How To Get Back Online When Your Website Designer Disappears

Has your website designer disappeared? Leaving you with a broken site or even worse no website at all? You’re not alone.

There could be many reasons why your website designer has stopped communicating with you – ill health, gone bust or you’ve had a falling out. Whatever the reason may be, it’s a situation that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s stressful, frustrating and has the potential to destroy a business if the website is the main source of enquiries and sales.

In the past year, I’ve had many stressed small businesses contact me after being let down by their website designer. All the hard work building and developing the website over months and years is now potentially gone. Not to mention the money invested into designing, maintaining and marketing the website, is lost.

If you are currently in a state of shock and panic because your designer is awol, I’m here to share a few steps to get back online when your website designer disappears.

1 // Check where and who your domain is registered with.

Did you register your own domain name? Some website designers register domains on your behalf through their own accounts. Often this means the domain is registered under your designer’s name and totally out of your control. Essentially, this means that you have no way of accessing or transferring the domain to another provider.

Your first step is to look up the domain registration details. The easiest way is with a whois search to check the registered details on the domain. Depending on the privacy settings you will be able to see the registrant’s name and contact information.

If the domain has privacy protection, you will still be able to see where the domain is registered.  

What to do if your domain isn’t registered in your name?

Contact the registrar – this is the company your domain is registered with.  Some clients I’ve worked with have managed to regain control over their domain this way. It required proof that it was their business, evidence that they had a right to the domain and that communication with the designer had been unsuccessful. Not all registrars will do this, and will only deal with the person registered on the domain. In any case, it’s worth a try.

Last ditch attempt to contact designer – You may be thinking that this is a lost cause. They’ve ignored you so far so why would they get back to you now? Believe it or not, this has worked in the past even with designers who have been awol for some time. Send them the short email asking them to transfer the domain to your new provider.

Example email script…

Hi , I understand that you may be going through a bad time but I would appreciate your help in transferring my domain name,, to my new account.

The details are: ISP Tag: Enter tag here (you’ll find this from your new registrar).

After transferring the domain, I will forgo any further communication and render the services void.”

I’ve used the above email with a couple of the businesses I’ve helped and they actually got the domain transferred to them by the designer.

Go to Nominet or ICANN – If you are in the UK and have a .uk domain name you can seek the help of Nominet. As the main domain registry for UK domains, they can transfer the domain into your name and account. You will need to send them proof that it is your domain and business but they can transfer it to you. For .com and other domains extensions, you can contact ICANN who help with domain disputes between registrars and third parties.

Register a new domain (URL) – If you have no luck with the above methods, you may have to cut your losses and register a new domain name. While this isn’t ideal as you’re starting over with a new website URL and email address, it will at least allow you to get back up and running again. You should keep an eye on your old domain expiry date. It’s unlikely that the designer will register it when it comes up for renewal so you may be able to snap it up when it goes on sale again. It’s important to note that when a domain expires it typically has a hold of around 40 days before it is available to buy.

What to do if you own your domain name?

If you registered your own domain name and have access to your account, you’re in the best position to salvage this situation.

You can login to your account, change the domain settings and point them to your new hosting.

Takeaway: Always register your own domain name – it will save you all manner of headaches later. You can use registrars like GoDaddy or 123 Reg for your domain name.

2 // Purchase new hosting.

Once your domain is transferred or you’ve bought a new one, you’re going to need hosting. Website hosting is where your files and emails are stored online. Like your domain, I would advise that you set up your own account, to ensure you always have full control and won’t be left up the creek again.

Upon purchasing your domain, you can change the nameservers on the domain to point to the new hosting. The nameservers will be sent to you when you signup for an account, so you can copy them into your domain settings. The change should take anywhere between a few minutes to 24 hours. You will then be able to setup your email accounts and upload your website if you have a backup, or a holding page if you don’t.

Takeaway: Find a reliable host and purchase the package yourself. I fully recommend Clook to all my clients. The signup process is super easy, servers are fast, reliable and the customer support is excellent.

3 // Dig out your website backup.

Now that you’ve got your domain and hosting sorted, it’s time to get your website back online. The easy way to do that is with a website backup.

Website backups are one of these things that many small business owners don’t think about until it’s too late. Like, say, when your website designer vanishes without giving you the files.

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases that I’ve helped with, there is no website backup available. And without a backup of the website you are going to have to start from scratch by either DIYing or hiring another designer.

If you do have a backup somewhere on your computer you’ll be able to upload the files to your new hosting. Even if it’s not the most recent backup, you’ll at least have some form of the website back online. You can then make any relevant updates in the short term while you work on a long-term plan of action.

You can also try Wayback Machine to see if it has a snapshot of the website.  From this you can grab the text, images and other elements to recreate the website.

Takeaway: Don’t forget to take regular backups of your website. If you are using WordPress you can use a variety of plugins that backup for you automatically, BackUp Buddy or UpdraftPlus.

4 // Hire a new website designer.

When you don’t have a backup of your website, the only option you have is to start over. Not an ideal situation, especially as a small business with a limited marketing budget.

There’s also the reluctance and fear of trusting another designer with your online presence. Being burned leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. But as someone who tries to find the positives in situations at least this time round. You’ll be better prepared and your eyes will be well and truly open to making sure you find the right designer.

Don’t rush it. Take your time to make sure that your next website designer is reliable, credible and around for the long-term.

Quick tips to help you find the right website designer:-

  • Seek out referrals – ask around for referrals from those you know and trust. There’s a good chance, you’ll get the names of potentials to look into.
  • Do research – check out a few designers websites and pay attention to their services, about page and portfolio.
  • Make contact – if you find a designer that looks like a good fit, contact them for a chat. This gives you the opportunity to ask more questions about their process, support and aftercare.
  • Ask lots of questions – don’t be afraid to ask your potential designer questions. A website is a big business investment, it vital that you get as much information as you can.

Need help?

If all that sounds overwhelming and out with your abilities, you can hire someone like me to help guide you through the entire process.

If you’d like to find out more about my services and how I can help get you back online, quickly and efficiently, feel free to get in touch.

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