I can not even tell you how many times in the last 13 years we have had to “rescue” a website from its original developer. It’s an easy situation to get into. Either you own your business or you’re the person in charge of finding someone to hire to build your website. You do a google search, ask around for referrals, talk to friends and you settle on 2 or 3 that you think look reputable. The usual next step is a phone call or a meeting with each of them to get a price and an idea on how much time it will take to build it.
The first thing you probably need to know is that building a website is much like building a house. If someone can give you a price before they know what you’re trying to build, they either don’t know what they’re doing or it’s got enough padding in the price to cover whatever situation they find themselves in. A good developer wants a site architecture in which to build an estimate just like a general contractor needs a blue print and list of goods before they know what to charge you.
The second thing you need to find out is what is the format your new developer is going to work in? Our websites are almost always custom WordPress sites. After much trial and error, we settled on WordPress for a few reasons. It is Open Source – what that means for you (and us) is we can start with a framework and customize it to do whatever we want. It has Plugins. We love Plugins and there are over 50,000 of them out there to do just about anything you want. That makes your production faster and it costs less than paying us to build a custom function. A good example is a secure form. That takes a lot of work – you have to have to input, then you have secure the content and then you want it to email to someone so you have program that or you can upload Gravity Forms and activate it in a matter of minutes. We also like WordPress because we know that our clients can then manage the content if they want.
The most important question you need to ask is “What if I decide to move it? Can I move my website?” It’s alarming how many companies build websites in a framework that isn’t portable. If you leave them, the website doesn’t go with you. Wix isn’t portable, SquareSpace isn’t portable. After you invest that much money in a new website, it should be yours and you should be able to take it wherever you want.
That brings us back to “The Rescue”. If you’re unhappy with your current provider, or they go out of business, or anything happens really, you should be able to take possession. We’ve had to completely rebuild websites from scratch – building exactly what they already have. We’ve had to purchase copies of websites from the current developer because they “own the code”. We’ve even had to work with a client’s attorney to get access to what should already belong to them.
When you’re bidding your project, ask the questions and save yourself a lot of future grief. You pay for the website, it’s your website.