What to do if your web developer ghosts you

You need to update your website, but you can’t get hold of your web designer

It’s a nightmare scenario: you’ve worked with a web developer to build a website for your organisation. Now you need to update some details, but the web developer is not answering their phone.

Your content is published, but perhaps it’s now out of date, and you’ve got no way of editing it without help from your web developer. Or perhaps you want to apply new branding to your website, the address of which is now on business cards, publications, your premises etc etc.

Never fear: there are ways round this situation.

Ghosting isn’t always malicious

It is easy to assume that your dev has disappeared for malicious reasons – but this is very rarely the case. There may be health or other personal reasons for this behaviour. So on the whole, it’s better to focus on actions you can take yourself, rather than seeking to punish the dev and force them to work with you.

If they’ve done all the contracted work, then give them a firm deadline to contact you; and try to seek an amicable solution. And if they haven’t done all the contracted work… we’ll come to that in a minute.

A common problem is that web hosting and domain registrar accounts are held in the developer’s name, rather than in yours. So just ask them to provide these account details and then everyone can move on. For more details about web hosting and domain registrar accounts, see The Site Wizard’s explanation.

Know when to play hard ball

If, however, the developer took your money and did not complete the work, you may need to consider legal action. Speak with a legal expert first: you may decide the sums involved are not worth pursuing.

Obvious malicious action – for example, your site has been vandalised or is displaying offensive material about your organisation – may also be an occasion for legal action.

You may not need help from the web developer

If you can’t get your web host and domain details from your ex-developer, check your records and emails. You may well have a bill from the web host or domain registrar. Or you can use Whois to find out the registrar. Note that the web host and the registrar may be the same organisation.

Now get in touch with the registrar and the web host and explain the situation: most web hosts and domain registrars have processes for this type of thing.

Change your passwords

Once you have those account details, change the passwords (just in case) and commission a web developer who does want to work with you at this time. Note that a proper web developer will help you to set up your hosting and domain registration so that you can keep control of them. And you can always remind them if they forget to do this.