Recovering Your WordPress Website After Your Designer Disappears

Unfortunately, it's often that web designers or developers run with your money and leave you locked out of your website. If that's happened to you, read this quick and easy step-by-step tutorial on how to get it back!

I was recently contacted by someone who had hired a designer to finish their site, and the designer disappeared and locked them out of absolutely everything. That’s what prompted this article.

Unfortunately, this happens way too often. You hire a website designer to fix up your site or build it from scratch, you pay them upfront, and they disappear after changing your passwords and locking you out of everything. The first red flag should have been that they were asking for everything up front, rather than asking for a 30% deposit etc. Either way, it’s not your fault. Let’s get it back!

The Good News

The good news is that you’ll be able to get it back, and it’s not too difficult to do so, especially if you have a hosting plan that includes the cPanel. I’m going to go through what you’ll do in the instance that you do have access to your cPanel.

You Don’t Have Access to cPanel

That’s okay – this just means you’re going to need to contact your hosting provider support team. Let them know that your designer fled, and you need to reset your admin username and password. They’ll be able to access your cPanel and do the same thing I’m going to mention in this article. Also ask them to remove all other users on your WordPress, in case your designer/developer had created multiple users in order to keep you out. Just to be safe.

Reclaiming Control of Your Website

Step 1 – Navigate to cPanel & phpMyAdmin

Navigate to your cPanel. It should look something like this. You’re going to want to look for a heading similar to Databases, and make your way to phpMyAdmin.

Step 2 – Navigate to wp_users

You will be redirected to phpMyAdmin, and your new dashboard will look like this. On the lefthand side, you’ll see a list of assets. Scroll down until you find wp_users, and click on it. If you don’t see this list, you may need to click on the plus sign next to your database’s username – this will open this list.

Step 3 – Delete all users

You’ll see a sort of table, where you’ll see user_login, user_pass, user_nicename, user_email etc. You’ll probably notice that the user_pass column no longer has the password that you had associated with your username – it’s probably something new. This is why you can’t log in. You’ll also probably notice that the user_email column has changed and no longer lists your email address. Your designer probably swapped out your email for his/hers so you couldn’t simply click on “forgot password” to reset it.

Next to user_login, you’ll see Delete. Now, delete all rows that are listed. This will ensure your designer will not be able to access your website again.

Step 4 – Insert new row

Now, at the top of the screen, you’ll see the toolbar with the tabs Browse, Structure, SQL etc. Click in Insert. This will insert a new row/user.

Step 5 – Create new user

This table will open up, and this is where you’ll create your new user. You will want to create something specific for your user_login to reduce the probability of your site being hacked, either by your designer/developer or someone else. Same goes for your password. Your user_email area will contain your email address you want associated with this account.

Be sure to take note of the ID number at the top (circled in blue). You’ll need this in the next step.

You can ignore all other input fields that I haven’t highlighed. Click on the “Go” button in the bottom right corner.

Step 5.2 – Confirm

You’ll be directed to a new page, confirming what you’re adding. Don’t change anything, and click Go.

Step 6 – Update the new user’s privileges

On the lefthand side, where you found wp_users in Step 1, find wp_usermeta. At the top of the screen, click on Insert.

Now, remember the ID from when you created the new user a few steps ago? Input the following into the fields, and click Go.

  • user_id: ID from the new user you just created
  • meta_key: wp_capabilities
  • meta_value: a:1:{s:13:”administrator”;b:1;}

You’ll come across the confirmation screen again. Don’t change anything, and click Go.

Step 7 – Last set of user permissions

Lastly, click on Insert on the top toolbar again. You’ll see the same screen you just saw. Input the following into the fields, click Go, and click Go on the confirmation page:

  • user_id: same ID from previous step
  • meta_key: wp_user_level
  • meta_value: 10

Conclusion

Once you’re all finished up with the steps, you’ll now be able to access your website. Head to yourwebsite.com/wp-admin, and use your new credentials to sign in.

If you have problems or something still isn’t working, contact me on my Contact page, and I’ll be able to help you out.

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