How and when should I fire my web designer?

If you can believe this, 49% of small businesses in the US do not have a website or blog according to Nick Nelson of Rightside, and that half of those who do aren’t satisfied with the ones they have.


We only ever seem to get new business in one of three ways:

  1. Someone starts a new business and blindly Googles around until they find us. This is rare because unlike places that use nefarious SEO methods, we don’t rank that high.
  2. Someone has a website and a current developer, but the site isn’t meeting their needs (usually traffic), so the first time they hear of someone else they get interested.
  3. Someone has a website and a current developer, but the developer isn’t responsive or up to par, so someone recommends us.

In two of those three instances it comes about because people aren’t happy. I’ve had clients come to us after their prior contractor hasn’t been responsive, doesn’t respond to emails, doesn’t get work done, etc. So we end up in a situation where people are frustrated at the whole industry and we have to change that. On every occasion, I think we do and we do so very well. Though we did get fired once.

But the process isn’t always easy. You have to find someone, you have to know where to go. If you don’t have access to the domain you have to rely on the current developer to unlock it. If you have emails on a server it can be hard to move them or sometimes impossible. If you have a lot of custom-built applications, no one knows the ins and outs of those better than the current developer.

The Best Approach to a Bad Developer

Talk it out. It’s easier and cheaper and faster than just about anything else you can do. This goes for our current clients, too: if you have a problem, say something.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I assure I try very hard to anticipate people’s needs before they need something. Sometimes I’m away from my desk or busy, sometimes we miss things, it happens. But communication works wonders.

No, I really want to switch. How and when should I fire my web designer?

If your prior developer is retiring, leaving, or is just plain unresponsive or doesn’t get along with you well, then it’s time to switch. Before you get too far into the weeds, get this information first:

  1. The login or a login to the domain registrar where they domain is registered.
  2. The login or a login to the hosting service. This is where your website files are stored. Make copies of everything if you can, including the database if your site has one and you’re capable of understanding what’s involved.
  3. Once you have the domain registrar information, login and change the domain registrant to your name and email address.

Contacting your new developer or agency

If you have someone in mind to take over, get in touch with them and hand them this information. They may be able to take the existing site and run with it, or, they may want or need to redo it. It’s not a bad time to redo your site, especially if the price is right.

If you want it to be us, we’re happy to help (did we mention you can build a quote online?) and we’re sorry your last experience was a bad one. We can try to contact the prior developer to get this information for you so you don’t have to. We have before, and it likely won’t be the last time we did.

What to be aware of going forward

The process of switching developers is likely going to cost some money. We charge monthly rates now by default, as opposed to high-cost multi-thousand dollar commitments. But, we also do flat-rate work by request and it could mean an out of pocket expense of $1,000 or more. We like to do our sites from scratch so we know every nook and cranny. It keeps problems from before from spilling over into the new service. This goes for most anyone, no developer wants to inherit someone else’s problems. Though we have a few sites we maintain that are exactly the way they were at a prior agency and we just handle updates here and there.

Unsatisfied business owners is unsatisfactory

We don’t like that half of everyone who has a website isn’t satisfied. It’s likely that many people aren’t satisfied because, frankly, the Internet is too darn big.

With the democratization of the Internet, it’s been great for everyone. But at the same time that everyone gets on, everyone is on. Yes, the audience is larger, but so is the amount of competition. It’s unrealistic to expect that if you build a store on one end of a city that everyone in the state will come to it. At the same time, it’s unrealistic to build a website and think everyone online will find or see your website.

We strive to compete the best we know how, we’re sure you do, too. But half of all business owners fed up with their website is unsatisfactory. You should only move on from your current designer or developer or agency if you’re not being treated respectfully, if you’re not getting customers, or if you know you can do better.

About the author

Justin Harter

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