When Your Web Developer Stops Responding

Business Owners

Web Developer Stops RespondingSo you hired a web developer and/or designer, and they’ve stopped responding to your emails/texts/phone calls. It’s a problem I see all over message boards, inevitably followed by the panicked “what do I do???” question.

Here’s my advice, from a web developer’s perspective.

“Stops Responding” Defined

Find the following that best describes your situation:

I’ve emailed them several times today and they haven’t responded. Relax! Your web developer has (hopefully) other jobs as well. Unless it’s an actual emergency, such as your entire website just went down, take a deep breath and give them time to respond.

It’s been over a day! The standard response time used to be 3 days, but it’s probably closer to 24 hours now. But remember, they’re people too. Something might have come up preventing them from getting to their email/phone messages. I’d give them another 24 hours before emailing them again – although if it’s an actual emergency, sooner is acceptable.

I haven’t been able to get a response from them for over a week, and I’ve sent several emails. Start to worry.

Disclaimer: I try to respond immediately to client’s emails, but not all Developers do this. The above guidelines aren’t for ideal situations, but for deciding when to start to worry.

What to Do to Make Contact

So they’ve stopped responding (you chose the last option above). First, check up on the following:

Are they on vacation? They should have sent you some sort of notification. Check your email. If they didn’t, assume this isn’t the case.

Check their social media connections – their twitter account, their google+ account, their facebook account, etc. Their website should have connections to all their social media. If not, do some searches. You’re looking for activity on their accounts. If there is activity, contact them through their social media – because it’s public, they’ll want to deal with any issues faster. If there isn’t activity, your options are (1) they skipped town, (2) something really bad happened, (3) they went on vacation and didn’t let their clients know, (4) They’re being super lazy. Obviously none are good options.

If you can contact them through social media, great! You’ve made contact.

If you can’t make contact at all (think 1-2 weeks, not 2 days) and there’s no movement on their social media accounts, it’s time to start thinking about protecting yourself – change passwords (including your hosting account passwords), let the hosting company know they are no longer allowed to give information to this person, and start looking for a new web developer.

Get the Project back on Track

I’m guessing if you’re still reading, you’ve made contact. Congrats! You’ll need to find out what happened. Was it simply miscommunication? Was it laziness? Were they overwhelmed with another job? Was there a family emergency? Knowing what actually happened (and yes, they owe you a basic explanation) can help you know how to proceed.

If it wasn’t an emergency, you need to find out why your website was put on the back burner.

Grab coffee together and listen to what’s going on.

They’re Losing Money

They gave you a quote, but it isn’t covering everything. If they have employees, they could be losing money on this project. If they don’t, they’re just losing time – and time is money for a freelancer.┬áIf they ask for more money, see if they quoted you a price or an estimate. Usually Developers do estimates and then bill hourly. This hopefully keeps them from losing money if something takes longer then expected. Discuss with them why it’s taking longer – are they integrating with someone else’s code? Did a portion of the project just take longer then expected to code?

After figuring out why, you’ll need to decide how you want to respond. Remember, this is your web developer. You probably want a good relationship with them. The best option is to come up with an agreeable win-win situation. But if you feel like they’re pulling your chain, or they’ve done this more than once, it’s time to stand your ground and calmly explain that you want them to stick to their word.

There Are Too Many Edits

They gave you a design, you OKed it, and then turned around and asked for multiple edits along the way. This is called “scope creep” in the web developer’s world, and it sucks. We all study up on ways to avoid this while still making our clients happy. It may be the website didn’t turn out the way you thought it would, or you had a revelation in the middle of the project, but regardless, it’s very frustrating to the Web Developer.

Ideally, the Web Developer would know how to deal with scope creep in a mature professional way…not just stop doing the work and/or talking to you. But if you’ve got a designer/developer who isn’t as experience in this, you’ll need to deal with it yourself. This is generally a problem with lower-end or just-starting-out web developers.

But don’t worry, you can deal with this. Decide (as in, write down in bullet points) the edits you want. When those are done, agree that the website is done. Give a copy to the Developer and keep a copy yourself. Make them as concrete as possible and don’t use phrases/words like “I’d like it more hip” or “It should be more colorful”. These should be minor items to adjust the design – not major design changes.

Finally, confirm with the Developer a specific time frame: as in, it will be finished by this Friday. That provides them with a deadline and an end in sight, which are two important motivations for them to finish your site.

They’re Being Lazy

Don’t forget, us freelance web developers work at home with all the distractions that come with it. If you have your son’s best friend’s cousin do the website, you’ll almost certainly deal with this. If you’re dealing with a Web Developer who’s done this for a while, you’re probably not dealing with laziness, but rather its cousin, “too busy” (see next paragraph).

This has the same solution as “There Are Too Many Edits”. Make a list of items to finish and set a time frame – a meeting on the day they should be finished can also help cure laziness.

They’ve Been Swamped

Might be they had a massive deadline for another website due, or maybe they had a different client go all psycho on them this week. Whatever the reason, even though they should have gotten your work done as well, sometimes it is out of our hands. We can only code for so long before our eyes cross and we start slobbering.

But this shouldn’t be a constant excuse! You are (or should be) a valued client, so if they say this once, give them the benefit of the doubt; If this is all you hear from them, get a new Developer.

Just because they’re really busy, though, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t respond to you. Asking them their time frame for responding to emails and phone calls can help them keep within that time frame in the future.

The solution for this is to be honest. Check if your project is going to get done in the time frame you need it done within. If yes, write down what needs to be done, or at least have check-ups along the way. If not, hopefully they’ll be honest with you and recommend someone who can finish it.


Bottom line, sometimes you do all the work to vet the Developer, but they still end up flopping. While that will leave the responsibility of managing the project in your hands, ultimately you can achieve a good result if you know how to communicate with your Developer and are willing to manage the Developer yourself.

If you need some help or are interested in switching Developers, contact me! Mention this post, and I’ll give you a 10% discount on the final bill for the website.