How to move your website when your web developer lets you down

Posted 69 days ago by Phil Vialoux

13 Jul 2017

Sadly, we live in a world where not everything works the way it’s supposed to.

Cars break down. Plumbers don’t turn up. Website developers go AWOL, don’t deliver what they promised, and send eye-watering bills for every tiny change.

As a business owner, this is a pretty unhappy place to be in. Most likely you’ve invested significant money in your site, and your business may depend on it. So you’re stuck in a dysfunctional relationship with a web company you’ve lost faith in.

It’s simply too hard to change. Or is it?

Let’s look at some common roadblocks to shifting a website, and the ways you can get around them.

“My web developer has disappeared.”

As with any other business, web companies come and go. The trouble arises when the designer has retained exclusive access to the site and controls the hosting arrangements. If the web company goes offline or your friendly freelance web designer disappears, how do you get control of your site back into your own hands?

There are a number of ways around this. You can ask a different web developer to scrape the site content and replicate it on a new server. A capable developer can rebuild a site that looks 100% identical, with all the functionality of your old site.

What if the site has disappeared from the online world altogether? Consider delving into publicly available Internet archives such as the Wayback Machine. There’s a good chance a version of your site can be restored from these records.

“My website is locked and I can’t access it.”

It’s very frustrating to be told you can’t login to your own website, whether to make changes or move it to a new developer. Unfortunately, some web companies may try to maintain leverage over your business by restricting access to the back end of your site.

If they dig their heels in, the solution is similar to the one outlined above. Ask us to scrape the content off the front end (i.e. the web content that’s publicly viewable online). We will rebuild it on a new Content Management System (CMS), and make sure you have full access and control going forward.

“We’ve lost our domain.”

This can be frustrating. Let’s say you’ve built a successful doggy treats business and are driving substantial sales via www.mydoggytreats.co.nz. But now you learn this precious domain is pointing to your old web developer’s site, and they’re not picking up the phone. Worse still – they’re offline, and so is your site.

Don’t panic. There are processes you can go through to regain control of a domain you own. A savvy web developer will be able to point you in the right direction, and help you get those doggy treat orders flowing once more.

“The web company says they own the design.” 

Not true. There have been court cases over this, and the gist is that you retain rights over a design and content you have paid for. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Another roadblock we’ve encountered is when the web company says they built your site on their own bespoke software, and it can’t be shifted. In the meantime they will continue sending you hefty bills for hosting and services (although they probably didn’t dwell on this ongoing commitment when you first appointed them to build the site).

Don’t accept this treatment. Call their bluff by appointing a new web developer to scrape the content and rebuild the site on a new CMS with transparent and affordable ongoing charges.

“We’ve sunk a fortune into our site but we’re not happy with it.”

Does this mean you have to stick with a web developer who you’ve lost faith in? Absolutely not.

There’s a range of options to re-jig malfunctioning or incomplete websites. You can even start again – and this time get what you want. Every site is different but rebuilding is often more cost-effective than you think. After all, you will know the pitfalls to avoid this time round.

Certainly, you should never feel you have to stick with a website or developer that doesn’t perform, simply because of sunk costs. 

If in doubt, take action.

Do any of these issues ring a bell? If so, there’s a simple way forward. Ask a tech-savvy person or helpful web designer to take a back-up of your publically available site. That way you’ll have up-to-date files ready for a rebuild if necessary.

Above all, don’t listen to anyone who tells you have to stick with a website that doesn’t work properly or a web developer who provides poor service. You always have options.

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