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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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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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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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  • OP probably asked for access to code. – Zsolt Szilagyi Oct 15 at 23:10
  • @ZsoltSzilagyi asking a prospective client for access to their website's source code, good luck with that! – ChrisFNZ Oct 17 at 19:55
  • "how I will access their pre-existing website to make changes" -> once he has the task to make changes, the client is prospective no more. Relax, it's just a misunderstanding. – Zsolt Szilagyi Oct 17 at 19:57
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You will get either (S)FTP or SSH access. Try to get the latter. Chances are that they have some sort of database admin tool like PhpMyAdmin, or a self-management-interface of the host that you could use.

However: As soon as you have access, you are responsible for not bringing the page offline by some typo or deleted files. Always, always, always make a backup as the very first thing that you do when you get credentials. Don't look around in the code, don't "just quickly change a color", nothing. Get a backup done! Then use that backup to create a development environment where you test and stage all changes, get customers approval, and THEN you put changes live.

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