Rescue Your Website From A Bad Web Designer or Web Host
From time to time, more frequently than one would think likely, I get emails from my visitors asking me if it is possible to move a website from an errant web designer or a bad web host without the cooperation of that person or company.
This may happen because the web developer or web host has refused to relinquish control of the site when asked to. For example, they may not have given the owner his/her login and password so that the latter can access the site to update it themselves. This article attempts to address the problem.
The Context of the Question
The people who ask me this question usually have slightly different circumstances. The most common scenario is that they have hired a web designer to create and maintain a website for them, and that designer has ignored their requests for the site to be updated. And when they ask the designer to return the website to them, they meet a wall of silence.
Another common scenario is where their web host has gone bad in some way (or even missing), and they want to move their site elsewhere.
Before you take the steps written here, consider the following:
Are you sure there is no misunderstanding between you and your designer as to the scope of his/her duties? Re-read your contract with that person. Does it specify that he/she update your website or does the fee you paid only include the initial design work? Maintenance work (that is, updating of your website) usually involves a monthly (or annual) fee, over and above the monthly (or annual) web hosting fees. If you only made a one-time payment, chances are that it only covers the initial creation of the site.
(You didn’t think that a small one-time fee paid at the beginning was going to commit your designer to maintaining your site for the rest of his/her natural life, did you?)
Do not use this procedure as a means of solving your dispute with your web designers. That is, if you have withheld payment from them for some reason, and they’re ignoring you because you’ve not paid up, this article will not solve your problem. Your designers will probably just haul you to court for breach of contract (for failing to pay up).
Basically, if you have a legal dispute with your designers, get help from a lawyer, not from some random website on the Internet, even one with a name like “thesitewizard.com”.
Put simply, this article does NOT deal with contract disputes and legal remedies. It merely discusses the technical means that you can use to reclaim a website that legally and rightfully belongs to you. And it assumes that you no longer have access to your web hosting account: that is, you cannot log into your account to download a copy of all your files (via FTP or through your web host’s control panel), nor are you able to modify your website’s files.
Your Domain Name is the Key to Your Crown Jewels
Ultimately, where technical means are concerned, everything hinges on whether you have control over your domain name.
A domain name is a name like “oronadesign.com”. It is the means by which visitors reach your website. For example, if you type “oronadesign.com” into your web browser right now, you will arrive at the front page of this website. When you or the person you hired started your site, one of the first things that would have been done is to register a domain name. This typically involves the payment of a small annual fee to a company called a domain name registrar. In exchange for this fee, you get the right to use the domain name for as long as you keep up the annual payments.
The domain name is not the same thing as your website. It’s just a name. As explained in my tutorial on How to Make / Create Your Own Website: The Beginner’s A-Z Guide, it’s like registering a business name for your company in the physical world. Getting a domain name does not automatically get you a website any more than registering a business name get you shop premises in the brick and mortar world.
Article written by Christopher Heng for TheSiteWizard.com.