If your web developer has abandoned you, first of all, let me say I am deeply sorry. Unless you have experienced this, it’s difficult to understand how frustrating and stressful this can be.
The truth is this happens. A lot. Way more than it should. When I talk to business owners and managers about a new website, it is the first objection I have to overcome at least half of the time. “I paid my last developer thousands of dollars, and once the site was finished, I couldn’t get them to return my emails and phone calls.”
Having cycled through a few web developers, I can tell you there is rarely any malice of intent when this happens. At the risk of generalizing, web developers tend to be extremely smart, talented people whose passion is to build something they are proud of and that their clients are happy with. But once the passion of the honeymoon is gone (the site is launched) some developers move on to the next project and lose interest in a website once it’s online.
This is way more common than most folks realize. Sometimes, when you go with a one-developer option, they simply lack the manpower to keep up on phone calls, emails, ongoing maintenance, and optimization.
In other situations, developers don’t technically “abandon” their clients, but they just aren’t interested in routine and ongoing correspondence, maintenance, updates, and optimization. I recently visited with a potential client who told me she was paying her web developer $800/month and even though she was offering to pay him for additional updates and changes, he simply didn’t want to do the work.
Yikes. So what are your options if your web developer abandons you?
Avoid this situation
I realize this first tip isn’t helpful for the folks whose web developer has given them a pink slip, but if you are doing some research pre-website build, here is a quick checklist of things to consider to avoid this happening to you…
• Go with a developer who has been in business for a while, who is willing to provide references, and who has solid reviews and/or testimonials.
• Try to find a developer who has dedicated staff for ongoing updates, maintenance, and optimization. If they are strictly a one-person shop, ask what the process is for post-launch, and try to get it in writing.
• Make certain the website is set up with your email address as the admin address, and get login credentials from the start.
• If you find a one-person web-dev shop who is also working full-time elsewhere, the likelihood of ongoing correspondence may be slim. This is not the end of the world, but just keep this in mind. In these situations, ask the developer the best times of the week to communicate.
If your site is strictly a digital business card to legitimize your business, you may not need ongoing updates and optimization (although routine maintenance is important, because most technology falls off over time and you need a developer who can make technical updates for you as needed). If you do go with a developer who is designing sites as a side hustle, just make sure that they are not charging the same as the web development firms.
• Know that there are many single-developer website builders that are reputable. The problem with developers abandoning clients is common, but that doesn’t mean it plagues all contract or freelance web developers. Just do your homework, make sure you do the things in this list, and you will likely be fine.
Figure out what your first and most immediate need is
Now, for those of you who are going through a break-up with your web developer, take a deep breath and filter through the implications. Is this a big deal, or is it just an inconvenience?
To answer that question, ask yourself…
• Do I have login credentials for my domain and my website? If not, can I get my developer to give them to me?
• Do I have access to my email or did my developer set that up for me? Can I get my developer to give me control of my email if they set it up for me?
• Did I set up automatic payments with my developer, and if so, have I canceled those payments if the relationship is over?
• Does it really matter? In other words, how involved are you with your website, how many updates do you need to make routinely, etc. (Even if you are fairly removed from your website, still try to get login credentials. There is a good chance you will need someone, at some point, to log into your site and make technical updates.)
• Avoid getting hostile with your web developer. You are going to need login credentials to your website, and those are going to be impossible to get if all communication is lost.
• If you have a non-responsive developer, send them a polite email that frames your concerns and your potential solutions. Here is an example:
Dear Radio Silent Web Developer,
I really like the website you built for me – I get complimented on it all the time! It seems that you are very busy these days, which is great.
I’d really like to leverage my website as a viable marketing tool, so I’d like to contract with someone who can help me with that. Would you mind sharing the login credentials for my website?
If you are no longer interested in maintaining and hosting my website, I completely understand. Can you recommend someone who can do that for me, or is there any way you can turn the hosting over to me?
Do you have 10 minutes next week that we could catch up over the phone to discuss these things?
Thank you in advance for the login credentials and for your consideration of what’s next.
Very Frustrated Web Client
• Once you get what you need from your web developer, start looking for professionals to help get you back on your feet again. They can either get you set up so you can manage your website, or they can manage it for you.
Some web developers will take on existing websites and some will not. Start making some phone calls – even the web developers who don’t deal with existing websites will typically help with some suggestions and recommendations for developers that do.
You can also determine what you need help with, and write a job post in a freelance platform like UpWork. This may be helpful if you just need help with a few specific tasks, and then you can resume the upkeep of your website.
Is it time to start over?
If you’ve been ghosted by your web developer, it can sometimes be a mixed blessing. Let’s say you started your website on a whim, without giving the domain or your branding a whole lot of thought. You just needed a quick, dirty website to get online, and you needed it yesterday.
Is this an opportunity to step back and re-evaluate?
I’ve had clients in this situation who have had a really clunky domain that they want to smarten and shorten up. I’ve had clients in this situation who had a really antiquated site that was glitching out. I’ve also had clients in this situation whose branding, marketing goals, and messaging changed completely since their existing website was built.
It’s really unfortunate if you have a relatively new site and you find yourself with an unresponsive developer. However, if your site is 3-5 years old, it may be time to consider rebuilding the website anyway. In the web development industry we see that designs, technology, and a business’ online marketing goals often change in that 3-5 year period.
If you do decide to shut down and retool with a new website, see the first checklist in this blog so that you don’t find yourself in the same situation with your new project.
If you are completely lost and need a place to start, leverage chatbots on web developer websites. For example, on our website, my (Kat’s) smiling face is always there willing to help you with whatever your website angst is, without any expectation of turning you into a client. I’d estimate that 80% of the chatbot communication from our website is just business owners looking for some help, and looking for answers to questions. Chatbots are a fantastic option in these situations because you don’t have to give anyone your email address or phone number.
However you decide to handle this situation, we hope these points are helpful and that you are back on your feet – working with a more helpful web developer – in no time.