5 things you need to know about your website before someone new can update it

Do these scenarios sound familiar?

  • Two years have passed since your website was created. You need to make some updates. The company you originally hired has ceased operating.
  • Your web developer is on vacation in Tahiti, far from e-mail or phones. Your website stops working.
  • Last night at a business event, you met the most amazing design and development duo. You want them to update your site today.

Do you have the 5 vital pieces of information required for someone new to work on your website?

1. Domain Name Registration

Do you have the username and password to log in to your registrar's website? Do you know when your subscription is up for renewal?

When a customer enters your website into a browser, a name server, run by your registrar, tells their computer how to find your site. Without that crucial piece of information, your users will end up disappointed. Make sure you can keep your credit card (and other information) current with your registrar.

2. Website Hosting

Your company's website lives on a computer, and it's important you know how to access it. Usually, hosting companies will give you two sets of information:

  1. A "control panel" which shows you settings for your site.
  2. A method of directly transferring files (usually FTP/SFTP/SCP)

Both of these require a URL or IP address, a username and password. This is the minimum amount of information anyone will require to perform updates. If your website includes a blog or CMS, you'll also need the administrative passwords for those systems.

3. Database

Are any of these applicable to your website?

  • Contains blog posts
  • Performs e-commerce
  • Allows users to create or search for information

If so, your website also depends on a database that is located on a machine ... somewhere :) Although it may often be in the same location as your website, that's not a requirement. You need to know how to log in, backup, and restore your database.

4. Source Code

If you answered yes to question three, this definitely applies to you. Even if you didn't, it probably still applies to you :)

Most websites today include some amount of code; you should always have a copy of it. To work a new developer, you should also have the answers to these questions:

  • What language is the website written in?
  • Which framework(s) does it use?
  • What kind of automated tests are there?

(The last question is a personal favourite of mine, and we'll talk more about developers and testing in later posts.)

5. Third-Party Services

You must have a clear understanding of third-party services your site depends on, and matching login information.

Many sites offer integration with web services such as Twitter, FaceBook, or Pinterest. Using these sites requires an API key or authorized account. Often, a developer will sign up with a personal account to quickly prepare a demo and then forget to switch to a company account.

Conclusion

There are many circumstances where we need to make website changes immediately — without the support of whoever normally does so. Ensure that you are always prepared for that situation!

Further Reading

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