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I am an inexperienced web developer, and I have yet to get my first client. I have prospective clients, however I am concerned about pitching them simply because I am unsure as to how I will access their pre-existing website to make changes. Different websites have different FTP access methods, and there are different server architectures, etc.

Do I:

  • Ask the owner of the website, who probably didn't build it, what it is built with and how I should access it
  • Ask for the details of the original developer to ask them questions

Or is there some kind of simple fit-all method?

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A web browser is generally a good tool to use to access a website.

I wouldn't recommend using any kind of automated webcrawler or robot though. You can generally find out fairly easily whether they're using a CMS (Wordpress, Drupal etc) and which JS libraries, frameworks etc they're using. If they're large enough, they might outline their tech stack on stackshare.io.

If you're prospecting for work then why not identify usability issues to inform a presales pitchdeck or similar?

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Generally speaking, the site belongs to the client, not the developer.

Whenever I have taken over an existing website, the client has simply instructed the previous developer to hand all passwords and documentation to me.

So, yes, you ask the client, explaining why you need to know. The chances are they will have some idea of how the site was built, but they will want to ensure continuity and so will be on the side of the new developer.

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