Has your website suddenly disappeared?
Can you see your site but it looks really messed up?
If your website is maintained well, these situations shouldn’t happen. But if it has happened or you want to be prepared in case it does, here are some helpful tips.
First, determine what the problem is
If you are in the stages of launching your website and you are yet to pay the developer/designer in full, this could explain why your site is not visible.
But if the site has been up and running well and now suddenly looks terrible or has disappeared, then there are a few things you need to check.
- Host technical issues – Check with your hosting company, they may have technical problems. If any problems persist and your site is down often, you could consider switching to an alternative host.
- You’ve made recent changes – If you have access to add plugins to your site, you may have recently installed (or updated to) some poorly coded software, or perhaps something new isn’t compatible with your current site set up.
- Check your domain name – You should check you still have ownership of your domain name. It is rare, but you could lose your domain name if you don’t keep your contact and payment details up to date with your domain registrar.
It’s good practice to set your domain to ‘auto renew’, but not keeping payment card details up to date will result in problems. Your registrar should email you about any problems with payment, giving you ample opportunity to resolve the issue. Make sure they have your correct email address.
- Unpaid bills – If you have unpaid hosting bills, your site hosting could be suspended, check with whoever you pay for your hosting. Sometimes your website will be replaced with a message explaining this kind of situation.
To help prevent this happening, make sure your contact email is up to date with your host company.
- Website code – There could be problems with the code used to construct your site.
There are many different types of code used in developing a website, a minor mistake can lead to big problems. Check with whoever you pay to maintain your site.
- Code and database errors – You may have a browser message saying there are too many redirects, a ‘server database error’ or a ‘not found’ error.
These kinds of issues are usually errors in the database or site code.
- Suspicious activity and hacking – Sometimes a website could be taken offline by the hosting company due to malicious hacking attempts or suspicious activity.
Occasionally websites get hacked, attacked by ‘bots’, malicious code that seeks to hijack contact forms, take the site down or steal data.
If your host sees this kind of behaviour happening on your site, they might take it offline and tell you to fix the issues before they will make it live again.
So, what can you do to get your website back?
If the issues are with your hosting or domain registration, you will need to contact those companies. You may still need the assistance of a developer or website maintenance professional with any specific technical issues.
For most website problems you’ll need to contact a developer or your website management professional.
If you are paying a web developer, designer or agency for regular website maintenance, they are your first contact.
Your developer can usually investigate what the problem is and hopefully fix it.
If you are not paying for regular maintenance to be carried out by a professional, you run the risk of your website not being kept up to date and becoming more vulnerable to attacks and problems.
In this situation you would need to find an experienced professional to fix your site, as quickly as possible!
Who’s fault is it if your site is down?
If it’s a host problem or a mistake with the site code, it’s down to your hosts or your developer to fix the errors.
If you changed something on the site and now things are broken then it may be due to poorly coded themes or plugins, but it could also be due to your mis-management. Don’t panic too much though, most problems can be fixed promptly once the cause is found.
It’s also ultimately your responsibility to try to keep your site secure, but usually by hiring a professional or agency to manage the website for you.
If you manage it yourself, you should understand how to keep it secure and what the risks are.
Do you have a maintenance package in place?
If you are paying for a maintenance package, it may include some allocated hours that can be used to deal with website issues.
Whoever manages the site can investigate. They might need to contact your hosting company support staff to ask questions, or research plugin conflict problems, then take action to try to solve the issues.
Depending on the time needed to discover and solve the issues, there is a chance you will have to pay to have your site fixed. This is especially the case if your site is not regularly managed through a site maintenance package.
You could have to pay a discovery fee up front, before any investigating for a solution is carried out.
Who do you contact if you don’t have a maintenance package?
You may think to contact whoever built the site or last worked on it.
They might be available and happy to help, for a fee.
However, they could equally not be in a position to offer support, they could be busy on other projects or otherwise unable to assist, especially at short notice.
Keep your site professionally maintained
Try to keep ahead of situations where you don’t know what to do or who to turn to.
Avoid them by having someone who understands how to keep things running securely and smoothly taking care of your site.
Regular maintenance will help prevent security and code issues. If you neglect the upkeep of your site, you are more at risk of your site having problems and needing expensive emergency support.
It’s really your responsibility to make sure it’s well looked after.
If you manage your site yourself and cannot hire a professional to maintain it, you should try to learn as much as possible about good site management.
You should at the very least have a good quality security plugin installed and kept up to date.