Ghost stories are traditionally reserved for Halloween, yet some businesses are living through one all year round.

Being ‘ghosted’ is a term popularised by digital dating – it’s when someone “cuts off all online communication with someone else, and without an explanation”. We’re finding a lot of businesses are experiencing being ghosted, either directly from their web designer, or whilst using an online website building service. Here’s how these ghost stories usually play out and what you can do to avoid them.

The Disappearing Freelancer

Much like a siren luring sailors onto the rocks, The Disappearing Freelancer will tempt clients in with extremely cheap costs and a lot of confidence. The quote you get from them is a fraction of the one you got from the agencies, and they can meet your deadline no problem. Plus they’re one of the director’s friend’s sons so what could go wrong!?

The website gets built and launched and all is well, or so it seems.

A few weeks down the line, the problems begin. There’s a few typos that need fixing. You’ll like to add some social links… and you’d like to start implementing some SEO work. 

You email the Freelancer, but there’s no response. 

They never gave you a contact number so you do a bit of snooping and find their instagram feed – looks like they’re on a tour of South America for the next six months.

You know somebody who does the odd website, but they’re unable to help because all login details are on the Disappearing Freelancer’s laptop somewhere east of Paraguay.

A year passes and suddenly the website is down – your domain name and hosting have expired – all details are registered in the freelancer’s name, who has decided to stay abroad and certainly won’t be going out of their way to help. You’ve officially been ghosted.

So what can you do to avoid being ghosted?

  1. Always ask to see examples of their previous work – you can then see if they can do what they promise plus you can contact the company and see what the experience was like.
  2. Ensure domain names and hosting packages are registered using your details, not theirs. That way you’ll get the renewal notices and own the rights to your domain name.
  3. Seek out an established studio with a web team. They’ll have the experience and knowledge to make the whole process much more pleasurable. Plus they work real hours in a real studio and will be contactable throughout the working week.

The Online Website Builder

“Build your own website in minutes! Start selling online in seconds! All for just 99p!”

The advertising is everywhere… almost seems too good to be true doesn’t it?

Well, it is. As soon as you’ve parted with your money be prepared to be ghosted by online support without a phone number in sight.

You start building a website yourself, but is that really what you specialise in? How many hours will you try to make something look and work how you would like, when your time would be better spent on the strengths that built your business in the first place?

Online Website Builders are inflexible, full of bad code, and have a lot of frailties and limitations. They aren’t built to make good websites: They’re built to enable people with limited web skills to create websites.

Key website features are often kept behind paywalls. SSL certification for example – something that proves to your browser that your website is genuine (and something Google will actively warn visitors about if it’s not in place). We’ve seen companies charge up to £99 for this, whereas there are plenty of hosting packages around that include this as standard.

Other features aimed at enticing you in such as embedded Instagram feeds, one-click SEO, and fully functioning contact forms soon end up not working as planned or turn out to be absolutely useless.

Very soon you’ll be stuck with a bad website that will do more harm to your reputation than good, seemingly with nobody to help.

So what can you do?

  1. Outlay for a professional website might seem expensive compared to using an online web builder, however you really need to consider how valuable your time is. Once you calculate the hours you’ll be investing against what a professional studio will charge, it all starts to make financial sense – especially when you add in chasing support and possibly starting over from scratch to the equation.
  2. Do your research. If you decide on using an online builder, find out exactly what is included for your money, and check out other people’s reviews online. The hidden costs and features can really make the process incredibly frustrating.
  3. If you do have a limited budget, why not approach a professional studio and let them know how much you have to spend? They can offer you a simple but effective solution to your problem, then once you have more budget to allocate to the website you can continue to work with someone that understands your business.

Websites really don’t have to be a nightmare – with planning and research you can have an effective sales tool at your disposal. Much like your business, a website is a long-term investment, not a quick win.