Dave Taylor

How Get Your Site Back From Your Webmaster

By: Dave Taylor
May 11th, 2009

I need some advice. My wepage is more or less being held ransom by my webmaster because of her knowledge of html. If I need to make a change of any kind I need to wait a week plus for anything to get done. Now, she wants to charge me an up-front fee for any changes before they are done. I can't even put on any links because I have to check with her first. How tuff is it to use html and if I was able to learn it how can I get my web page away from her?

Dave's Answer:

First off, I'm so sorry you've gotten into this position and I have to say that I'm not entirely surprised: while the vast majority of web designers and webmasters are upstanding and ethical professionals, yours is not the first story I have heard of a web consultant holding a site hostage.

The most important question to ask is whether you own your domain or not. This can be ascertained by going to whois.net and checking your domain information record. The key field is "Administrative". For example, a check of dailycamera.com shows that the administrative contact is The E. W. Scripps Company, which makes sense.

If your domain is clearly owned by you, you're in good shape. You can contact the web hosting company and tell them that you want to switch it over to a new account and simply shut the old one down and take posession of the Web site without even interacting with this troublesome webmaster.

If not, then you have a legal problem. Dig through your old email and ensure that you have some sort of written record that she registered the domain on your behalf and that payment of one of the invoices she sent you included "domain registration" or similar as a line item. Those could prove critical. Email her and tell her you need her to properly update the domain record to reflect that you're the owner. If she refuses, I'd consider calling a lawyer.

It is possible that you don't have a domain set up and that what you have is a small web site that lives on comcast.com or similar. It might look like http://www.comcast.com/~somebizname or similar. This is also a bit tricky because it'll depend on who owns the account within which the site is set up. If that's you, easy, just change the password. If it's her, well, again, you're going to need to ask her to make a "snapshot" or "archive" of the site, set up a new account, and unpack the archive there. Your web hosting company can doubtless assist with this.

Finally, HTML isn't incredibly difficult to learn, but if the page is complex or has a sophisticated layout or featureset, it can indeed be quite tricky to work with and the slightest missed '/' or '<' could easily break the entire layout and leave your pages looking very strange indeed.

Having talked about all of these alternatives, I suggest that your very best first step is to sit down and talk with your webmaster, express all of your concerns and frustrations, and ask her to propose a mutually acceptable solution. If you can't find agreement, then it's a perfectly reasonable moment to state that you are going to start looking for someone else to help you with your site development and that "of course" you know you can count on her help with the transition.

Good luck.


About the Author: Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since 1980 and is internationally known as an expert on both business and technology issues. Holder of an MSEd and MBA, author of twenty books and founder of four startups, he also runs a strategic marketing company and consults with firms seeking the best approach to working with weblogs and social networks. Dave is an award-winning speaker and frequent guest on radio and podcast programs. AskDaveTaylor.com http://www.intuitive.com/blog/