Finding a decent web designer or developer is a monumental task, and finding a designer or developer that you can trust more so. Hiring someone to work with you is often an excellent idea if you simply don’t have the knowledge to create the site you envision in your mind – it is also fraught with pitfalls.
Do I need a Web Designer or a Web Developer?
You might be surprised to find out that there really is no clear distinction between titles – people can hang a shingle on the door and call themselves whatever they want. While its generally believed that a “Developer” is more technology minded and understands more about the backend, and a “Designer” is more artistically minded, understanding more about the facade, that simply isn’t always the case.
What you need is someone that comes highly recommended, who has a portfolio of sites that you can look at, with companies and businesses similar to yours that you can speak to with regards to their ability, and their reliability, and what the experience is like working with them. You don’t want your friend’s nephew’s girlfriend who knows a little about code to take over your business site, but on the other hand, you don’t want a template generation business that costs an arm and a leg tossing you a cookie cutter site for an enormous amount, either.
Take some time, and interview more than one person or business. Prices, artistic visions, talent, and knowledge will be all over the map. Just because they can make a good presentation on their vision for their company doesn’t necessarily mean they can do the same for your company. You want someone that can marry your vision of what you want with their talent and what they know about the web that you don’t, and the only way to find out how good they are with that (and how easy it is to get them to do it) is by talking to other clients that have worked with them in the past.
By the same token, you want someone knowledgeable enough to be able to tell you when you are off base on some part of your vision – The comic “How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell” is a perfect example of what you want your designer to stop you from doing. Once you do your due diligence and are assured they are capable of of creating a fantastic site, you need to trust them and listen to them when they explain the pros and cons of your ideas.
Once you hire someone, don’t hand over Keys to the Kingdom
A lot of people, once they hire someone to “take care of it” just pass off the keys to the web site like they’re handing over a car and then book out of the process. A good portion of the time, this is fine.
But sometimes, that’s just a bad idea.
Once you hand over the administrative login to your site, your web designer has access to absolutely everything. Your mail accounts – and your mail. Your logs. The ability to lock you out of your own site if they get upset. If you have handed over the keys without becoming familiar with the structure of the site, what’s there and what shouldn’t be there, you are at a serious disadvantage if something in the relationship turns sour and your designer turns out to be the monkey above – cute and funny until he gets mad. And then when he gets mad, the poo throwing begins.
“Poo throwing” could take the form of your designer/dev getting angry and wiping out the files on your site. They could upload nasty messages embarrassing you in front of your clients. They could wipe out your emails. Would a professional designer or developer really do this?
No, of course not – but most people, especially people that host on shared hosting, do not do the due diligence we outlined above, and most do go with the “friend’s nephew’s girlfriend” web design model because its cheap and the person sounds like they know what they’re doing (even though you generally don’t know enough to judge whether they know what they’re doing), and boy, do people get in trouble when that girlfriend catches him cheating on her, or he dumps her.
You surely would have a contract for the design (Right?), and you could, of course, sue for damages if someone would be vindictive and unprofessional – but ask yourself if you would bother. Likely not. Most people don’t for small sites, and small amounts of money and damage.
None of the things we are outlining are made up – in nearly 12 years, we’ve seen these things happen, and more than once.
We recommend that you never, ever give your cPanel password to your web developer. There are some things they may need you to do for them, like create a database. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, change the password for them in your cPanel and then change it back when they are done. But someone working on your site should, for the most part, only need access to your web site’s files, so create them an FTP account with access to the site only.
If your designer demands unrestricted access to your cPanel perpetually, consider finding another designer. If they don’t understand your concern and approach to security, their approach to security may be lacking.
When the Unthinkable Happens
The web designer or developer is:
gone, mad, locked you out, stole your files, deleted your email, not returning calls, [insert catastrophe here]
The first thing you need to do is install the backup you have been taking to get your site back the way it was. You do have a backup, right? These are files you paid to have created, and a site design you likely cannot recreate without the site designer. If you don’t have a backup, you’re flushing money down a toilet. While we have a backup for catastrophe purposes, things can always happen if the stars align right and that backup could be corrupted. You paid for the design and the site – keep a copy.
The second thing you need to do is change all of the passwords – and for that, you need to know what your site’s admin area is supposed to look like, and what should and should not be there. Now is not the time to begin getting familiar with how cPanel works, and what accesses it offers.
But I hired someone because I don’t wanna know all this stuff!
You don’t have to become a tech guru, but you do need to know how to secure your site if you are ever left high and dry by someone you have handed carte blanche access to. You can email us but if you have 17 FTP accounts (14 for clients and 2 for your designer), we won’t have any idea which ones belong and which ones don’t.
Your knowledge of your site should be such that if you are abandoned, end the working relationship, or if something crazy happens with your designer that you can and are able to step in and secure it and will be familiar enough with it that you can protect it until you find someone new.