Business owners in the Owen Sound, Meaford, Thornbury, Beaver Valley, Blue Mountains and Collingwood area who had websites designed by a “local” website design firm during the last few years are now experiencing website design nightmares. Their websites have suddenly disappeared from the Internet. They’ve lost business email accounts – along with unknown numbers of inquiries, sales and repeat business. And they’ve lost control over their branding and online reputations by losing website domains that they paid for and established.
Normally, I would avoid casting aspersions on a web design professional by name, but in this case the benefits to local businesses of a timely warning far outweigh any professional scruples. Unfortunately for many, this warning won’t be timely enough.
Until a little over a year ago, a firm going by the name of NBV Studio operated out of Thornbury, run by Catherine Anderson. She mounted an aggressive sales campaign and subsequently developed dozens of websites for local businesses – a large number of them in the building and related trades.
Her website work was reasonably acceptable, though I could offer significant critiques of her website design, which was done through Homestead, a company which offers basic website hosting and templated design. Apparently, her prices were reasonable as well.
So why the warning?
If you had your website designed by NBV Studio, there’s a strong likelihood that it will disappear in the near future, along with your email addresses related to the website
I learned of NBV Studio and Catherine Anderson in April, 2012 when Todd Robinson, a Meaford builder, called me up to ask if I could help him gain control of his website and complete the design. He had paid Catherine up-front for the website months before, and it remained unfinished two months after his last contact with her. Finally, he’d gone to visit her at her house, an upscale home at Lora Bay where he’d met her before. Upon arriving, he met the actual owners of the house, who explained that their tenants – one of whom was Catherine Anderson – had suddenly packed up and left one night. Thus, his call to myFavoriteMarketer.
I initially attempted to get Todd’s website host and domain registration information from Catherine. I also asked for the originals of the photos posted on the website (which Todd had paid for separately.) A few days later, Catherine replied that she’d check with her “web master” and get back to me. That was the last I’ve ever heard from her, despite numerous contact attempts. Without access to the existing domain, we needed to register a new domain for Todd.
Fortunately, it was early on in Todd’s website development, so he hadn’t been using the old domain in marketing, signage or for email. Unfortunately, the incomplete site was open for indexing by Google, and it appeared for searches on “Todd Robinson Construction”. The unfinished (amateurish) website, with non-working forms, could obviously damage his reputation and lose him business. Attempts to have Catherine give us access or redirect the domain went unanswered.
(Recently many of Catherine Anderson’s websites at Homestead, including NBV Studio’s, were offline for a number of days.)
Todd alerted me to other Meaford and Thornbury area businesses who’d had similar problems. Local cabinetmaker Bernard Rioux woke up one morning earlier this year to discover his NBV Studio-designed website was down. Catherine couldn’t be reached. “Our domain is paid up until January 14 of 2014,” says Michele Rioux. “But they just took the site off, and the domain is still owned by them.” Michele rapidly scrambled to register a new domain and begin designing a new site herself. But that was just part of the problem.
“We lost our email address too. A lot of customers and friends mentioned to us that it wasn’t working and their emails were being redirected back to them. We didn’t seem very professional there for awhile. We’re lucky because we deal with a small number of big customers, so we could manage it. For companies dealing with a large client base, this would be a nightmare!”
Tom Dedels is a Wiarton website designer. When he was asked to redo a website for a local landscaping company, he tried to contact Catherine Anderson to get the log-in information. “NBV then took the site down and would not transfer the client’s domain name,” says Tom. “Very unprofessional. Client lost email access. Repeated requests, no reply.”
Tom got revenge of a sort. He bought eight other NBV-related domains, and offered them to Catherine in return for the domain transfer. When he still got no response, he decided to populate the domains with “really ugly stuff” that told the NBV story. “If NBV wanted to behave in an unprofessional, childish way why not have a website that better represents their business style?” asks Tom.
Steps to protect your business if you’ve had a website designed by Catherine Anderson, NBV Studio in Thornbury
If you’ve had a website designed by Catherine Anderson, here are the steps you should take.
1. While the chances are slim you’ll succeed, it’s worth a try to get control of your domain. Ask Catherine to assign ownership to you, and ask for the log-in information for the domain registrar. Any reputable website designer/administrator would provide this information. If you’re able to get this information, log in and quickly change the password.
2. Since nbvstudio.com and other sites on Catherine’s account seem to be down recently, you may have better luck dealing with Homestead than we did. Ask them to give you access to your website.
3. If you’re unsuccessful to this point, find out when your domain will expire by going to www.whois.net and/or www.enomcentral.com/whois/ (Each provides slightly different details on your domain.)
4. Plan on relaunching your website, under a new domain, by that date. Copy all text and photos from your existing website immediately. In the meantime, you may want to set up a new email account and notify clients. (If you’ve registered a new domain already, set up an email address at that domain and use this.)
5. Go to a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy, and place a domain backorder for the domain name Catherine registered. When it does expire, you’ll regain that domain name.
While this is far from the best scenario, if Catherine’s not responding and if you don’t have access to your domain registrar, it’s the best you can do. You’ll at least avoid disappearing from the Internet. And on the positive side, you can come out of this with a much more effective website than Catherine could provide.
If you would like help doing this, feel free to contact me (or any reputable website designer).
Note: It seems that Catherine Anderson recently launched a new venture in P.E.I. Michele Rioux alerted me to this recent article.
Recent related news: Update from The Guardian.