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What If Your Website Designer Disappears

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4 things you can do when your website designer disappears

Has your website designer become unavailable? Has this left you with a broken site or even worse no website at all?

There may be many reasons why your website designer has stopped responding to your emails – ill health, gone into liquidation, you’ve had a falling out, or worse. Whatever the reason is, it is an unenviable situation. It’s frustrating and stressful and has the potential to bring down a business if the website is the main wellspring of your sales and inquiries.

I’ve had many worried small business owners contact me after being let down by their website designer. All the hard graft building and developing the website over months and years appear to have disappeared. And then there’s the cash invested in designing, maintaining, and marketing the website, is gone.

If you are currently having similar experiences, I’m here to share a few simple tips to get you back online.

1. How to check who with and where your domain is registered

Did you register your own domain name? Some website designers register domains on your behalf through their own accounts. Often this means the domain is registered under your designer’s name and totally out of your control. Essentially, this means that you have no way of accessing or transferring the domain to another provider.

Your first step is to look up the domain registration details. The easiest way is with a whois search to check the registered details on the domain. Depending on the privacy settings you will be able to see the registrant’s name and contact information.

If the domain has privacy protection, you will still be able to see where the domain is registered. Allowing you to contact the company directly to track down the owner.

What to do if your domain isn’t registered in your name?

Contact the registrar directly – this is the company your domain is registered with. Some clients I’ve worked with have managed to regain control over their domain this way. It required proof that it was their business, evidence that they had a right to the domain and that communication with the designer had been unsuccessful. Not all registrars will do this, and will only deal with the person registered on the domain. In any case, it’s worth a try.

Attempt to contact the designer for the last time – You may be thinking that this is a lost cause. They’ve ignored you so far so why would they get back to you now? Believe it or not, this has worked in the past even with designers who have been awol for some time. Send them a short email asking them to transfer the domain to your new provider.

Example email text:-

“Hi, I hope you are well. I understand that you may be experiencing some difficulties but I would really appreciate your help in transferring my domain name, (yourdomain.com), to my new account.

The details ISP Tag: Enter tag here (you’ll get this from your new registrar).

After the transfer of the domain is complete, I will waive any further correspondence and consider the services cancelled.”

I’ve utilised the above email with a couple of the businesses I’ve helped and they actually got the domain transferred to them by the designer.

Approach Nominet or ICANN – If you are in the UK and have a .uk domain name you can ask for the help of Nominet. As the main domain registry for UK domains, they can transfer the domain into your name and account. You will need to send them proof that it is your domain and business but they can transfer it to you. For .com and other domain extensions, you can contact ICANN who helps with domain disputes between registrars and third parties. They may charge a small fee.

Register a new domain – If the above methods have brought you no luck, you may have to cut your losses and register a new domain name. While this isn’t ideal as you’re starting over with a new website and email address, it will at least allow your website to be fully operational again. You should also keep an eye on your old domain expiry date. It’s unlikely that the designer will register it when it comes up for renewal so you may be able to snap it up when it goes on sale again. It’s important to note that when a domain expires it typically has a grace period of around 40 days before it is available to buy.

What to do if you own your domain name?

If you registered your own domain name and have access to your account, you’re in the best position to rescue this situation.

You can log in to your account, change the domain settings and point them to your new web hosting. This method involves changing the nameservers. If in doubt your new web hosting company can provide these. We provide this service free-of-charge with all our hosting packages.

2. Purchase new hosting

Once your domain is transferred or you’ve bought a new one, you’re going to require website hosting. Website hosting is where your files and emails are stored online. Like your domain, you could set up your own account, if you are confident in deploying your website to the server.

After the purchase of your domain, you can change the nameservers on the domain to point to the new hosting. The nameservers will be sent to you when you signup for an account, so you can copy them into your domain settings. The change can take anywhere between a few minutes to 72 hours to propagate worldwide, although it typically takes a few hours. You will then be able to set up your email accounts again and upload your website if you have a backup, or a holding page if you don’t.

3. Dig out your website backup

Now that you’ve got your domain and web hosting sorted, it’s time to get your website back online. The easy way to do that is with a website backup.

Website backups are one of these things that many small business owners don’t consider until it’s too late. Like, say, when your website designer vanishes without giving you the files.

Regrettably, in the majority of cases that I’ve helped, there has not been website backup available. And without a backup of the website you are going to have to start from scratch by either doing it yourself or hiring a new designer.

Nonetheless, if you do have a backup somewhere on your computer you’ll be able to upload the files to your new hosting. Even if it’s not the most recent backup, you’ll at least have something resembling the website back online. Then you can begin to make any relevant changes required in the short term while you work on a future plan of action.

It’s important to take regular backups of your website. Most hosting platforms have the facility to create a downloadable backup of the site and data. Personally, I back up an entire site before making any changes to it. This way you’ll always have something to fall back on if things go awry.

4. Hire a new website designer

When you don’t have a backup of your website, the only option you have is to start from scratch. Not a great situation, especially as a small concern with the confines of a limited marketing budget.

There’s also the trepidation and dread of putting your trust in another designer with your online presence. Being burned leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. But, as someone who tries to find the positives in situations at least this time around, you’ll be better equipped and your eyes will be well and truly open to making sure you find a designer that’s right for you.

Take your time to make sure that your next website designer is reliable, credible, and around for the long-term.

Some pointers to help you find the right designer.

Look for referrals – ask around for referrals from those you know and trust. There’s a good chance, you’ll get the names of a number of prospects to look into.

Do your research – check out a few designer’s websites and pay attention to their services, about page, and portfolio. It’s tiresome, but, read their T&Cs.

Make initial contact – if you find a designer that looks like they fit the bill, contact them for a chat. Use this as an opportunity to ask more questions about their process, support, and aftercare.

Ask lots of questions – don’t be afraid to ask your potential designer questions. A website is a big business investment, it’s paramount that you get as much information as you can at this stage. It will help you make an informed decision.

Need help?
If all that sounds overwhelming and alien to your abilities, you can hire someone like me to help guide you through the entire process.

If you’d like to find out more about our services and how we can get you back online, quickly and efficiently, feel free to get in touch.

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