The “source” aka “the code” provides a language in which computer users can create or change software. Having access to the source code provides huge operational benefits. For one, the source can be used to understand how the software works: it is a form of software documentation (indeed, it is the most definitive form of software documentation possible!). Also, the code can be easily changed to add diagnostics or to test a possible solution to a problem or to modify or add functionality. In addition, the source is a language both for specifying features to the computer and for discussing computing with others.
The source is a tool: a powerful, multi-purpose, critically important tool.
The source code is the base of your website or web application. It contains all the programme code, components, scripts, and API’s used to allow your website or web application to run. Everything that happens with regards to your website and web application flows through the source code and depends entirely on the source code to function. Any time you want to perform an upgrade, install any new component or fix any bug the developer will need the source code to make the necessary changes.
Sometimes, incompetent web development companies lock the final source code to make customers dependent upon them for any kind of edits or upgrades. They do this in order to charge hefty maintenance fees, even for minor changes. It can be said that some companies will hold your business hostage – refusing to release the source code to you for a website that you purchased in order to charge you whatever they desire. This is a bad situation and may leave you with no option other than agreeing with the conditions/charges imposed by the service provider.
With access to the source code, on the other hand, it is possible for you to take your application anywhere to get help. Having the source code could come in handy if:
- your relationship with the original developer sours,
- you cannot afford their rates,
- the original developer goes out of business or moves.
It is very important to get an assurance from any future web development company that the source code is available to you should you need it. You can ask and get a verbal commitment, or look for a clause of source code release in the contract.
The Ethical Approach
An ethical web company understands that you are paying them to provide a finished product that you will eventually own. If you are involved in building a custom web project, the source code is your intellectual property and you should own all the rights of reuse or repurpose it in any possible way. During your initial meeting with the web development company, insist on mainstream programming standards, along with good inline comments, and if necessary a summary of work at the end that allows you to handle any upgrades or edits with ease.
Make it a point to hire a web design and development company who agrees to provide you with a copy of your source code any time you need it. Ethical web development companies may charge a little more up front than the incompetent development companies who lock your source code. Over the life cycle of the application, however, you will recover that initial cost and thousands more back via lower cost of ownership. These ethical web development companies always do a better job initially and provide a higher quality of service over time. They often realize that the only thing they have to keep you coming back is quality service, not over-the-top expensive maintenance contracts that lock you in and leave you with no alternatives.