So your web designer bailed… Now what?

It can be scary to suddenly realize that the person you trusted to handle all of the aspects of your online presence is moving on, or worse, has already disappeared. But, just because your web guy bailed on you, it doesn’t mean the end of the world is coming. First, step back and take a deep breath. Companies part ways with webmasters all the time. (By the way, a webmaster is the person who maintains your site, and might or might not have been your web developer, the one who created your site). Let’s run down what you should do from the easiest scenario to the harder ones.

“My webmaster is stable and I’m having no problems with them.”

That’s great! However, even if you currently have a good working relationship with your webmaster, you should make sure you have a Plan B in case he suddenly realizes his dream is to become a Sherpa in the Himalayas. Make sure you have access to all of the accounts that your designer opened when building your website. Anyone who has a website built for them should at least have a copy of the account details and access information on file whether they administrate the site themselves or have a third-party webmaster. Download a copy of our website info sheet for an idea of what details to ask for. If you haven’t done this already with your current webmaster, now is the time to ask for the information. It will save you potential headaches later.

“My webmaster told me he’s going to be unable to continue being my webmaster.”

Thankfully, this guy has the integrity to at least notify you that he’s moving on. At this point, request that he send you the account details of everything involved with your website. See the info sheet.

“I just found out my webmaster has quit the business without notifying me!”

This one is a bummer, but the chance of your webmaster having vanished off the face of the earth is pretty small. Time is of the essence here though. When people move on, old business information is some of the first to go in the ‘ol dust bin. Also, if the contact info you had for him was not his personal cell phone, it may disappear fast as well. Do not wait to contact him or her. Ask him to send you the information on your website. At an absolute minimum, you need the account name and password where your domain name is registered. Sometimes this is with the hosting service, sometimes it’s not. If they are separate, it would also be good to get the hosting information. The host is the spot where your actual website is stored. These are the essentials. Any other information that you can retrieve (as listed on the info sheet) is gravy.

“I tried contacting my webmaster at all of his listed numbers, but he’s gone!”

This is the toughest scenario. It’s not necessarily hopeless, but you can reasonably expect to lose at least some of the effort that went into your original website. In this case, try to recover whatever is available, with the domain account information being the most important.

There are ways to attempt to either track the webmaster or track the domain ownership down, but they aren’t guaranteed. Hopefully, your webmaster used a backup system of some type and has provided you with copies of your website files. Quite a bit of a website can be reconstructed if this is the case.

For tracking down the webmaster, you can try looking up the “whois” information on your domain. Maybe your webmaster used contact information with the registrar that you didn’t have, in which case, we return to one of the scenarios above.

If the webmaster can’t be located, the domain can possibly be an issue you can work through with the registrar company. For instance, if your webmaster used one of your credit cards, you may be able to use that information to claim ownership of the domain.

Finally, if none of the above can be accomplished (it happens from time to time), you can take the opportunity to re-evaluate your website requirements with a new developer or webmaster and develop a new site to fit your needs. At first, this may sound a bit drastic, but often changes can be for the better. Now might be a good time to take advantage of new web design and content management technologies as well as social media to build a more efficient, optimized, and up-to-date online strategy.

Regardless of which scenario applies to you, the most important part of your web site to maintain control of is your domain name (URL) registration. Make sure you know the account name and password and that your name is listed somewhere as a contact on the account. Unlike the content on your site, which can often be retrieved or recreated, once you lose your domain name it can be a real pain to get back. Safeguard your investment by taking ownership and responsibility for that information.
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