of your rights, and ask yourself if you are getting everything you deserve.
You have rights when it comes to your website, both when building it and once it’s complete. You deserve to know what they are, and to expect that whoever is creating it agrees with them.
Kalamuna is committed to working with and empowering mission-driven organizations. If we can help you better understand your rights, or advise you on how to take more control over your online presence, we’d love to talk.