What to do if your web developer has disappeared

HELP! My Web Developer Disappeared!

Mark Walker Small Business Advice Leave a Comment


This title may seem silly, but unfortunately we’ve been hearing “my web developer disappeared” far too much lately. I assume people aren’t actually vanishing into thin air, but they are disappearing just the same.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many folks who are sinking in the same boat. They’ve been burned by a web designer/developer in one, or heaven help them, many ways. From contact forms that never worked to hosting providers across the country that you’ve never heard of, the list of infractions is endless.

I’ve heard of situations where the web developer starts strong (likely due to a 50% upfront fee) and then disappears mid project never to be heard of again. More often than not, however, the story goes something like this…

Client hires web developer to build an awesome website. Web developer does a decent job building a site. 6 months or a year later, the web developer is no where to be found and the client’s website is falling apart at the seams.

Does this scenario sound all too familiar? Take a deep breath, you’re in the right place!

If you’re screaming “HELP! My web developer disappeared,” here’s what to do:

1. Find out who is hosting your website and where the domain is registered using a WHOIS lookup. Here are a few options:



Network Solutions

You should be able to locate contact information for both the host and registrar from any of these options. After you do that, it’s time to reach out to them.

2. Contact the registrar and host

You should find an email address as well as a phone number for both the registrar and host of your website. Write these both down and keep them in a safe place. You’re going to need them a lot over the next days and weeks.

3. Sign up for a new hosting account

Before you start the process of taking back your website, you’re going to need a hosting account of your own. Choose one that offers great customer service, flexible bandwidth options, and easy-to-use dashboards. Need help finding a provider? This list of hosting companies may help. 

4. Take ownership of your domain

If you don’t already own your URL, you’re going to need to take ownership of it. You want that puppy to be yours and no one else’s. GoDaddy makes claiming your domain simple and they’ve even put together a handy guide. Keep in mind you’ll have to work with the current registrar to gain access to your domain and complete this process.

5. Transfer hosting to your new account

This process is fairly straight-forward, but you need to make sure you cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s. I recommend working directly with your new web developer or hosting provider through this process to make sure everything is done properly. Every hosting provider has different steps to be taken, so contact customer service to get detailed instructions.

6. Point your domain to the new hosting account

Now that you’ve set up your hosting and you have ownership of your domain, all that’s left to do is point your domain to the new hosting account. Your hosting provider or web developer will be able to help you accomplish this in a matter of minutes. Clear your browsing data, refresh the page, and voilà!


Sure, I can build you a website...

From my experience, the problem always starts at the beginning of a project. It seems many web developers don’t take a holistic approach and therefore are really just interested in throwing together a website. They don’t concern themselves with whether or not it works properly or lasts long-term.

If you’re considering launching a new website or redesigning your current one, here’s how to make sure you’re in good hands:

1. Follow the steps above if you don’t already have ownership of your domain and hosting.

2. Hire a dependable company or web developer you can actually reach.

Don’t work with a company or individual who is hard to get in touch with and who doesn’t work with you to help you understand the process. You have a right to know what’s going on when it comes to your website!

3. Take a look at their work

If you’re going to hire a company to manage your website, you need some proof that they know what they’re talking about. Have them send 3-5 website they currently manage and 3-5 they have built.

4. Request backups of your website

Assuming you do hire a web developer, I recommend making sure they backup your website frequently. Make sure you have access to these backups in case you need them somewhere down the road.

5. Hire a company that knows marketing (not just web design)

Making a pretty website is great, but a pretty website won’t get you customers in the door. You need a website that people can find and easily use so be sure to hire a web developer who understands digital marketing best practices. As they build your site, they should be conscious of SEO, local search, and social media opportunities.

6. Get a specific timeline

Don’t settle for “about a month or so.” Get specific information about how long the project will take and request a game plan for how they plan to do it.  It works both ways, though, so make sure you do your part providing content and feedback so the project can proceed as planned.

Have you been burned by a web developer? Share you story in the comments below.

Need a little help taking your website back? We can help!

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*NOTE – No two situations are exactly the same, so this post may not always apply. If you need help taking back control of your website, we’re always here to help.
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