One of the decisions you need to make when you launch your new website is this: who should have access to your website? That is, who should be able to get into the admin area and make changes?
You usually have several options when you set up your website. You might choose to have a CMS, a content management system. We use Word Press, which powers 39% of the Internet these days, but there are other options. You generally just need a username and password to get into the admin area of a CMS.
You can also use Notepad or Dreamweaver and upload your changes to your site. For this, you need some skill or training, but not an IT department. You also need username, password, and some other information for FTP access.
There is nothing to keep you from posting the access info on your office bulletin board (physical or virtual) and letting everyone mess with the website. Nor is there anything to keep you from keeping that information entirely to yourself, or just having your webmaster make any changes you want. Somewhere in between is the option of selecting people who should have access, and having each set up and individual username and password.
Things to consider when planning access to your website
- You can easily mess up your website. I change text at my website whenever I feel like it. I’m competent with WordPress and I feel free to make changes in the editor — carefully. However, I don’t use PHP and I am not a developer. If I need a developer, I hire one. If you are, say, a gym owner or a physician or a dance teacher, you might have fewer things you can readily change without messing things up. And it might take you a while to realize you’ve messed things up, too. And then when you try to fix it, you may really mess it up.
- Your staff may come and go. We all know at least one story about a disgruntled employee with access to a website, and the horrible things he or she did to said website. Even without that kind of drama, though, it’s easy to lose track of changes made at your website if lots of people have access. At least once a month I spend a few hours of some client’s time tracking down and fixing things someone from the past has done. You’d be surprised how much time it can take to find and change that leftover outdated phone number or unlinked landing page.
- You may want to delegate. Granted, it’s easy to mess up your website. But it’s also easy to update a calendar, change the featured products, or add the name of a new associate. If you’re the business owner, that’s probably not the best use of your time. Identifying a staff person to keep up with those things, giving access to that person, and keeping a record of some kind of both the access information and the tasks performed is going to make your life easier in the future.
Tips for websites with lots of users
But we’ve built sites for non-profits that are very open, or have sections which are very open. Having many volunteers willing to help with the website can be worth the trade-off of having lots of users.
Here are some things that can help keep a tight ship under those circumstances:
- Use tools like ManageWP to control access. You can set up a connection between ManageWP and your website once, and manage users from the ManageWP dashboard. Your users only log in from ManageWP, not from the website itself.
- Make sure each user has his or her own login information. If everyone shares login information, it’s hard to limit access. IF everyone has his or her own user account, you can see who made which changes, in case you need to give feedback or follow up.
- Think about using a plugin like Publish Press Capabilities to add more specific details to users’ accounts. This can let you be very specific about which actions or parts of a website each individual can access.
There’s no one right answer to the question of who should have access to your website. It’s simply an important decision to make.