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Old Websites

Considering Internet detritus of the slash-and-burn order, often the walking-dead creations of fly-by-night “web developers” who took the money (and lots of it) and ran.

Websites. For small businesses. Probably built by someone nice met at a local business networking event.

In Drupal? Joomla? TYPO3? For those without a care in the world, those first two aren’t places (except in web developers’ multi-conversant-code-language-script-caffeine-based frontal lobes), not even in the Hindu Kush. No, these are programming languages often used to build websites. Took that certain ‘someone nice’ years to learn that, and it would have taken many hours to build, let alone discuss wireframes etc., with you, their patient ‘How long is a piece of string?’ client.

What did you pay? £500? £1500? £6000? More !?! Wow! How was the ROI? How much is the SEO still costing you?

Hmmmm…. Guessing that if that was a few years ago, you’d currently have more chance of tracking down a yeti in a blizzard than locating the whereabouts of said web developer, who’s possibly off finding self, tracking yetis in the Himalayas etc. (or perhaps even heading up a super secret division looking into ants at Google HQ!)

Having had to track down (hey, thanks #socmed) and drag one web developer back to his Himalayan base camp, to make contact by satellite phone at an allotted time, and say ‘Just give us the bloody admin password’ so very small but critical changes could be made to a client’s site, I feel for SME owners caught in this trap. He of course wanted us to wait until his return in three months. Client wanted to call Nominet and serve a fortnight’s notice. Compromise met, password released. In that particular case, thin ‘partition walls’ existed between all the small sites he had on the server and with the main admin password I could of course see everything: clearly he’d done quite well and was now spending his earnings travelling. I hear new examples of this every week.

I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg and that there’s a lot of these about, perhaps enough to one day push Nominet into ringing round asking if you were “mis-sold a website”, which you maybe won’t even own the domain registration of, and hence have not a clue what to do.

Nobody can claim WordPress ($free) is the be-all-and-end-all of web design (sorry Editor Kory!) or replace what a great digital agency can do for £50K, but with the availability of plugins such as WooCommerce ($free) and Information Street’s ‘Connector4 WooCommerce’ ($147) integrating the popular SMB commerce tool InfusionSoft ($pick your pain level) and thus taking the financial sting out of DIY self-build SMB websites, just what will all the newbie web developers cut their teeth on in the future?

Mobile apps for these previously desktop-only greats like WordPress (and all its plugins) and InfusionSoft enable, empower and look very shiny (“Give me that power!”), and they just kill that web developer’s rough version of your site (beautifully coded in C++, for less than a fiver an hour most probably, demo’d and discussed frequently in Nero’s).

Seriously, how long before there is nothing you cannot do on your business’s site/blog/e-commerce backend on your tablet sitting on the beach (except actually see it in direct sunlight)?

Ouch. Poor web developer.

However, it’s ‘out of the pan, and into the fire’, dear Reader. Those web developers; I have a sneaky feeling if they’re not working at $P$R$DigitalMegaBucks$$ design agency, many have gone off to design WordPress themes — and now the 2014 equivalent to the above scenario is discovering they haven’t updated that theme you bought two years ago (and they aren’t going to any time soon either, as it’s snowboarding season!). They just haven’t got the time or incentive to continue to support it, just so it will work with the newly-patched WordPress release for your newly-old website. For example, there’s the Jewelry Shop Theme by Sarah Neuber (see also this if you’re affected!) although I have no idea about Sarah Neuber’s reasons for leaving no forwarding address (it’s probably not yeti related) again you can feel the obvious pain of the SMB owners.

Moral of the story? It’s tempting to reiterate that if you want something done properly then do it yourself, but if your business is actually keeping you busy, you probably don’t have that time. However it’s 2014 and you now have no excuse not to have at least some working knowledge of what to do if that nice web developer checks out of town, and to ask that it’s built entirely upon WordPress in the first place?

Published by Andrew Beardsmore

Andrew Beardsmore is a new contributor to trefor.net. He’s been obsessed by tech for two decades and has spent most of that time fixing everything from networks to netbooks. Now he’s sharing the knowledge, and the obsession.


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