7. What do you do when your web designer goes missing?
  • Posted:
  • April 7, 2011
  • Comments:


Many small (and big businesses), organisation’s and even individuals (like blogger’s) rely on the service of a web designer to provide web site maintenance and web hosting.  So what happens when your web designer goes missing?

This actually can be more serious than you may think.  By sharing the recent experience, hopefully it will provide insight into the potential problems.


I was approached by a client whose current web designer, who was also providing hosting, had advised that they were ceasing to trade to pursue other interests.  The web designer had been very honest about this on their own web site and advising that they would provide support to existing clients to transfer to a new provider.  This included listing e-mail addresses, mobile and landline telephone numbers.

I agreed to take on the site and set about the work to transfer the domain to my hosting service so that we could transfer the web site.

The client provided me with access to their Control Panel that allowed me to access the web site files, e-mail accounts, etc.  However, it did not allow the change of domain TAG or nameservers to transfer the web hosting.


When I looked at the web site I realised it had been developed using a CMS (content management system), meaning that I could not just copy the source files to upload to the new web hosting account.

The client did not have the necessary log-ins, passwords to access the CMS to enable the back up of database, source files, etc so that they could be transferred.

It became very clear that we would need the support of the existing web designer to help facilitate the transfer of domain and web site files.

I sent a couple of e-mails to the web designer asking for clarification on what package was used to develop the web site and if they could make the changes to the domain TAG and nameservers.  Unfortunately no reply.

I asked the client to contact the client.  Again no response.

Over a number of days, numerous attempts by the client an myself were made to contact the web designer.  Unfortunately no reply.

I then tried calling and leaving voice messages on the listed numbers.  I even sent some text messages to the mobile.

At this point I was getting very concerned, especially as the domain was due for renewal at the end of April and did not want the client to risk losing the domain name.

Fortunately, the domain name had been registered in the clients name, not the web designer (see blog post 4. Do you own your domain name).  This allowed me to contact Nominet (the UK registry of .uk domains).

They were very helpful and could see that the domain was in the client’s name and confirmed that it would be possible to use the “Reestablish Identity Process” to regain control of the domain.  This is a great service that allows the domain owner (or their web designer) to apply to regain control of the their domain.  The service costs £10+vat and as long as a suitable document on headed paper can be produced confirming the right to the domain, Nominet will allow the owner to regain control.

Fortunately, just as the client and myself were going to go down the path of “Reestablishing Identity”, the web design got in touch, changed the TAG and I transferred the domain to my service.

Unfortunately, while this process was going on, I did have to redesign the web site for the client as I did not think we would get access to the old web site.

Closing thoughts

This is a real world example.  So in order to try and protect your domain and web site:

  • Always ask for the domain to be registered in your own name
  • Ask for all the required log-ins to Control Panel’s, online products used to develop your site (i.e. WordPress, Joomla, etc)
  • Ask about the web designers policy for transferring your web site

The first point is really important.  If the domain is registered in your web designers name they are the legal owner, you can not use the “Restablish Identity Process”.  This will then require you using the Nominet Dispute process (which can be very expensive depending on the level of investigation) or the small claims court.  All very time consuming, expensive and stressful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please drop me a line at  Remember Digital Ark will always register your domain in your name.