Website 101: Know the basics about your own website {so you don’t get screwed}

Do you know the basics about your own website/host/domain? Knowing this information is crucial, as it can save you time and lots of stress if something were to happen to your site.

My new client (who is also a great friend and successful personal injury attorney – we’ll call him “Max”) relies on his website for nearly all of his cases. But what just happened may have cost him thousands of dollars. Maybe even millions!

It all started when we were out one night with another one of our good friends. Max and I had been discussing his website over the past few weeks and how we needed to upgrade it to WordPress and make it responsive (mobile friendly). I had looked at the site a few times previously, but still had questions for the original designer (because Max didn’t really know anything about his site).

So Max tried to get in touch with the guy who designed his site (4 years ago). Max had been paying him $35/month for hosting and maintenance (which also included building the actual site – yep, for $35/month…ongoing), although he (Max) rarely added or changed any content.

After a few tries, Max got an email from the guy which said this:

“I am no longer in business. I can get you the files you need for your website so that you can get someone else to host it for you. However, I would have to recreate your site in order to convert it into a shareable file, and this would cost $400. I just wanted you to know this and decide if that is something you would like me to do.

I sent out an email to all my clients one month ago informing them of this, I sincerely apologize if you did not receive it. Please let me know what you would like to do, and your card stopped being charged as of Jan 1st.”

Max never got the email, and it was a complete surprise when we looked at his site and saw this:

Account Suspended

I thought it must just be MY phone…but then Max looked and saw the same page…and then our friend looked and…you guessed it…the same page!

Max and I both frantically emailed the guy asking him to send me the files or put the site back up (so I can at least grab all of the content and take some screen shots), and then I could rebuild the site behind the scenes…and Max could continue to put dinner on the table!

All we kept getting from the guy was this: “I can recreate the site for you for $400.”

And all I kept asking was this: “Can’t you just send me the files?”

In the end, Max decided he’d rather have me recreate the site for him (thankfully, he has all the content in Word documents from 4 years ago). So, I immediately added his domain name to his current web hosting account he has for another domain and changed the nameservers on his domain account (which tells the domain where the site is hosted and makes it possible for the site to actually be viewable to the public).

Next steps: Install WordPress, create strong passwords, install all the essential plugins to keep the site safe, secure and backed up, and design a brand new, responsive website. And the best part – he will know exactly what type of site he has, who is hosting it, and how to update it himself (or he can hire me to do it for him). He’ll know all if this because we provide very comprehensive documents in a Wrap Up Package after we launch a site. The Wrap Up Package includes a (1) Login Information Sheet (with all the logins for your site, hosting account, domain account if different from hosting, email marketing account, ecommerce account, etc.); (2) Website Overview (with details specific to your website); and (3) Website Style Guide (which explains how to format the content that you add after we hand over your site, so that it looks like all the content we styled for you).

WHEW! Everything WILL be ok. Life WILL go on. Max WILL have a new website and more control over his own baby!

Lessons Learned:
  • Know your web designer/developer (Yep, on a personal level…not just their first name and that they live far, far away. Don’t trust a stranger with your baby!)
  • Know what type of website you have (static HTML site built in a software program like DreamWeaver or Muse…or a CMS like WordPress, Squarespace, Joomla, Drupal, Wix, etc.)
  • Know where your domain is “parked” (in other words, where your domain name was purchased – i.e. GoDaddy, Register.com, or your web host)
  • Know where your site is hosted (and preferably, purchase it yourself and with a reputable company. Your web designer/developer should guide you as to what and where to purchase but then have you put your account in your name and on your credit card so you are in control.)
  • Have proper plugins installed and kept up to date at all times (security plugins like WordFence, backup plugins like Backup Buddy, etc.)
  • Ask questions early on…and whenever more questions comes up. Knowledge is power people!
Be careful who you entrust with your website! Don't let this happen to you. Click To Tweet

What happened to Max is actually really bad. He lost his entire site and likely lost some business from it. Plus, we had to spend quite a bit of time fixing this situation…and that doesn’t even include the actual website redesign that occurred. Please take the lessons mentioned above very seriously – especially if your website is a crucial part of your business.

Has anything like this ever happened to you or someone you know? Tell me about it in the comments.

And more importantly – Do you know the basics about your own website/host/domain? If not, your homework is to go find out right now. NOW…go…PLEASE!

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About Stefani

Hi there, I’m Stefani Harris, co-founder of The Essential Website. We design and code WordPress websites for ready-to-grow businesses and bloggers, but we do so much more! We are all about helping our clients reach their business goals and see results! I am most passionate about inspiring people to pursue their dreams and to just START! If you can dream it, you can do it! I’m also a big-time dog lover + yoga and fitness instructor.

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