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At one point do web designers become IT guys?

At what point do freelance webdesigners need to become IT consultants, and how much responsibility do we need to take.

One of my recent clients wanted hosted email, I was able to offer this to them this through my hosting (Business Catalyst) I set up 4 email addresses, the email accounts are accessible and managed through webmail. Simple.

This is all well within my remit. However the client asked if she could have her mail set up on Mac Mail, and this is where I had fun and games, I have never had a problem setting up Mac Mail in the past (although my Gmail account is flakey) but I just couldn't make it work. The client is a single business woman, no IT department to help. My suspicions are that the ISP is blocking the necessary port, I've tried re-configuring, but not managed it yet, and to be honest I'm not sure I'm anywhere near qualified to start messing about with people's workstations . . . this is all beside the point.

Now one of the other email account addressees has contact me saying she cant make webmail work on her ipad! I'm pretty sure this has nothing to do with me, it probably has more to do with her hardware, Internet connection and the fact that she's running Candy Crush Saga and a host of other apps at the same time.

My question is how far do you go? and how do you advise clients? My IT skills aren't too bad, but I'm not prepared to make a rod for my back. My circumstances mean that I am usually building websites for start up businesses who don't have an IT dept and their IT knowledge is based on whatever youtube / DIY blog is currently popular.

Another client asked me if I would set up parental controls on her Mac!

Just where does it stop, where can I draw the line whilst still offering support?


Well-Known Member
I wouldn't offer any IT support if I were you. In terms of emails I would set up accounts and provide set-up / log-in credentials but that's it (by the way, email through web hosting? Arghhhh!) but you don't want to become someone's IT 'crutch' and this can easily happen when working with small businesses. We are in the nice position of our sister company being IT support so we move customers on to there pretty quickly. That way they know that they are going to pay for (all) support and it keeps it all professional. You are a web designer, not an IT company but once you start offering 'ad-hoc' support for other stuff it snowballs and you end up being an IT company. So nip it in the bud now and learn phrases like "Can't your IT company sort that for you"?


Staff member
I'm not a web designer, but I assume that if I were to hire a web designer to build my website it would come with email address for the website along with CMS - and I'd be taught to use it.

I wouldn't assume that every little computer issue I had was up to the web designers/developers.

I think you need to outline exactly what you provide in your contract and if they try and push some IT related issues on to you simply say it's not covered in the contract and you'd prefer to work on the agreed material rather than fall behind in what was agreed to work on.

Offer them some solution though - if you have any friends in IT or you know a company you've worked with before etc. to handle the request.

But that's as far as I'd go.
Thanks guys, great advice as always. It is very difficult dealing with people who have little or in one case I have, no IT knowledge at all. I hate to see people left high and dry, but likewise leading them down some merry primrose path where they are under the misguided belief I have all the answers, is not a direction I want to go in. I have friends in IT, will see if they're prepared to help out.

(by the way, email through web hosting? Arghhhh!)
Corrosive when you mention email through web hosting, did you mean that this is bad solution, I'm getting the idea from IT support forums that I'm not alone with the problems I am experiencing, are there any better solutions? For future reference :)


Well-Known Member
Corrosive when you mention email through web hosting, did you mean that this is bad solution, I'm getting the idea from IT support forums that I'm not alone with the problems I am experiencing, are there any better solutions? For future reference :)
Basically yes. Web hosting is for websites but they often offer a 'free' email inbox or two to entice the uninitiated. This sounds cynical but people will notice their email is down long before they notice their website is down so you just end up 'troubleshooting' email - which is not your job. We offer either Google Apps for Business or Hosted Exchange (through MessageStream) as a reliable and scaleable alternative to 'webmail' and it just works. Both of these route your emails away from your web server, meaning if a website goes down you avoid the 'it's not working' calls which you always feel compelled to act upon even if you know your hosting company is doing their best to get it all up and running again. Call it self-preservation if you like :thumb: