Yesterday a neighboring business owner asked for my assistance. Issues with their website. Since I’d helped with some graphics for their site months ago, and due to their question, I gave them a hand. It was only 5 minutes of my time, and I understood their frustration!
See, several months ago the business owner hired a friend of a friend to do some web work for them. A new website, new domain name, and a real web presence for their business. I was asked to assist with a little graphic work (about an hour of my time) for the site, and pass it along to the web designer. Easy enough. Passed the work along to the designer and never heard back.
As it turns out, the designer flaked on my neighbor. He got in touch, asked for more money as he was in a jam in a foreign nation, and hasn’t been heard from since! Oh boy………
The request made to me yesterday was a simple one. Help get back in touch with the guy, or find a way to regain control of the domain name and web site. Easy enough, I did a “Whois” on the site and in 5 minutes had a print out.
Unfortunately, the domain name, the web site hosting, etc, are all registered under the flakey designer’s name. First course of action? Try to get in touch with him. If that doesn’t work, contact the registrar and hosting company to see what you can do. Hopefully my neighbor will find some resolution and get their site the way they want it. And I certainly hope they didn’t sink too much money into this venture.
Not an isolated incident
My neighbor’s story isn’t a solitary warning. Several of my current web clients came to me after being abandoned by their original designers and admins.
One particular client’s story really stands out in my mind. They had an amazing site built, intricate Flash work, integration with WordPress, extremely customized all around. The designers in question are very talented. However, their company dissolved due to issues in the partnership, and my clients were left in the lurch. As I started working on their requests I found the designers left them without all the files that went into the building of the site, and due to interpersonal issues between the designers the clients couldn’t gain access to necessary files. In speaking with one of the designers I was told, “Oh, I didn’t do that part, and my partner never saved the original Flash build files……”
It took me much longer than necessary to reconstruct some of the Flash interface for my clients, and it cost them. Sorry to say, they ended up having to pay twice for something they only should have paid for once.
What’s to be done?
An educated consumer is a good consumer. Do your homework before you hire a web design company. Know what it is you’re purchasing! Arm yourself with knowledge. And if you say to yourself, “I don’t have time to research all of this,” then remember that you might be a prime target to be burned by some fly by night company. It’s that simple.
Since I do my own design work I don’t have to worry to much about crummy web designers. I just have to find the time to work on my own sites. With my print clients, photo trips, gallery business, and pool of web clients, I find that my personal site is severely neglected. That’s one of the drawbacks of being your own client. You’re always put to the bottom of the list.
If you’re concerned about getting burned by a web company, I do have a few suggestions that might help…….
- REGISTER YOUR OWN DOMAIN NAME: All in Caps and Bold for a reason. You don’t need a web development company to register your domain for you. You can do that on your own. There are so many registration services out there, and registering is an extremely quick process. Being on record as the domain owner means that you can repoint your site to other hosting companies, which means you can quickly transition between designers and service providers if you need to.
- Find a great design company: Since you’re reading this blog you’re probably into photography, Airstreams, travel, or you’ve got a strange fixation with me. For those of you into Photography, I offer you the following. LiveBooks.com Live Books is NOT a flakey design company. They’re the real deal. And they charge for their service. But you know what, you’ll get what you pay for. There are other good companies out there, but I’ve been researching Live Books for a while now as they caught my attention last year. They’ll design and host for you, and they won’t disappear. Still, I’d follow point 1, because as you grow and develop your web presence you might find down the road you want even more control.
- Self Service? Host your own site: You could take the course I’ve taken. Register your own domain, and then find a good hosting company and host your own site. This is no small undertaking. Web design is time consuming, specialized, and requires a learning curve. If you’ve got the time, good for you. Now you need a great hosting company. I can help you here. I’ve used several “popular” companies, and they’ve all dropped the ball big time. There’s only one company I recommend. MediaTemple. Do your research, look into MediaTemple’s credentials like I did, and decide for yourself.
- Learn to build your own sites: There are so many great tools out there. WordPress has brought “quick web setup” to the masses. I love it, and this blog is built on WordPress. You can also build a static site with it as well. Want to get more complex? Dreamweaver, Flash CS4, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom2 can all be used in conjunction to create websites. If you say you don’t know about all of this stuff, I understand. If you want to learn…..KelbyTraining.com covers all of the programs above, and they cover building websites. Great resource for more than just photography and Photoshop!
Well, there’s my short list for you. If all else fails, I am taking on up to 5 new web clients this year. Drop a note if you need a hand and we can discuss what you need. My client portfolio is available on request, but I don’t publish my full list here as I’m extremely selective with the clients I choose.