The Good, The Bad and the Damn Ugly of the Web Industry

The Bad

Let’s talk about cowboys and not the “Yeeeehaw” kind. I come across a lot of them in this industry, but normally I don’t actually think it’s their fault. Drag and drop tools like Wix, Squarespace, Elementor, etc make the barrier to entry in this industry non-existent. The general public doesn’t know the difference between a DIY level freelancer, a web admin, a designer and a web developer, so often chooses the first option as it’s cheapest and let’s face it, they’re posting everywhere looking for work! Someone starting out often won’t have processes, a CRM, a ticket system or holiday cover. They won’t be able to create a custom solution unless they cobble together multiple plugins. They won’t be able to justify expensive license fees, or hours every week maintaining servers and they will rarely have the funds to own their mistakes.

 The Damn Ugly

I witnessed something this week that made me want to take action and if you make it to the end of this post, I hope you will too.

We were super excited to land a new client this month. They’re a well known and incredibly well respected Martial Arts brand with lots of locations. They were founded by a Master in Tae Kwon Do and while I’ve never been a student of theirs, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them at competitions. The Master’s reputation and his nearly 50 years of experience proceeds him.

We take over sites all the time and while agencies work in different ways, the basic principles of the process is always the same; we get given access to their site in some way, we get access to emails and migrate them, we run a test version of the site, then finally we get access to the domain name or they update the records on our behalf. We’ve a larger team than most and our own separate hosting company, so typically that entire process can be done in a matter of hours from initial contact… typically.

Never before in my 20 years as a developer have I seen a customer have their own domain name held at ransom. To be clear; they did not owe the provider money (then I’d understand), the provider just wanted to squeeze every last penny out of a leaving customer. What annoys me even more about this particular case is the nature of why they needed to switch providers in the first place – negligence.

The “new” website is only a year old and the purpose of the project was to improve SEO, something the previous supplier seems to be happy with, but certainly not something we’re seeing in the search engine results. A very quick look over the site shows that it’s an exact clone of another martial arts website from that same provider. This was to the extreme that sitemap used by Google to see what pages exist on the site, was actually a hardcoded sitemap from the other companies website! Countless images were missing from the homepage showing Google errors and further harming search engine ranks. Surprise, surprise, these images were being called from yet another martial arts website that’s since been shut down. Very little SEO had been done on the site and what was done was to a low standard. My favourite example of the quality of workmanship is the homepage Meta Title – widely seen as one of the most important elements of SEO – the art name of Taekwondo was spelt Teakwondo. I don’t think Google recognises that as a synonym somehow.

So how did the provider handle being left? Timeline:

  • Thursday – Told they’re moving and asked for access. Supplier told them their support runs out at eod Friday
  • Also Thursday – Customer told that the price is going up from £295/year (hosting and support) to £65/hour and hours need to be purchased upfront
  • Friday – Customer told the hourly rate is going up again to £75/hour
  • Also Friday – Site taken down and domain forwarded to our agency website just for maximum damage I guess
  • Monday – Supplier says that now support has ended they’ll need to pay for support to get their domain back. I paid the ransom fee on behalf of the customer as I don’t feel they should have to pay more and at 6pm the domain is transferred
  • Monday – a late night, ironically after my own martial arts class, but everything was transferred and back online

There’s nothing wrong with that hourly rate – the industry average was £108 last year – likely higher this year. The issue is of course putting up pricing with no warning, then again the next day and holding the customer’s domain at ransom when the only reason they’re leaving is due to negligence.

The impact – damaged reputation for his now former client, untold stress, several hours of our time (we donated it) and their business website being down for 3 entire days.

The Good

There’s a lot of genuinely good agencies out there and they need promoting. We’re in talks with an investor to fund a platform and association to try and form some kind of “regulation” to this industry. Businesses at all ends of the spectrum can exist and thrive, but it’s our duty as an industry to de-mystify it. There needs to be a clear definition, and a place where people can go to find a trusted provider at their budget level and needs level. I don’t have the answers, but I’m sure some of you will and I hope by starting the conversation someone will come forward with some ideas.


Name and shame requests: I know there’s going to be some requests to name & shame the provider. I actually don’t think that’s needed. I’d imagine they know they did wrong and I’d hope that they’ve learned their lesson. What I found very interesting though is that they run a Youtube channel telling people how to run a business…

Adam Reeves

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