Never let a web designer register your domain

People often ask me what the most challenging thing about my job is.

Now I could say time management, cashflow, keeping up with ever emerging tech – all the things that any SME owner will identify with, but if there’s one thing that has been a continual challenge since I went into this industry over two decades ago, it’s got to be dealing with domains. A domain, incidentally, is what makes up your website address – for example,

I’ve come across countless business owners who have lost their domain or struggled to retrieve it. Here are just some of the issues I have encountered:

– Someone somewhere registered the domain name and somehow it’s been auto-renewed every year but no-one in the organisation knows who the admin contact is or who looks after it. There isn’t a login anywhere to access the domain and as no one knows who the admin contact is and privacy protection has been applied the registrar won’t release it.

– As above, but there is no record of the domain having been paid or renewed so no way of proving ownership of the domain.

– The domain name was registered in the web designer or hosting company’s name. The company wants their domain name but find that they don’t own it.

– The domain was registered to an individual rather than a limited company and the individual has left the organisation.

– The web designer refuses to release the domain unless a ransom is paid. One of my clients was recently told to pay a £400 renewal fee because it needed renewing before it could be released (according to whois records, said domain had four month’s left until renewal).

– The login details are lost for the domain and the email address used to register the domain is no longer in existence or no one has access to it.

– The domain name owner forgot to renew the domain. There is a courtesy period after expiry in which you can still renew, but this has run out and someone else has bought the domain. They have put the domain up for sale for thousands of pounds – this is known as cybersquatting.

– The web designer or hosting company has closed or gone bust. The hosting account has been closed, the emails and website are down and there’s no-one you can contact to get your domain name back.

So, what can you do?  

Well, first you can do a whois lookup. For UK domains use and for all other domains try – this way you can see if the records are public.  In any case they will show who the registrar is so you can visit their website and contact them directly to see if there is anyway of gaining access to your domain.

If that doesn’t resolve your issue then contact the Nominet Dispute Resolution Service for UK domains and ICANN for all other domains. You can also contact a solicitor specialising in domain disputes. Either way the processes will take time and can be costly with no guarantee that you will have your domain name back in your control at the end of it. domains are incidentally easier to resolve through Nominet providing you have some proof of ownership.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. Clients ask me if I can register domain for them. I do, and I look after many domains, but only as a last resort. I always advise the client that it’s best for them to register their own domain name and maintain ownership of it. I also recommend having it on auto renew with the registrar and paying by Direct Debit or PayPal as cards can expire, and to ensure that the contact details for the domain are kept up to date and the login details stored securely.

I don’t need to register domains for clients because domains have DNS records and nameservers. This means that a domain can be registered with a registrar such as GoDaddy or 123-reg and pointed to another server where the website and email can be hosted.

If you own your own house, I guess the question to ask is, would you ensure that the title-deeds to your property were secure, either with a solicitor or mortgage company, and registered in your own name?

Your domain is your brand. It’s your business and over time your clients will come to know it. It will filter into search engines and backlinks will come into your website. Your email will probably depend on your domain. Your domain is everything! Losing it will be costly and in some cases could cost you your business.

So, don’t let a web designer register your domain! 

Own it, secure it, keep it!