Handing code to another web designer

If a client wants to use another new web designer, should the client expect to be handed over all the code developed for the site to this new designer to edit? Especially given that lots of special php code was written for the site which you really don’t want to let others know how the site as done? So we’re not just talking about basic HTML.

This is not to hold on to a site to extort monies (as if the site is going to go you might as well let it, as this could cause bad will), but more interested in what would be deemed as fair practice to all parties?


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If the PHP code generates HTML, you would be in your rights (I think) to capture a static HTML version of the site and transfer that. But if you are talking about a system that has a form handler or seven, you would probably have to send that code along with the site, or else you wouldn’t be transmitting the entire site.

For example, The Good Service Guide runs on my framework on top of PHP/MySQL and listens for special admin requests from a custom FIlemaker admin tool written by my friend Curtis. Late last year, some other Web developers were pitching my client at GSG, and offered to make a version that would run directly on Filemaker Pro (cutting out two layers, simplifying the admin process, etc.). So they needed the “source code” of the site. Which of course doesn’t really exist, since it’s all dynamically written by the server every time someone visits. Since I have dynamic cacheing enabled on the site, and every page that gets visited more than once in an hour gets cached anyway, it was no big deal to make a special URL that generated a complete static version of the site, saved each page as HTML in a directory on the server, and then we handed that off to this new developer. They opened it up in Dreamweaver, did some monkeying around in Filemaker, and made a site that did all of the static things that the GSG does directly in FMP. My client elected to stay with my system (whew) but it was a way that I could send the “code” of the site without endangering my intellectual property (the framework).

You could approximate this no matter if your site uses cacheing or not by simply using this command-line recipe in wget (which you may have to install first):

wget --html-extension --recursive --convert-links http://www.example.com

That will give you a folder wherever you “are” in Terminal (probably your home folder) containing the entire site, but with all files converted to .html extensions, all links corrected to match, and of course, any PHP executed (so it generates whatever HTML it’s going to, and removes itself from the output).

Walter


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Sometime around 11/7/09 (at 16:13 -0400) WebWorker said:

If a client wants to use another new web designer, should the client
expect to be handed over all the code developed for the site to this
new designer to edit? Especially given that lots of special php
code was written for the site which you really don’t want to let
others know how the site as done?

Personally, as long as you don’t hand over login details to your
MySQL databases or anything else like that, I’d say you should
consider supplying the PHP code as well. Any PHP code that was used
to make the site functional is just as much a part of it as the HTML
and graphics. True, you slaved over it far, far more than you had to
with the HTML layout (thankyou Freeway!), but it is still just a part
of the whole site.

Of course, there’s the question about what the client actually paid
for; did they license the underlying structure or did they buy it?
However, this is generally not a road worth starting down.

Then there’s the question of what exactly that PHP code is and does.
In cases where a web production company has developed their own CMS
or CMS front end, that is normally treated separately from the site
itself (and any scripting that makes the site itself work) and is
never handed over when the client moves to another web development
company.

For me, the bottom line is this:

  • If there’s some code work that is required for the site to
    function, it should be included.
  • If there’s some code work that is separate from the site and isn’t
    essential for it to sit there and work - even if it is essential for
    easy management - then it isn’t necessarily part of the deal.
  • BUT if it doesn’t represent serious intellectual property that you
    rely on for business and you’ve put serious time into creating - cut
    them a break.

Although you may want to consider a reasonable fee for your time to
prepare and perhaps comment stuff to make life easier for the next
crowd.

I would include web-optimised graphics, but not necessarily any
original high-resolution or multiple-layered Photoshop files. There
is copyright to consider for original artwork, although, again, think
things through when it comes to things like company logos. If you
developed this did they pay for full use/reuse/abuse of the artwork?
If not then you have the right to open that discussion - but be aware
that it is not just a discussion, it is also a big can o’ worms!

And that’s my tuppence!

k


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If you’re trying the wget recipe, and you’re looking at this message on the Web, be sure to remove the angle brackets that wrap the URL part of the command. The formatter adds those and I can’t see how to remove them.

Walter


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Part of the custom work is with a CMS and its API’s to do some clever stuff we don’t really want to share our ideas with this other local designer. Not a massively creative but something you don’t just hand over without thinking very carefully.

The editable web site package “is” bought as “much” lower priced product with an annual fee. The client does not own the code but pays a lower cost to run it. The annual fee maintains any updates or fixes.

So maybe I’m saying, am I in my rights explain this to the client and tell him the bad news.


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Sometime around 11/7/09 (at 18:09 -0400) WebWorker said:

am I in my rights explain this to the client and tell him the bad news.

Basically yes. Retaining custom CMS front end stuff is fairly normal
practise for everything from solo web developers up to multinational
agencies.

k


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