What if your web designer dissapears?

Originally, I was going to start this post with a long, made up story.  But how about I tell you the ‘story’ which inspired me to writing this post, instead?

On a rainy November day, the company I work for wins the ‘bidding’ for a website renewal.  Don’t ask about the “bidding” part, it’s a long story.  When the case is presented to me by our sales guy, I immediately frown.

“We’ve got to take over their website. Maybe change some things,” Sales Guy says.
”Sure,” Sceptical Steve replies, waiting for Sales Guy to explain the case.
”you see, they want us to take over their website, because the person who built their website vanished.”
”And by vanished, you mean…”
”Gone. Can’t be contacted anymore.  Doesn’t reply to e-mails or phone calls.  Last thing the customer heard, was the, out of the blue, someone else is now hosting their website.  And they didn’t like that surprise.”

You’d think that people can’t just “vanish” like that, in this information age. Right? You’d be wrong to think that.  A quick, one-minute internet search learned me that the website of our new customers’ former “web designer” is now blank.  Or, to be precise, a “default Joomla! installation.”  A quick check of the customers’ website taught me that the website hadn’t been upgraded in ages.  The site was running on Joomla! 1.0.10.  Update alert! 

While our customer might have been alarmed by the “hosting change”, that was what saved him hundreds of euro’s.  Because of the “hosting transfer”, the new hosting company had send the customer the login data for his new hosting package.  Which was exactly what we needed to upgrade and rebuild his website.  Without it, we’d have to build a new website from scratch.  Which isn’t cheap, of course. 

Lessons to learn

There’s some lessons you can learn from this story.  You should know that this story doesn’t stand on his own.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of someone who couldn’t get in touch with his “previous web designer” anymore.  In case you’re hiring someone to build a website for you, keep these tips in mind. 

  1. Be carefull who you hire to build your site.  Individuals are often cheaper, but can they guarantee the continuity like a company can  Side note:  This is not a stab at freelance web designers out there.  I’m just pointing out that not everyone can be trusted. 
  2. If possible, ask for the login data to your hosting.  Your ‘next’ web designer will need it. 
  3. When using Joomla! or another CMS, try to discover if updates are made regularly. THis says a lot about your web designer. 

That’s all I can think off, for now.  But maybe you guys have got some tips of your own to share?

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