The answer is, it depends on the developer/designers business model. For me, the answer is both.
All of my WordPress designs are based on Elegant Themes’ Divi theme. If you are reading this and don’t know what a theme is, we discussed it in last week’s article, “Great, this WordPress theme comes with everything I need!”
In 2013, I purchased a lifetime license from them for $180.00. I’m not a big fan of paying for annual subscriptions year after year. It’s kind of like leasing a car, someone’s making money on it and it’s not me. I’m now making money each and every time I begin a new website build. I insert my username and license key and don’t think any more about it.
I often read about designers being upset that a client has decided not to use them to maintain their website after it goes live, and they immediately want to remove all of the software licenses. If it’s a lifetime license, I find this both childish and petty. I’ve always wanted to answer them with, “What’s the big deal? Haven’t you made your costs back several times over?” If the client decides not to use me to maintain their website, I wish them luck and move on.
Now if we are talking about an annual license, that’s a different story. Remember, for me, this only applies to plugins. Plugins are the software that makes the bells and whistles of your website sparkle. I’ve changed how I handle this over the last couple of years. In the beginning, I would put all licenses in my name, and allowed the reoccurring charges to keep hitting my credit year after year. Yeah, sometimes I’m a little slow on things. Even in the beginning, my process was to first look for a free version, not all free versions are poorly written. If a free version is not available, then I look for a solution that offers a lifetime license. If it’s a plugin that I feel I’ll use more than once, I’ll buy a lifetime license. Again, if it’s used over and over again, I’ll more than make my cost back.
When it comes to plugins that only offer annual subscriptions, I contact the client and explain the research I’ve done, why I feel they need this particular plugin. We discuss the costs now and what they will be forward. If approved, all of the information is in the client’s name.
There is a theory out there that WordPress offers a free solution, and that is partially true. You can use a free theme and free plugins. But, more times than not, you won’t end up with the website you were hoping for.
The licensing business in the WordPress world is huge. In 2017, ThemeForest sold $138 million in themes only. The only statistics I could find on plugins was from December 2016, where it was estimated that there were over 56 million free and paid available. As I said it’s a huge business.
The answer to the question of who owns the license(s) for the software making your website hum along, unfortunately, if your developer/designer hasn’t discussed this with you, is, who knows.
Do you know what theme and plugins are driving your website?
Do you know if you own the licenses? If you leave your developer/designer are you in for a very rude surprise.
If the answer is either “I don’t know” or “No,” let’s chat.
I am an awarding winning logo and website designer who when not designing logos and websites, likes to write about how the industry has changed and what it looks to become in the future. I started designing websites around 1995. For the past 8 years, all sites have been developed in WordPress. Originally, I would develop the site in HTML and then convert those files to WordPress. Today all child themes are built on the framework of Divi. Guest blogger at 3lovablelabs, Tropic Moon Media, and Patti & Hank.