Fine and then one day poof, my website was a mess

Services for Real Estate Pros with API Network

Real feedbackWe get calls from others asking us to help with Joomla sites that have been abandoned by the original developer.  When your techie/developer stops returning your calls, it's usually for a specific reason. This is not Joomla specific, and it's not because they lost your number or because they're too busy.

The most common reason:

You're no longer a good client and/or they don't like fixing bugs.

Don't take that personally. Well, at least don't start with that.

When a project is initiated, you're eager to see results and eager to pay. During this phase of the courtship, it's common to hear from your developer on a regular basis. They may even contact you to give you updates, status reports or just to make sure you're happy, much like the attentive waiter who keeps refilling your water glass.

Then fast-forward... your website is launched. It looks great and now it's just a matter of time before the leads start to roll in. You gladly pay the invoice and everyone is happy, especially the developer.

Then you get an email, "Hey, what's with your website? It looks kinda weird. It's messed up."

Geek-Flight: aka, "I'm Just Too Busy"

In modern web design, there are standards that should be followed. If they're not, "it's messed up" can result as not everyone views your site with the same browser.  If your developer didn't try to follow standards, and your site layout is even slightly complex, there's a very good chance "it's messed up" will result.  This discovery can result in what I call geek-flight.

At this point, your web person may suddenly become "very busy" with other work. Other geek-flight symptoms: Slow/no answering of emails, canceling meetings at the last minute for emergencies that aren't even urgent.

Here's how it works. Not with all developers, but lots of them -- when you ask for something to be created, they will generally do what they've done.  If you ask a Wordpress developer to build you a site, you can guess what they're going to recommend.  If you call me for advice, there's a pretty good chance I'm going to start sketching ideas with my Joomla crayons.

If your developer has a habit of not following standards, not documenting things, not doing multi-browser quality control, there's a darn good chance your site will end up with some problems.   When these problems surface, it's reasonable for you to expect them to fix it at their cost.   Was it your fault you didn't say, "My website needs to look the same in both IE and Firefox" -- well, yes actually. You should have said that.

Web pages are made up of HTML code. I'm sure you've done View/Page Source more than once to see how others are keywording their way to the top pages in Google. (by the way, that's a good thing to learn this way)  HTML has strict rules, much like your copy has grammar and spelling rules. When you write new copy, you check it.  If you're not a good checker, you have someone else edit/proof it.  This is exactly how web developers are supposed to create websites.

Bad Attitudes About Bad Code

Here are the most common attitudes listed in order that I've heard them most often:

  • Validate? What's that?"
  • Validation doesn't help my search engine rankings. Who cares!"
  • My site looks fine - that's good enough"
  • Lots of websites don't validate - including top producers"
  • Validation means boring and ugly websites"

You should care about validation if you care about what potential customers see.

You've heard of WYSIWYG right? How about WYSINWOG? What You See Is Not What Others Get happens when you don't validate.   It's true, you can be on page 1 of Google and have a site that doesn't even pass a validation test.

We're All Guilty

Being the curious person I am, I checked the top brokers/mega agents around here and not a single one passed. The best had 4 errors, the worst 495. (and this is on ONE PAGE of their website)  One top agent and a major broker failed validation to the point of not even being able to count errors.

Our A2WiFi directory, now almost four years old, has 183 errors. (That means it's about time for an upgrade.)  I checked two prominent local web designers... one had 21 errors, the other 95.  ActiveRain...117 errors.

In the 17 sites I checked, only one passed... csszengarden (which by the way, is an example of how to build CSS/HTML perfect websites)

So next time you're planning to have some web work done, make sure your developer has standards they follow.  Expect documentation that explains what they created, expect them to have a written process of how they build things and of course expect their code to pass a grammar and spelling test known as HTML validation.

How many errors do you have?    Check it! 

PS. If suddenly your site does develop problems related to bad code, it's likely the problem was always there.  Good news: Fixing flawed code is not like failing an electrical inspection. It's possible that a quick duct-tape approach might work, applying just enough to get your site looking OK in all browsers.  Bad News: If your site has hundreds of errors and is visually messed up, the path to validation can be a winding/expensive one.


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Stanley Barsch
Realty Executives Premier - Silver Spring, MD
Realtor, GRI - 240.882.8512

E. Kasey - That post was worth a million dollars.  Thank you for posting that information, it put a new light on the behind the scenes of a website.

Stan Barsch

Jul 23, 2008 12:10 AM #1
Evelyn Panning
Property Connections Realty Inc. - Alturas, CA

I haven't had specific "not working" issues, only an issue with Advanced Access not solving or caring about keeping spammers out of my Advanced Access Guest Book.  These guys have some sort of auto dialer that takes them directly into the Guest Book repeatedly, many times per day.  I can't keep the Guest Book clean and useable -- I've sent several messages to Advanced Access asking them to come up with a fix -- no help, just auto responders (those things are so irritating.)  I am so frustrated that I am ready to start looking for another website company.

Jul 23, 2008 12:12 AM #2
Kieran and Cecelia Loughman
Exit Creative Reaty - North Port, FL

Hi Kasey!

I know nothing. I ran the validation and it said I had 380 errors and I failed.

I'll ask my webmistress about that.



Jul 23, 2008 12:13 AM #3
Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

Thanks for the link, I will check "my errors"

Jul 23, 2008 12:38 AM #4
Kasey Kase
API Network - Mequon, WI
I'm not really a pirate

Thanks Stan!  There are so many stories I could tell like this.   Glad to hear someone reads em :)

Evelyn:  Yes, spammers love guest books!  But you can keep em out by including some CAPTCHA similar to what AR does in these comments.  (looking down, I'll need to retype appleberry)  My favorite style is asking visitors to perform some simple math.    17+12 is what?    Even more simple, "Click this box if you are not a spammer" works just about as well.   My least favorite:  Those LSD fonts that Google uses!

Kieran:  If your site is old, expect errors.   Like I said, you can still get to page 1 with lots of errors but 380... that would put you at the 3rd most errors in my review of 17.

By the way -- if you run into HTML problems like this, you can find HTML fixers starting from about $20/hour.  If your site needs an HTML overhaul, expect to pay about 3 times that.   If you're shelling out more than $60/hr, you're paying more than you need to.

Jul 23, 2008 12:47 AM #5
Gregory Lohr
Freedom Foreclosure Prevention Services - West Columbia, SC

I have a site for another business, which I just checked, and it has 187 errors.  This is a do it yourself site, where you type it in, and configure it just like a wordprocessor and it does the code for you.  How do you correct code on sites like that?

Jul 23, 2008 01:20 AM #6
Kasey Kase
API Network - Mequon, WI
I'm not really a pirate

Greg:  DIY-website generators can be THE WORST offenders out there.    Their mission is to make things easy, not HTML correct.   Just as a point of reference, I installed SohoLaunch to see how their code would measure-up.   I was able to build a website in under 1 minute and the Soho control panel looked pretty feature-rich but my simple site failed with 25 errors.    To fix this -- yeesh almighty.   That could be some real pain especially if I spent time populating the site with content.    DIY code generators are just like regular developers.   Some are good, some not so good.  

To answer your question:  You would fix DIY generated code the same way you would fix any other... look at the errors, make a list and knock em off one at a time.   If you're not an HTML jockey, then you would have to hire someone or, if the errors aren't causing any problems, ignore em!

Jul 23, 2008 01:56 AM #7
Bob & Carolin Benjamin
Benjamin Realty LLC - Gold Canyon, AZ
East Phoenix Arizona Homes

This is a "right on" post. This does happen and then we go how did that get that way.

Jul 23, 2008 03:16 AM #8
Bill Pryor - Clearwater, FL

Feedback on my (started as) Joomla! site???

Take a look at my new beta site. Everything works except for the webmail in the CRM.  PLEASE give me your feedback.

Public pages:
Username: admin
Password: demo

You can login as admin on the public pages or in the back office area. Only because this is a beta site you'll find an admin link at the top of all the website pages that goes to...

Username: admin
Password: demo

Dec 29, 2008 06:00 AM #9
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