2012 Tales: The internet is not magic.

There are certain folks for whom the internet holds a magical allure for them. Because they don’t understand anything about Photoshop, pixels or code, they may as well put me in the same league as Dr. Strange, because to them, what I do is magic. This is the story of one such client. Spoiler Alert: They didn’t last long.

I got a call one day from a guy interested in having me design and build a website for their church. Because I love doing sites for non-profits, I eagerly agreed to meet with them and discuss the details. When I met with the Pastor and a couple others on the team, it was pretty clear that they had obviously never met before today to talk about it – they were all saying different things. Nobody had a clear vision or goal for the website, they just wanted a new one because the person who had done the last one had gone AWOL and it hadn’t been updated in months, maybe years.

While I was there, I got on Pastor’s computer to look up hosting and domain name information, because they couldn’t tell me (it’s magic, remember). After getting this and a few other details, I felt like I had enough to put together an estimate, so I left to begin working on it. I did not get any essentials that I’d need later, like FTP information.

A few days later, I got a call from the guy who referred them to me in the first place. “You’d better call Bob*”, he said. “He seems to think you put a virus on the website, and that anyone that goes to their site is getting them too.”

“What? I didn’t get login credentials or anything like that. If they got a virus, it wasn’t from me,” I told him. I pulled up his site on my computer, and it looks exactly the same as I had left it. Nothing suggested there was virus of any kind. I called Bob and left a voicemail.

Later that day he called back. “Micah, I don’t know what you did when you were here, but every time I go to the website I don’t see our site, I see this thing called domain tools. Now we need to get this removed as quickly as possible because we don’t want people to be downloading a virus when they come to our site.”

I still didn’t get it, we obviously weren’t seeing the same thing. I told Bob I might need to swing by his office later.

On my way home, I realized what had happened. They weren’t typing in the whole URL – just part of if, and then selecting the first thing that came up in the drop-down menu. Because the domain tools site was the last one I used that had their name in it, they were going to that, thinking that they were going to their own site. It was a little confusing, but harmless. When I got him, I sent them an email with a screenshot of the domain tools site, along with the explanation. I politely but firmly told them to double-check the address they were putting in the address bar.

I never heard back from them. I’m not sure they were embarrassed by what happened or thought I was full of it, but something tells me I probably dodged a bullet.

*Bob's not his real name.