15 May

A Tale on The Dangers of Not Controlling Your Own Website

Recent world events have, of course, led to number of somewhat drastic changes in the way we live our lives day to day. Business around the globe find themselves adapting their operations in order to better serve their customers and their employees in these uncertain times.

One industry that has been especially hard hit has been restaurants and bars. With customers unable to ‘come on in and enjoy yourself’, a large number of businesses have had to quickly adapt in order to survive in our currently locked down day to day world.

A few days ago an email came into our sales inbox from an owner of a fine eatery in our area. They’re not a client, we’ve never had any interaction with them prior to this, but they said they needed help and left a way to contact them.

We reached out to see what they needed, and after some back and forth we pieced together the entire situation… They never had much of an online presence, and a few years ago they paid a designer to make them their own website. It had a (now old, but still mostly accurate) menu, some photos, and their location/contact info, and that was it.

They created their own Facebook page at some point down the road, and have grown a decent social media presence over the last few years via that.

They’re now launching their own online ordering system, and they really wanted to update their main website to highlight the online ordering… you know, put a big old ‘Yes we’re open! order online for carry out!’ banner at the top or something.

They could put it on their Facebook, no problem, they’re old pros at Facebook by now.

But if you Google their restaurant’s name, the current results look something like this:

  • Their “business card” website
  • A Yelp page about their place
  • A Trip Advisor page about their place
  • Their Facebook page

So, obviously, they wanted to get that online ordering link called out on their own website, as that’s the place most folks who are just searching for them are going to end up first.

But they don’t know how to update their site… And of course, the person that built it for them? They haven’t had any contact with that person since they bought the site and approved the initial look. Calls and emails to that person aren’t being returned, the person’s website itself returns a “404 Not Found”, and well, the restaurant owner knows nothing about the site other than how much they paid, that it was supposed to be good for 10 years, and that they approved the way it looked before it went online.

They have no usernames, passwords, or any means to log in and update the site in any fashion.

To be fair, the site does look good, some real design work went into it, and the domain does appear to have been registered for ten years up front, and the website itself is still up and running almost six years later. This was not a fly by night shady template-based website design “Own your own website for $99” racket.

I assume it was someone with some good design skills who created a very easy to understand package (“I’ll incorporate your menu, your photos, and make it all very pretty, and your $XXXX includes not only a great design but also keeping it online for 10 years!”)…

But with no way to access the site themselves, and no apparent way to contact their designer to make updates, they’re kind of stuck with what they paid for all those years ago, with no way to adapt it to fit their current business model.

We tried to help them as best we could: discovering what company is actually providing the domain registration and hosting services, and got the business owner in touch with a contact over there that we know, to try and smooth their way, but given that the domain itself is actually registered in the designer’s name, it’s going to be very difficult for them to regain any control of the site if they can’t make contact with the designer.

At the end of the day, assuming they can’t make contact, they’re stuck with making a very difficult decision.. do they start all over with a new domain that they can keep control of?

Obviously, this story would have a much happier outcome if only the business owner had any one of the following:

  • The login credentials for the hosting account.
  • The login credentials for the domain registration.
  • The domain registered in their name.

To anyone with any web experience, these things are kind of a given.. Ideally you’d want all of the above.. but at-least if you have the keys to the domain registration, you can always point it someplace else and build a new site.

But if your business isn’t web related, lets say, your business is running a restaurant, you can’t exactly be expected to just know these things.

Unless of course you’ve read this blog entry. If you’ve read this far, you now know the #1 most important thing about life on the web:

Always hold the keys to your own web presence.