Websites need TLC. A garden and a website have a lot in common:
- They start in the dirt: for gardens, it’s literal soil; for websites, it’s dirt poor rankings and lack of discoverability.
- The conditions need to be favourable to growth.
- Plant the seeds and give them some time.
- Nurture them.
- Prune the weeds (ie. spam comments and performance issues).
An abandoned website can pose some liability for the site owner– the business the website represents. It could have outdated information, security exploits, and not adhere to the current legislation.
I get approached by many website owners and their websites have tell-tale signs of websites in trouble.
Something Major Has Broken
Several years ago, one version of PHP (version 5.6) was in common use. It was replaced by PHP 7 and its sub-versions. That broke a lot of the Internet. Some web hosts have kept support going for the old sites, but that exposes their systems to security exploits. One by one, they’ve been emailing clients with warnings that support for the old system has lapsed. When the support is pulled, some websites will crash entirely.
The Forms Don’t Work
Website forms are critical to connecting with clients– both current and potential. If the web-based forms no longer work, it’s a sign that something has busted along the way. Some examples of what could have gone wrong:
- Web forms need spam proofing, often called “Captcha.” if something has changed and the website can no longer connect, the forms won’t work.
- The mail connection may be broken. If the forms need a working mail system, maybe that has broken down. There’s nothing wrong with periodically testing your own forms to make sure the connections are intact.
- The web form license may be out of date. Products like Gravity Forms need to be annually renewed to stay in working order. Did someone renew the licenses?
It’s Not Mobile Ready
This is 2022. The majority of website traffic comes from phones and other mobile devices. Granted: a big screen lets things look their best, but all websites need to look okay on mobile. If a website looks bad on a phone, it didn’t get the mobile readiness (aka responsive) pass. Making the choices required to make a mobile website look great takes work and if it’s not mobile-ready, that was skipped or it fell into disrepair.
Just another WordPress Website
Remember when people bought VCRs and the clock kept flashing 12:00? They hadn’t finished the set-up. When a site’s slogan or subtitle reads “Just another WordPress Website” it says to the world:
- We gave up before we were finished
- We launched with the basics, so we likely skipped optimizations and security safeguards.
- We may not know what we’re doing. Don’t take it personally: maybe you hired someone who didn’t know what they were doing.
Copyright 2018… 2017…. 1066….
A copyright, in part, is a legal defence of your web content. More than that, it’s a datestamp that speaks to when your website was last overhauled or updated. I’ve recently seen websites with “Copyright ©2004” A lot has happened with web technology in the last 20 years. An old website may be missing out on many technological advents. At the very least: mobile readiness. An old website may have dodgy security in place. It could have outdated information. A website should have a refresh every three years. If the copyright is much older than that, the site may not have relevant information.
Your Designer Is Gone
Some designers put a link to their website at the bottom of a client’s site. At Web321, we do that unless expressly asked to not include it. Web design is a field where people enter and leave. The low-level skills needed to roll out a website can be adopted by former graphic designers, former writers, and former marketers. If it’s easy to get into the field, it’s easy to get out. Some web designers just pack up. If their site is down, then they are likely gone too. They may be on the beaches of Thailand defending their camera from monkeys, but you’re left with an aging website.
Your Designer’s Copyright
Web designers often have the “Cobblers Shoes Dilemma.” While their client sites look good, their own sites have aged. Maybe your designer’s website is still going through the miracle of automatic updates and recurring billing, but if their copyright is several years out of whack, maybe they did abandon their own website and, by extension, their clients. I tried following up with one designer to see if they were in business still. According to their website and their social media accounts, they dropped off the Internet five years ago. Poof. Guess the quality of support one gets from a phantom.
What If Your Site Has Been Abandoned?
Get Control Back
Try to get in touch with your former designer. If that fails, get in touch with the service provider that hosts the website. If you don’t know who is hosting your site, ask for help from a web developer to connect the dots.
If you have the login credentials to WordPress or the web hosting: that’s great. If you don’t, get in touch with the service provider and plead your case. It’s not uncommon for this to happen. If your credit card is attached to the hosting account, then it’s possible for them to consider your claims to be valid. If they won’t go for it, see if you can get access to the domain name and its registration. From there, an updated alternative web host can be used. The domain name can be pointed to the new web hosting. If you have an administrator-level WordPress account for your website, you can get into the site and make a complete duplicate of the site. Pick it up, move it to a new host and voila: control.
Worst comes to worst, if you’ve lost hosting and WordPress access, maybe consider building a new website from scratch: crib what you can from the old site and start the new site.
If you have lost access to the domain registration: that’s more challenging. Domain name registrars have layers of defenses to prevent bad actors from getting control of domain names. The first play for a bad actor is often to impersonate the rightful owner. It can be difficult to convince a registrar. If that’s ultimately impossible, then rebrand: register a similar domain name and re-do all of the marketing material as well as your email addresses. It’s a worst-case scenario, but sometimes it’s the only recourse.
Some of these steps are painful and difficult to navigate. Most business owners are not web developers or web design consultants– they’re anything but. If you’re out of your league on reviving your website, get professional help. No surprise: rescues like this are common for me. Feel free to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-844-493-2321