Breaking up is hard to do. Especially when it comes to your web developer. Frankly, there’s a solid argument to be made for hiring a divorce attorney — it can be that fraught! The difficulties arise from how much access a web developer has to your site (read, usually all of it). Much like a marriage, it’s a relationship where things often become tangled — especially as the line between what you own and what they own blurs.
Extricating yourself from that kind of complexity can be difficult — even more so if it has already soured — so to make the process of switching to a new web developer a lot easier on yourself, here are some steps we recommend following.
Gather all your passwords. We’re leading with this one because it’s important you do it well in advance. Usernames and passwords should be an easy ask. After all, it’s a request web developers get all the time: since a client’s web presence is theirs to control, the client should always have backend access to everything. A web developer who refuses to provide this information is a huge red flag, and might initiate a battle you were not expecting to deal with when splitting up.
Find a replacement developer. Quietly. Before you make any moves to cut ties with your current developer, you should already have the new one lined up. The obvious reason is to ensure a seamless transition from one to the other. The less pleasant (but perhaps obvious) reason is that hell hath no fury like a developer scorned. You would think that a professional developer wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize their client’s assets, and 99% of the time you would be right. But even the nicest people have been know to careen past your standard bridge-burning in favor of a more Game of Thrones-ian act of scorched earth. It sounds machiavellian, but working quietly to find a new developer is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself in case things take a sharp turn south. (More on that in a moment.)
Inventory your assets. This one goes hand-in-hand with gathering your passwords. It’s important that you know the ins-and-outs of your site, as all of this is information a new developer will need. Questions you should know the answers to, preferably before you even meet with someone new, include:
- Where is your website hosted?
- Where is your domain name registered?
- Who manages your email?
- Do you have any 3rd party integrations? Shopping carts? Merchant Processors? Et cetera?
- Who owns the copyright to your website’s design?
- Does your contract contain a transfer of copyright clause?
- If your site uses stock photos, do you have the proper permissions?
- What about the permissions for any special fonts?
- Is your website backed up? Do you have copies of all your files?
Each one of these is a question you need to know the answer to. Getting your house in order will go a long way to making the transition to a new developer pain-free.
Understand your ecosystem. Who pays for what? Does your current developer pay for your hosting and domain name? Do you even own your website? Some web agencies stipulate that they own any website they build, so it’s important you know exactly what you own — from code to design — and what you don’t. If your current developer bought your domain on your behalf, you might be surprised to learn that they own it. If so, can you have it transferred into your own name?
It’s always recommended that you be the owner of your domain. If not, there could be unexpected repercussions far down the line. This is also a good time to evaluate whether you’d be open to switching hosting providers, as your new developer might be more comfortable working on a different host.
Evaluate your new developer. What platforms are you working with? Is your site on WordPress or Shopify, or something else? This is why you made an inventory of your assets! Make sure your new developer is familiar with the platform you are using. Remember, it’s not uncommon for certain developers to specialize in certain platforms.
Understand the costs, both in money and time. Web development can be expensive. An enormous amount of work goes into designing, coding, and maintaining a website. This will only compound if your replacement web developer will be building something new for you, too. Make sure you’re clear about pricing and timetables on all fronts. What will your new developer cost? What will new hosting cost? What will normal ongoing maintenance cost? Is that in line with your expectations? If you’re going for something new, you’ll very likely need some amount of new content to match — if not a page-one rewrite. Does your new agency or developer have an in-house copywriter or content manager (ours does!), or will you have to contract out to someone else for that? How much will that cost too? Know all your costs upfront to spare yourself from surprises.
Be prepared for pushback. More often that not, and especially when working with independent contractors, you might face some resistance from your current developer. No one likes losing a client. Make sure you are 100% ready to make the switch when you approach your old dev and have a plan in place in case they want to resist the change. Consider the worst-case scenario: Is your old dev holding your site hostage? Will it have to be rebuilt by the new developer? What costs will be associated with that? Avoiding a hostage crisis is as easy as ensuring you own and control everything related to your website, which will give you the ability to revoke previously given access in the event your old developer decides to channel their inner Daenerys (shhh, no spoilers!).
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You know the saying: “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” This hold true for web development, just as it does for all things in life. Don’t be afraid to reach out to both your new and old developers if you have any questions or concerns. We’re always here with answers!
Contact JNT TEK today for more information about web development for business, and find out how we can help you best manage your web presence.
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