One of the biggest things I’ve run into as a webmaster working with clients is the fact they have no clue where anything is or what website assets and services they’re using, not to mention how to access these assets. In addition, they have no clue what they’re paying for or who they’re paying for them.
I’m hoping this article will help you organize these things so that if you are ever in a pinch and need to hire out or outsource web services, you are not chasing down needed information to even access the website.
When I start a new project with a client, I open up Evernote and start a new notebook for that customer. This can be done as a Google doc or even just a notepad document but whichever you decide to use, make sure it’s stored in a place you can access anywhere (ie. Google drive, iCloud, dropbox, etc.). I prefer Evernote because of the storage, tagging, and access from any place I have the app running such as desktop, mobile devices, and laptop.
The following list is what I try to obtain from a customer as we work together. You could use this list to copy and paste into your preferred document and fill in the blanks. After the list I’ll explain more about what some of these items are and why they’re important to know.
Website Asset List
- Website Domain
- Website Registrar
- Website Hosting Service
- Website Hosting Support Number
- Control Panel Access
- If WordPress: WordPress login
- FTP Access
- Are You Using Add-on Domains?
- Who Is Your Target Customer?
- Main Keywords
- Color Palette
- Shopping Cart & Login
- Autoresponder Service & Login
- Merchant Service
- Support Desk or Email
- Business Address
- Business Name
- Business Phone Number
- Contact Email Address
- Blood Type (Just Kidding!)
This is just the short list, but these are the items I feel are the most im- portant. Your web person doesn’t need to know all of this, but it is good to have handy and readily available if needed.
I’ve been contacted many times because someone’s website has been infected or hacked and they didn’t know how to access their own website. They had someone else set up for them and that person has since moved on or is no longer reachable. This happens more than one would think.
In my 20+ years online I could not count the number of times the only piece of information I’ve had is the customer’s domain name. From there, I had to play detective to find out where it was registered, hosted, and move on from there. The lack of that information meant that the website was unusable and one could only guess the amount of sales, leads, and traffic that was lost because of the extended time needed to find out this information.
Sometimes the best place to start is with the hosting company if you know that information. It could be they just need to reset the server or something is awry with your account which they can fix for no additional cost. Several times I’ve seen the issue had been that the customer had run out of hosting space and services couldn’t operate normally. A little clean up and they were good to go. This required only knowing how to access the control panel for the site and being able to look at the file structure and contents.
Having the control panel access comes in handy if you don’t know your WordPress access. An experienced webmaster can log in and gain access via the database. I share this tip on my YouTube channel if you ever run across that yourself and would like to know how to do that.
FTP access can come in handy if the site has been hacked or files have been corrupted for various reasons. FTP stands for File Transfer Proto- col. This service allows you a different way to access your files other than through the control panel. In many cases this is a faster way to update or reinstall WordPress files.
Add-on domains is a service many web hosting businesses use to allow you to have many websites with one account. It is okay for a few sites, though I don’t recommend it. The reason I ask this question when working with a customer is if there is a problem it could be from one of these “add-on” sites.
An add-on domain shares the services of the main domain of the account which means if one site is hacked, chances are all of them could be infect- ed. Also, as mentioned earlier where the customer had run out of room. The case could be it was one of the other sites that had used up those resources. So, by knowing it if it was set up as an add-on domain, I can troubleshoot much quicker instead of finding out after the fact.
As a webmaster I feel it is important to know the second half of the above list for SEO and design purposes. If you’ve read any of my other articles you will know that SEO is knowing all about who your customer is, what words they will use, and what you need to know to attract them to your site. It is critical to know this as you build your site so that you can incorporate the right words and actions into the site. If I start working on the site after the site has been designed, it is easy enough to make these changes to increase better traffic and conversion, which is why I ask these things when working with a new website customer.
Color palette is very important for cohesiveness across your online as- sets. Many people will pick out color names and run with it. But if a customer tells me their colors are blue and orange, I start to think maybe they didn’t have the big box of Crayola crayons as a kid. There are hundreds of shades of blue. If you REALLY want to look professional from your website, to your shopping cart, autoresponder service, and so on, you must have a defined color palette.
I started using a service called https://coolors.co it allows me to set a col- or palette for my clients as well as my own websites and save them, and or export them so that we’re all working with the same box of crayons. With this service you can see the colors in format for web (hex) printing (CMYK) or other formats such as RGB. This comes in handy for getting all of your material the exact same color across the board. I will export this as an image and store in my document so it’s readily available.
An example of a color palette I would save would look like this:
You could see how this helps get everyone on the same page.
The rest of the list is pretty obvious why you would need that information. As a web guy, I have had requests to set up products for a customer or needed to get the order links. In other cases, I just go in and style their shopping cart to match the website. The same is true with the autoresponder service. Your web person may need to grab a web form from your email service or help integrate it into your WordPress theme.
I also feel it is best to have the contact information stored in the website access so you use the exact same information across all of your properties. That way you look professional and you’re not checking six different emails or support desks because you have different information displayed in different spots.
This is also one area I see many people skip out on for their website. Many website owners don’t add contact information on their website because they don’t want to be contacted. What they don’t know is search engines will look at you more professionally if you have contact information on your website. Also, many merchant services require it to be there.
It’s totally fine to set up a P.O. box or a phone service so that you don’t have your personal information displayed to the general public. A post office box or a box at the UPS store or MailBoxes, etc. are great and in- expensive options. As for the phone number, you can register a Google voice number or use a service such as Grasshopper (which is what I use). It will record a phone message and send it to my support desk as an mp4 file I can listen to as needed.
I hope that you can give yourself some piece of mind by digging out this information now and not waiting until it’s a critical time for your business. It never fails that it is harder to find this information in a panic than when it is not needed, and you are in a better frame of mind.
Also, having this information could save you time, energy and brain cells in the future.