One thing that sets us apart from other web developers is that, in most circumstances, we will happily support, maintain, complete or improve website code written by others; even if the underlying code is custom built.
This is great for clients as it means that they need not be tied in to their current web agency, and means that if relations break down they are able to make a fresh start without necessarily needing a complete site rebuild.
It is also great for us as web developers as it can be quite challenging in some cases, and this is weirdly what’s makes us happy.
There are however a few obstacles that get in the way…
Firstly of course is the existing web developer(s); usually they are helpful and most stay professional during a transition, but occasionally they can make life more difficult. There are of course ways around most obstacles they can create, it just means a bit more admin our end in order to retrieve the code or access details.
However the main issue is that we don’t know the state of the underlying code. Okay it may be written in the correct language, but it may be incomplete, have bugs, and there are lots of ways it can be implemented; similar to the way that English can be written in a variety of formats such as that written by Shakespeare, to the Queen’s English to modern-day slang. Some code is easier to update and maintain than others.
The way that we usually get around this is by, after getting the correct access codes, replicate a website on a local server so that we can experiment on it without affecting the live website, and then run an investigation where we look through the code in detail We specifically look at the issues our client wants fixed, and familiarise ourselves with it so that we have a better understanding moving forward. This can take anything from half a day for smaller projects to perhaps a week for large ones. This is billable to our clients, but is certainly not a waste of money as the time taken will speed up the process moving forward (due to our familiarity with the system) and allow us to provide more accurate advice and cost/time estimations to our clients.
We appreciate this may be a difficult for our clients as they are placing their trust in a web development agency and they may have been burnt in the past, but we pride ourselves in offering honest and accurate advice, and without this research we really would be doing little more than guessing. We also wish we could do this for free, but unfortunately this usually requires a deep look into the underlying system and so providing price estimates can be a major task. This is where clients really need to place their trust in us and is where our excellent relationships usually start.
Once this initial investigation is complete we’ll have already started collaborating with the clients and sometimes even fixed minor issues along the way, and from here on in we start working closely with clients and create a (usually refreshing) positive relationship.
As the underlying code is not ours, fixing times and costs of tasks is very unlikely as the system is all integrated, therefore we work on an hourly basis. But with the knowledge gained earlier on, we will already have a decent understanding of the system and our cost/time estimates and advice are usually fairly accurate. Of course if things don’t go to plan, or if we think a task isn’t cost effective, we will immediately be contacting our client advising them what we think is best.
There are a few obstacles in taking over 3rd party websites, and a lot of unknowns, but by using the process outlined above we have found that we can comfortably take over even the most complex of projects, and given time can rebuild our clients’ trust in web designers showing that at least some of us can do a good job.
We are Webbed Feet UK, we will happily work on websites made by other website designers.
If this interests you and you'd like to chat further, please get in touch.