Imagine finding out that your website has disappeared, or that you don’t have the keys to the kingdom.
As a web designer and developer, I have come across a number of website horror stories over the years. Some of the stories may make you shiver. Others may simply shock you.
Here are the tales of website horrors and how you can prevent similar situations from happening to you.
9 Website Horror Stories
- The Horror: The House Built on Rented Ground
This is the tale of the large website built on a hosting platform that the client thought was a good choice. It had an easy-to-use content management system, and the website was easy to maintain. Their domain name pointed to the home page, but the URLs included the hosting platform’s domain name.
Initially, the site was small, but as the website grew, the client wanted to move to a self-hosted platform that offered more customization. The business had outgrown its current home on the Internet.
Little did they know that when they decided to move, they couldn’t take their website with them. There was no option to export the website. To exasperate the situation, the hosting support could only be contacted by a ticket system that promised to reply within 24 hours.
Eventually, the only option was to painstakingly copy the text of each and every page and download the images manually. Then, the text and images had to be added to the new website manually. When the new website was ready to launch, the hosting company would not allow 301 redirects to tell the search engines that the old pages had moved.
How this horror story could have been prevented: Even if you are just starting out, read the fine print. Choose a web hosting company that you can self-host your website, make backups, and one that offers 24×7 technical support. For the same amount of money for the hosted services, you can have a self-hosted website.
- The Horror: Your Domain Name in Someone Else’s Name
The sad story of finding out your domain name is in someone else’s name has been the horror of many. There have been a number of times that new clients have contacted us for help, only to discover their domain name is in the old designer’s name.
In most situations, a quick email or phone call to the old developer helped to resolve the situation. On one occasion, the designer could not be reached. The road to get the domain name in the client’s name was a long one.
How to avoid a horror story like this: Make certain that your domain name is in your name and that you have the login credentials – username and password to the account.
- The Horror: Your Web Hosting Account is Not in Your Name
Imagine trying to contact your web hosting company for support, only to learn that the account is not in your name. There have been clients who were not aware that they did not have ownership of the web hosting account. Even though they had been paying for the service, they could not validate ownership.
How to avoid this horror story: Be sure that your web hosting account is in your name and that you have the username and password to log into the account.
- The Horror: Not Having the Keys to the Kingdom
I have been contacted by more than one website owner that had a WordPress website but did not have the administrative login credentials or FTP (File Transfer Protocol – the protocol for transferring files) username and password. Without these important credentials, the website could not be managed. Fortunately, this information was eventually obtained.
How to keep this from happening to you: Make it a point of having the login username and passwords for both your Content Management System and FTP.
- The Horror: Not Having a Website Backup
Picture your web hosting company shutting down your website over a misunderstanding, but you didn’t realize there was a misunderstanding until a few days later, you discover your site is down. Then, when you contact the host, you discover that you just missed the cutoff for backups that they keep archived.
This heartbreaking story actually happened to one of our clients. They did not have a backup of their WordPress site. The website had to be painstakingly reconstructed from web archives.
How to avoid a similar fate: Make regular backups of your website files and database if appropriate.
- The Horror: Discovering Your Website Has Been Hacked
One nightmare that many a website owner has is discovering their website has been compromised. This happened to one of our new clients last year. One day, they went to their website only to find a bright red sign that stated, “The site ahead contains malware.”
How this could have been avoided: The problem with this website was that upgrades had not been made in some time. This left the site wide open to hackers. To keep something like this happening to you, make sure to make updates to programming when they become available.
If you have a WordPress website, please see Top Reasons Why You Need to Update WordPress.
- The Horror: Realizing That Your Website is Not So Mobile Friendly
Having a mobile-friendly website is not a luxury anymore. Google rolled out a significant mobile ranking algorithm earlier this year. Recently, John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, stated that over half of Google’s searches are now coming from mobile.
There are still a number of website owners that have been putting off having their websites redesigned into a mobile-friendly website. The sad truth is that they are losing a lot of potential clients
How to fix the problem: If you have been vacillating over whether or not to make the switch to a mobile-friendly website, now is the time. For more, please see, Google’s Mobile-Friendly Ranking – What you need to know.
- The Horror: Not Having a Web Design Agreement
This unfortunate story involves a disappointed website owner that did not have his website expectations met. He had assumed that his developer was going to do a great deal more than the final product.
How the misunderstanding should have been prevented: A written web design agreement that spelled out exactly what the client expected and what the developer agreed to do would have avoided misunderstandings.
- The Horror: Finding Out Your Website Can’t Be Found
Visualize sitting in front of your computer. You decide to search for your top keywords, and your website doesn’t show up on the first, second, or third pages. In fact, even Googling your company name does not bring up your website in the search engine results.
This dismal tale is exactly what happened to a prospective client. She contacted us for SEO support and explained the situation. This one was an easy problem to spot as the robots.txt on her website was blocking search engines.
How to be sure your website is SEO friendly: If you are unable to or do not know how to implement organic search engine optimization, contact a trusted and experienced professional.
For more SEO frights, see 9 SEO Nightmares – Real Scary Disasters to Avoid.
Website horror stories like these are enough to keep any website owner awake at night. The great part is that we can learn from these unfortunate situations. From choosing the right hosting platform from the start and having the right keys to the kingdom to making backups and getting expectations in writing, we can steer clear of potential problems.
Over to You
Do you have a website horror story that is not covered here? Please share your experience. It might help others – and me to avoid a similar situation.