The great web developer con

Another day, another dodgy web developer story. The premise:

We would like to offer you a website design for X amount. But to do so, we need to transfer your domain to us.

This tale is a pretty old one but it appears to be flourishing – the lure of a good once-off price for the design and what appears to be a reasonable monthly charge lead many to take up offers like these. But are these actually good offers? Let’s dissect this …

The web developer (let’s call them web devs from now on) is offering 2 products here:

  • website design
  • website hosting

The first is up to the client to determine whether they are getting reasonable value.

The 2nd is where we run into trouble, and for a number of reasons:

  1. web development is the core focus for web developers; web hosting is not
  2. many web development companies either subcontract the hosting to someone else or do it themselves with cheap shared hosting systems and then markup the cost to the client
  3. web devs are not skilled nor have experience with hosting – any issues and you are on your own
  4. run-of-the-mill web devs have little to no security skills
    • the platforms they use may be unsecured or have vulnerabilities
    • they do not offer an update service for your site or plugins
    • they do not scan your website for security issues
  5. web devs often have no care for email but will transfer your domain nonetheless leaving your email in limbo
  6. web devs do not understand site backup and recovery so if you have an issue with your site and need to restore it to a previous copy, you may be in trouble
  7. some web devs lock you into contracts – if you aren’t happy with their hosting, you just have to grin and bear it

Unfortunately, many clients don’t understand the relationship between web development and hosting, the 2 being very different things. They sound the same but have 2 very different skills requirements, with the latter skills requirement being something that web devs generally do not have.

As an example, if a web dev transfers your domain, they may not do the email hosting at all, or if they do, they may not migrate existing email from your old hosting provider. This leaves you managing, and paying for, 2 disparate systems.

Some web devs even go so far as to offer free web hosting. You get what your pay (or don’t pay) for.

The core premise of the requirement to transfer your domain is false. There is generally no specific requirement to move your domain – the web dev can design your website and place it with your existing hosting provider.

You then retain your website and email hosting as is, and save on hosting charges (as would have been paid to the web dev had you moved the domain).

Be careful and circumspect when approached by web devs who want to transfer your domain – it’s generally not required, you’ll likely get a poor and insecure service, and you’ll end up paying more.

Here follows some more reading on the subject:

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