Your artist website is the home base for your business online. It’s where you send people to see your work, sign up for your email list, or even buy your art.
In short, you need for it to be up and functioning at its best. All. The. Time.
What would happen if it crashed?
And … Who would you turn to if you needed a quick update to your site because you found out you were being featured in an article? Is that person always available for you?
You may have a great relationship with your web designer and hosting service right now, but you can’t predict what might happen in the future.
I’ve witnessed so many artists get stuck because they were abandoned by their webmasters and have no idea how to access their sites.
Don’t let this happen to you!
Maybe you have a DIY site, but it’s been awhile since you have worked on the backend of it. How do you get there?
You are a savvy artist-entrepreneur, so make sure you have complete control over your internet presence–even if you are lucky enough to have someone helping you.
You don’t want to leave this to chance. You don’t want to learn later that your life could have been so much easier if only you had a few answers at your fingertips.
What follows is a list with all of the information you need from the people who maintain your artist website, even if “the people” is only you.
Usually the domain registrar is hosted by the place where you purchased it, but it might have been moved to another domain host.
I prefer that my domain is hosted separately from the company that hosts my website. It makes breaking up with a hosting company much easier. I've had to break up with a website hosting company twice and found this out the hard way.
URL of domain registry:
Accessing Your Domain Registration Account
URL to login:
PIN if applicable:
Best way to get help:
Domain name renewal date:
You don’t want to miss this! It could cause big trouble if your web designer is incapacitated for any reason and misses your renewal date. Mine are set to auto renewal and notices come directly to me, which places the control in my hands.
Website Hosting Company
Name of website host:
Date of renewal for hosting account:
Accessing Your Web Hosting Account
Login URL for hosting site:
PIN if applicable:
How much hard drive space is available?
How much bandwidth is available?
How many sites can I host under this account?
Addresses hosted on this server:
Advanced SMTP port setting: This is a number like 25, 80, 587, 465, 2222, or 3535.
How many email addresses are available to me?
Where/how are they configured?
How do I log in to webmail? This is something you want to have handy in case your email isn’t downloading to your computer.
FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
Host address or name:
Best way to get help from hosting company:
If your blog is separate from your website, you need login information for your blog as well.
PIN if applicable:
Email used to create your log in access: This is needed to reset your password in case you forget it.
Theme name and version #, if using WordPress:
You don’t need to understand what all of this means. You just need to trust me that this is must-have information for your records.
Don’t be afraid to ask for these details. Whether or not you have someone helping you, you paid for the site.
If you have this information, you will be able to control your home base online.
If you have a story about being caught without access to the above information, please share it in a comment below. Your examples will help artists learn.
This post was originally published on February 18, 2016 and has been updated with the original comments intact.
51 thoughts on “Must-Have Website Info That Should Be at Your Fingertips”
Thank you for reminding me to find time to work on my web presence. I had designed my website myself using iWeb, old Apple software and then Apple stopped supporting it so I had to find a new hosting service.
I found Bluehost and they have been fantastic. The problem is I do not have direct control over adding or deleting images to update my website.
I do not want to spend time learning how to navigate Word Press, I already wasted considerable time and money trying. The upshot of that is the cost is considerable to have Bluehost or others rebuild my website for me.
I feel stuck with an outdated website especially after working on my systems worksheet. Now I am realizing I need to have two separate websites one for my paintings and one for my photography and that feels overwhelming.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Margaret: Who does the adding/deleting of images now?
Sounds like you might want to connect with Kim Bruce (she left a comment below).
And … you’re in my Art Career Success System program. We’ll get this sorted out.
Hi Margaret, I can appreciate how you feel because I also used iWeb to design & build my website and was at a loss when Apple stopped supporting it. I liked the ease of using iWeb and wanted something similar, without spending precious time learning a completely new program.
What I found was EverWeb and have been using it for several years. It’s very similar to iWeb…but with more features. I found that I like it much better. I easily rebuilt my website myself, without a major learning curve. It might be just what your looking for!
Try Other Peoples Pixels. It is very easy to set up a website, and to update it once it is up and running.
I’ve used them for years and have never had a problem. They also are very quick at responding if one has a question. Very good service!
Great article Alyson! I needed to be reminded of all of this! Making a list is something I had not thought of. You are right, this info needs to be accessible.
Glad you can use this, Cathleen.
Everyone that has a website, and has someone else build and manage it, should read and understand this post. I have been a webmaster for many years now. One of the first things I do for my clients, an update every year, is send them all the website, blog, e-mail information and a backup copy of their website files for them to keep in their important records. I have witnessed so many unhappy people when they have been abandoned by their webmaster or have had their website and domain name stolen from them. Or, held hostage to get the information! Demand that you receive all the information to your digital web/internet accounts an all updates on a regular basis. Or, use someone else. In the last year I have had to help 8 different people or companies get there domain name and/or the website back under their control… Sadly, this problem seems to be increasing every year. Beware, beware!
Thanks for adding your point of view, David. So good of you to give this info to your clients automatically.
I’ve got to say I’m with David wholeheartedly here: I’ve been doing web sites for my fellow small entrepreneurs for the last 10 years, and whenever I get a new client, the first thing I do is fill in a worksheet/checklist with this info and make sure they have a copy in their files where they can find it.
I’m always astonished at how many of my clients don’t have this, didn’t expect it, and don’t know how to get it from their current provider, developer, or whoever. Some of my clients are delighted to have me update and back up this info for them quarterly or annually as well — it takes such a short time to do, and to provide to them that I can’t imagine not doing now.
It’s the basics, and people who own web sites do need to have a copy of their own.
Alison, may I refer people to this article, or better yet, provide them with a pdf copy of it including links to you with their intro packages going forward? This is a lovely, concise and to the point article on the topic!
Oops, sorry Alyson! Fingers got ahead of my brain there!
I agree with Alyson and David. It is really important to have control, especially of your domain name and backups of your site.
When I complete a website I always send a Word doc to my client that records all the important information and logins for their site. If it is a struggle to get this info then it’s time to find someone else to work with.
Kim: Sounds like you have implemented best practices on behalf of your clients. They’re lucky.
Kim Bruce hosts my website (and I highly recommend her) and she set up the basics of it for me, although I update all content myself. I’d like to add 1 more thing artists should know – where and how often is their website backed up and how is it restored. I use the Updraft plugin for WordPress and my backup is automatically saved to my Dropbox account. Simple and easy to use!
Alyson, or anyone – I want to spend most of my time creating artwork, so I want a template type of website. Is a website obsolete and a waste of my time if I have a couple of blogs and a facebook page for my work already?
I had a website a few years ago, but abandoned it because it seemed like I was duplicating my effort with 2 blogs and a facebook page, a twitter art page, pinterest, a featured artist on Daily Paintworks…
If you think a “website” is necessary, then what do you think of FASO.com for painters? I like the idea of a few good templates to choose from, plug in the info and go. I don’t want to spend all of my time online.
You can definitely use your blogs as your main presence (NOT FB, but your blogs because you can control them).
However, make sure you have these things in place …
It’s an old post, but applies here.
I’ve used a FASO website for years and love them. They provide excellent customer service and up-to-date customizable templates, provide for a blog, a newsletter, online sales and analytics. I can easily post paintings and update myself and their staff is terrific with any issues.
I have been using FASO for almost 10 years. I continue to be extremely pleased with the service they provide. They make it easy for me to quickly get my art out into the world, so that I spend less time at the computer and more at the easel.
Alyson, thanks for this list. Useful to have a plan in place for worst case scenarios.
Yes, Clint and his team at FASO are wonderful.
I use http://www.myartclub.com. $44 Canadian dollars a year. My domain name comes through as a reminder to me. Two techy guys who set it up for their artist wives and art groups, in 2005. I think 2000 plus artists use this site. You do the work, all the templates are in there. Easy. Definitely reasonable! And you can email or phone them for help. It’s a labour of love for artists.
Judith: Yes, those are good people. But I would still caution you to have the above info.
I would prefer that they don’t host your domain as well.
Thanks Judith and Alyson. MyArtClub.Com welcomes artists who bring their own personally controlled domain name. With the Canadian dollar now so low, fully functional websites start now at around $34 US.
Thanks for chiming in here, Cam.
Great article, good advice.
I agree 100% with David Fox. I am also a website designer, and have had to help clients gain access to their URL and their files when a web designer decides to move on without a forwarding address.
When a site goes live, I send all my clients an email with Subject line: “in case I die.” It has all the pertinent info they need to access registration of their URL. I tell them to print it out and put a copy with their important papers and one in their safe deposit box. But I have visions of all my clients standing around at my wake, asking each other, “did you by any chance save that email she sent us.”
I don’t give clients full access to my hosting info as I host more than one client on my account, but I do let them know that I will send them a complete back-up of their site anytime they ask for it, no questions asked. I have also set up some clients with their own hosting accounts so they can have full access without compromising my other clients.
I like David’s idea of routinely sending a back-up copy of the files each year. David, I hope you don’t mind if I steal that idea.
Molly: Your email cracked me up. Literally.
Thank you for sharing your experience in such an entertaining way.
Thanks for the article. we had a similar experience with a webmaster. Now I use Squarespace, which is a template based website which is mobile responsive. it was a bit of a learning curve but they have great customer tech assistance via email and chat. I can update frequently, which is invaluable.
This is a really important topic, and you are offering valuable information – thank you.
For nearly 10 years, I had a company that hosted Web sites for a specific industry. In addition to the other information you mention here, it is critical to know who owns not just the domain but also the code and scripts if you have any forms.
Too often, businesses would want us to take over their sites but the developer would balk because they owned the actual pages, code and script. That meant the customer had to start over.
So always also ask, “Who owns the code?” (Or “Who owns the pages?”)
It is good to have a Web Designer/ Host you can trust. I know we try to be that for our clients.
There are many who we have worked with who were not allowed access to their website, or the information you described above. We provide it when necessary, but we also do all the renewals (including upgrading websites) for our clients so they do not have to worry about it.
I would also like to point out the spams that are out there. If you are unaware of your host and domain and renewal, you could fall into the trap and think they are for you, when they are not. We have had a number of our clients receive spam ones, and come to us with questions.
Great advice to have the important information for one’s own website for oneself! My clever hubby suggested I keep all information regarding my internet and website account in a notebook (or file folder) with all the notes in it including the info that Alyson mentions. I, too, built my original website in the easy to use iWeb and was sadly disappointed to realize the need to move on. So last year I built myself a new website using a tutorial I found on Youtube, built on a WordPress platform. I substituted my own images and info and am pretty happy with how it looks. I now know web designers deserve their hard earned money. But I am happy with my new website and that I can still maintain it myself. FYI, WordPress has a back-up feature.
I do a fair bit of web design and management and I am always getting clients who don’t know who hosts their domain, who their host provider is (even what ISP they are using for online access!), what their login or passwords are – and some of them are paying for domains that have been stolen from them by designers, because they put in their credit card information and set up auto renewals. I know this stuff isn’t sexy, but you have to understand you are placing a LOT of trust in someone – you are giving them complete control of your business online identity!
I have one client who had to re-brand his entire business, because his web designer would not communicate with him. I was unable to get access to his domain, and we had to set up a new domain for him, and help him change his brand to match..
Make sure you keep notes on what plugins and special programming you are having done on your site. Without fail I’ll take over a client site and find that my design conflicts with something the previous developer did and both the developer and the client have forgotten all about it. That means extra work for me, but that means their bill is higher in the end. Plugins have usernames, license keys, and passwords. You have to track that info too. As a designer I keep track of all that, but I insist the client keep notes on it too.
It may be a good idea for both sides to have a written contract, and READ it if the boilerplate comes from the designer. If you research what happened to Jordan Maxwell you will find a good cautionary tale of what happens when someone puts too much trust in a web designer. He’s a conspiracy theorist, not an artist, but essentially, his entire domain and copyrights, his virtual identity were taken from him. He had to start from scratch. Decades of work, and he’s still fighting to get it back. Do as much negotiation and preliminary discussion through email as possible. That way you have a written record.
Not exactly on point, but a note on the care and feeding of web designers … KNOW WHAT YOU WANT! I could write a whole article about that. I have had clients who are all over the map, they keep changing their minds, or they start off with “Whatever you think is best” then nit-pick down to the RGB codes or say “Noooo … that really wasn’t what I wanted”. Then they are surprised to have to pay for my time. It is such a joy to have a client who knows exactly what they want, and gives clear, unambiguous directions.
Another tip: Keep all this information in a Word file on your computer. When you save the file, under Tools > General Options (may vary according o version), you can password-protect the file. I’m told the Office encryption is excellent (comes from a Microsoft-hating geek so it’s high praise coming from him).
Be careful about accepting an offer from a family member who volunteers to set up your website. Circumstances change, enthusiasm wanes ~ you know the drill.
Paying a consultant saves relationship, time and emotional distress.
I learned a hard lesson many years ago when my domain name expired and was snatched up by an entity who wanted $100 from me to buy it back! My brother-in-law advised me to make do with the same name with “dot net” and stay patient, checking on my original domain name availability periodically. It took two years for it to be available but I got it back and have used Go Daddy for my registrar ever since. BTW I use Weebly for my web site and am pretty pleased with their tech support.
Make sure you have your WHOIS info on file too. WHOIS oversees all the domain registrars.
I had a domain registered with GoDaddy for years and years and had to jump through some hoops to get my WHOIS info back when I decided to move my domain from GoDaddy to NameSilo. I didn’t know I needed it to “unlock” my domain name before moving it to another registrar. Cost me two full days on the phone and in front of my computer that I could have been in the studio!
Good advice for sure. I just had my web domain expire because I got a new email address and my renewal was sent to the old one. As a result, my site went down. I caught it right away and renewed. I could have lost my domain name and would have had to CHANGE EVERYTHING related to my site links, etc. Scary for a couple of hours….
I have a website that I made on Vistaprint.com. They also host it and have an email system that I use for all my art business that is posted on the website, mail.marjorieart.com. They have the best customer service and tech support in the world and so I keep my own website updated easily. Their program works best in Google Chrome, which they may not tell you up front. I did not use one of their websites, but did it from a blank plan because none of their suggested layouts was appropriate. My Domain name is at Network Solutions. Please take a look at http://www.marjorieart.com. It saves a lot of money to design your own and to be able too keep it up to date. I highly recommend Vistaprint. Please let other artist’s know that this is an option.
Thanks for sharing that option, Marjorie.
David Fox is incorrect. Not everyone that has a website has someone else build and manage it. I did my own and manage it myself. Some folks who have someone build site for them request that it be done in such a way that they can manage it for themselves……
change copy and pictures and do it in a timely manner. Every time I make a new painting or sell one I update the information on my website and post it to my Facebook page,
marjorieart.com studio. The only thing I hired done was a video for You Tube
Learning to manage your own stuff will make for more efficiency and less expenses in your business.
One more thought…..If you have your domain name registered with Network Solutions, you will never have it run out without you knowing it. They are very efficient about letting you know in advance when you due date is. Phone is 877-898-3290. And their customer service is good also. they have other services like making websites and promoting them if if one wants to buy them. I have had good luck using Google Adwords.
An artist friend shared this post. How timely! I’m in the process of creating a new blog. I bought the domain a year ago but am using a different company to host the new site.
I needed all this information in order to transfer the domain.
I’m not one bit techie and even knowing what some of these things are has me in a sweat but I made my way through it. Your advice is a great method for organizing all of this information. Thank you for sharing it.
I think it’s been mentioned before, but it’s very important that you purchase your domain names and renew them through one entity, and have your website hosted by someone else. If the same company is the registrar and host and you have a falling out, you run the risk of losing both!
Then too, when renewing your domain names, (you did buy all the domain level names, right?), renew them all for five years or more. Renewal rates go up, so this is one way of getting a low price, and you won’t have to remember to renew each year. If you decide to only renew on an annual basis, then set your domain names to be automatically renewed for you.
If you own/manage many domain names, consider joining a Domain Discount Club through your registrar to get the cheapest possible domain names and renewals.
Cathryn: Absolutely. I mentioned it: “I prefer that my domain is hosted separately from the company that hosts my website. It makes breaking up with a hosting company much easier. (I found this out the hard way.)”
Thank you for your other resources and suggestions.
This is a super article. For the last month, I have been working with a crack design team at Endurance.com (a huge company that owns Bluehost.com, GoDaddy, etc.) They are helping me put together a site I love. I have copious fragments of notes jotted down since I started a month ago. Now that the site is up and running, I need to get everything on the backend figured out and organized. Your words of wisdom dovetail directly into my goals for this week. Thank you so much. I appreciate every word of encouragement you give so generously.
Thank you many times over Alyson.
Well, I hand code my website and my hosting service, (A Small Orange, formerly Drak.net) has so far been very responsive, (considering that they are still honoring my Lifetime Contract from two previous owners ago when it was still Drak, I’m impressed!). So if it crashed I would go to their online help desk.
I have to admit, however, that as I’m beginning to reach out and already have a painting in an exhibit and am planning on a studio sale (coming up shortly) and sell at Hamden Fest a couple weekends away) I need to develop a habit of updating these things on my web site.
Otherwise I’m pretty much on top of all these things but I love how you’ve distilled the essence of necessaries into a comprehensive list!
Thank you Allison for this list. I’ve run my own website for 8+ years now, and it really is awesome to have complete and total control. Yes, as some mentioned above it’s a big time investment to learn with big learning curves every time you want to do something new, but it’s worth it. I can add anything I want, anywhere I want. Anytime I want. I can connect everything from my PayPal (banking app) to my Mail Chimp (my newsletter app) without worrying that anyone else has access to sensitive information. Now, I have locked myself out on accident before…. Yes .. don’t implement ultra high security stuff without leaving yourself multiple ways to get back in…. But really artists need to learn this stuff. We need to be in control of our open asthetic and brand, and be able to keep it up to date with where our art is going.
I have been using Artspan.com since 2009. It is a template based site, with all the trimmings, a fair amount of control, a well-functioning cash register, excellent prints on demand service and great customer support. They even have a general website where I can show up to 15 works and can change the featured art anytime, and it costs me under $20 monthly. The art I sell through their website carries, I think, a 10% commission. What I sell directly has no commission. I know who hosts it. I also have a blog on wp, that appears seamlessly on my site. I highly recommend it.
I would add that it is so important to back up your website on a regular basis. If something happens to your website (or web host) you will be able to restore an older version or move it somewhere else. I use the UpDraftPlus plugin to backup my WordPress website to Google drive.
As a full time artist who still works in WordPress after letting go of my graphic design company I read through these issues nodding my head. I had just a few thoughts to share:
Google loves sites that are secure https and are responsive.
I never work on a WP site without the FTP info on hand because of so many plugin conflicts that bring down a site instantly. With FTP I can access the server and delete the bad plugin and restore the site instantly. I create sites that my clients take over to update. If you can work Word you can work WordPress!
Google has a domain registrar (domains.google.com). They have auto renew, send emails prior to the expiration date, and allow you to host your domain where you wish.
Please, don’t store your passwords unprotected with all this information. It will make it extremely simple for anyone to steal your passwords. All web browsers have password managers that can be password protected. They will store the URL, username, and password. It will retrieve the information for you when prompted by the page to login. Some (like Google Chrome) will sync password across the browser on other devices. This option has saved me many times when I’ve been away from my desktop (that I use 90% of the time) and need to access something from my laptop.
I’m a web developer by trade (since 1997) with an art business on the side (since 2014). My specialty is e-commerce, so this made the transition to selling my art on the web extremely easy. If anyone needs any assistance in gathering the information above, I would be glad to assist.
We also need to keep track of the SSL certificate associated with our domain. (It’s responsible for the padlock next to the url and means your site is secure. Especially important if you’re selling from your site. Sometimes it’s set up through a different company than your host. It may also need renewing. Mine is annual.
I am working with a non-profit organization who has exactly this problem–the people who set up the website left–under less than auspicious circumstances taking the passwords with them. While I do my own website through wordpress.com–I had tried another format before choosing wordpress.com, I think all my parameters are set up but I’d like to print out this info but also to set up a website for the arts organization.
is there a possibility of making this info into a form we can print from your website?