Inheriting an ASP.NET 2.0 website

Hi everyone. I’d appreciate a little help if that’s possible. I’ve inherited an ASP.NET 2.0 website when my client’s previous developer moved away. I can’t access it to even work out if I can do the updates etc that he wants me to do. I downloaded an intermediary I was assured would solve the problem and put the website on my desktop so I could begin to work on it. That didn’t work. I now have a file which I presume contains his website that I cannot open. Any ideas? Thanks.

The intermediary was Filezilla.

If the client can’t provide you access to the source code then the client might not be the owner of the source code! If that’s the case then the previous developer needs to provide the source code. And the client will have to arrange it so the developer provides you the source code.
Without the original source code I would not even dare touch the site, as it would be copyright-protected by whomever does have the source code!
So advise? Say no to this client and move on to the next one…

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Hi Wim_Ten_Brink,

Thank you for your reply. The client does not have the source code. He sent me everything he had and there’s nothing like that in there.
The developer would not mind if I managed the site at all; I’ve already been in touch and asked him. The trouble is he can’t remember anything about the site after the time that has gone by. He doesn’t even remember what platform he used to make the site.
If I need source code it looks like it might be lost.
Is there any way of getting it back?

Thanks

Jacquie.

Without the original source code, the only other option would be reverse engineering of all compiled code. But a large part of the site might be ASP.NET code and somehow readable, meaning that you’d at least have those pieces of code.
But reverse engineering is a slow process with plenty of trial and error cases. Rewriting things from scratch might be easier. Depends on how complex the site is and if the views in it are reusable.
For starters, you should start analyzing whatever you have. Your client will want to know when things are ready and that means you’d need to know how the site works first. Without source code and proper documentation you’d have to start writing at least some documentation yourself. It’s slow and boring, but it’s how you would have to start.
As you will have to recompile the code once you have made modifications, you will need to get the source code one way or another.

1 Like

What kind of file did Filezilla give you? Is it big enough that it could be some compressed file? There are some deployment approaches where the source code gets sent to the site and JIT compilation is used - so there is a chance that you may be able to get to it. It may come down to that mystery file…

Hi Bill

I will have to send you 2 emails because new users can’t send more than one image per email. Sorry about that.

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to help me.

After I got the 1 file from Filezilla I opened it and saw what you see in Files 1, attached.

Best

Jaqueline Heath

Files 1.JPG

Hi Bill,

Here is the second email.

The bottom two items in File 1 I could not open and the second file down was empty.

I opened the top file and this is what was inside. (Files 2).

Please let me know if you would like to open any of the files you see there and see what is inside them. I would be more than grateful for the help.

Best

Jacqueline Heath

Files 2.JPG

At first glance this does not look like it would be an ASP.NET website. The .htaccess file implies that the server is running Apache (though this file is supported in IIS, so isn’t a definitive indicator - it’s just unusual in an older ASP.NET app), and the presence of a php directory seems to lend credence to that. I would verify that it is running asp.net through something like https://sitereport.netcraft.com/

Hi Bill,

Thank you for this. I was checking it on Builtwith. The review page that the sitereport came back with is here. https://sitereport.netcraft.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.designerbathroomsblackburn.co.uk

I’m not used to the platform so I can’t be 100% sure but it looks like you are right. ASP.NET is not mentioned and Apache is.

If, as it looks like, I’m wrong about this site, where would you suggest I go for help with it?

Thanks for letting me pick your brain.

Best

Jacqueline Heath

I would take a look into the gallery.html page. This should give you an idea of whether the work is being done server-side (look for php directives - which the php folder is making me lean towards), is hard-coded (everything you see in the gallery.html page is identical to what you see in the client), or perhaps client-side (where all the presentation code is being done in the js folder). That will give you an idea of where to go for additional help. Easiest answer would be that everything is simply hard-coded…

A quick look at the site tells me it’s an Apache 2.4.41 server running on UNIX using static web pages for the content! There doesn’t seem to be any ASP*.NET code inside. Nor any PHP code for that matter. It does use the React JavaScript framework as basis and LEss ( http://lesscss.org/ ) for styling, suggesting it’s mostly based on node.js development.
I now wonder what that PHP folder is doing as the whole site seems to be a bunch of static pages with links to social media accounts and Google Analytics. I do wonder what is in that PHP folder! It might be empty…
Now, if it is just a bunch of static HTML pages then things are quite easy, actually. It would have no code so you can rebuild it from scratch using those static pages as templates. It’s a lot of work, though, if you want to transform it all into ASP
.NET but you can choose to use Core 3.1 instead of Core 2.0 as it’s not ASP.*NET based!
The problem will be the server, though. I’ve asked RobTex for additional server info: https://www.robtex.com/dns-lookup/www.designerbathroomsblackburn.co.uk
So, what did I learn? The host is probably a server at Webfusion Internet Solutions and they seem to have become part of the tsoHost family. (See https://www.tsohost.com/web-hosting#webfusion for info.) So, what hosting package does your client use on their servers? It does seem they have their own IP address with this host but can they even log in to this host?
So, you will need to learn more about the host. The client probably has a CPanel account which they can use to upload and download all content and I also wonder if they don’t pay too much for this host, considering the fact that their site is basically just static content.
In other words, your client might also require a new host if you start writing code! But the good news is that you have all the code…
It’s just not code that you’d expect but if you copy the content to an IIS folder with the public_html folder as root, you should be able to see the site by opening the index.html file in your browser…

Hi Bill,

When I open the gallery.html page this is what I get.

It looks absolutely no different from what I see when I go to the live web page. I don’t understand, therefore, how to do anything with it. I couldn’t work out from your last message what you were telling me because I don’t know the significance of the three options that you put before me.

What should I do to access the ‘back office’ when everything is just in picture form?

Thanks again

Jacqueline Heath

As far as I can tell, the whole website is a simple static site with just HTML files and no backend code. This is basic HTML 101 so anyone with knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript should be able to adjust it. They have no backend code! No ASP*.*net, no PHP, nothing. Just an external host with static pages.
So, there’s no back office here, either. The previous developer didn’t develop anything! He just made some pretty web pages and uploaded it to a host, told the client it was done and basically abandoned ship as he probably knew he would get caught if he stayed longer.
I see some usage of the Facebook SDK for clients who send messages on the contact form. (https://developers.facebook.com/docs/javascript/) And after some investigations, I now know why it uses PHP! In the PHP folder there will be a file form-process.php which they use so send the visitor message by email to the client’s info email address. And this is a very dirty and insecure trick that could end up with them being spammed a lot!
So, the previous developer probably made one PHP file. Possibly found it on StackOverflow or whatever.

So, how to start?
Well, start by telling the client the bad news. They have nothing! A collection of HTML files with some pictures and a PHP file that will send emails to them, possibly filling up their spambox. Hosting is on UNIX and it’s unclear to me what their hosting package contains so their host could have lots of limitations on content, bandwidth and whatever more. If the previous developer was supposed to build an ASP*.NET page for them, or even PHP site, then he never did what was asked. So, they have nothing except for an example of how things should look like.
As a developer, that means you’d have to set up everything up from scratch for them. This means creating a new project for them from scratch and get it to look similar to what they have. Based on their sitemap, that means a simple project with 5 views: Index, our-services, Gallery, Testimonials and Contact-us. Easy. Then open the old HTML files in an editor and copy pieces from those to the 5 views you have to get a similar look. It’s a bit trial and error but if you have experience with ASP
.NET then you should be able to do this.
Then compile it, run it for testing and deploy the new site on a host that supports ASP
.*NET. Make sure to adjust the DNS settings and preferably set up a test location too so the client can see a test of it all.
It should not be difficult if you have good front-end experience. It’s just a lot of work and I’m not sure if your client pays enough for all the work you’ll have to do.
But if all you have to do are some minor modifications then that should not be difficult. Just open the HTML file that needs to be changed, add the changes, send it back to the client…

Hi Wim_Ten_Brink

Wow! That is shattering news. My poor client. No wonder I couldn’t find anything. It will be a matter of simply inserting pictures and text into the right places then?

I’ve managed to download the website to my computer using filezilla but how do I reverse the process?

Would the best people to ask be 123Reg?

I will let the client know about this over the course of this next week but I know he’ll probably ask me to just tweak the website for at least the time being, just to keep it updated. I’ll have to see if I can do that without breaking it.

I can’t thank you enough for your time and effort to help me and my poor client. I was clearly looking for something that just isn’t there. No wonder I couldn’t find it. The only thing keeping him on page 1 of Google is his website URL! I was expecting to have to learn code and get into something I haven’t done before and there’s just nothing.

Thank you for everything you’ve done today. I hope that fact that it was a huge puzzle has made up for the time you’ve spent on it.

Best

Jacqueline Heath

Hi Wim_Ten_Brink,

One thing I am still having difficulty finding is how to actually find the old HTML files to open them. Each one I find seems to look exactly the same as the images on the website. One exception is the public html/js which looks like this when I open it.

image.png

Is this where the actual html programming takes place? If so, is the programme that opens those files Javascript?

Sorry to keep bothering you, I’m trying to get to the bottom of this whole fiasco.

Many Thanks

Jacqueline Heath

For the client, this is indeed shattering news. They trusted a developer who seemed to be a bit unreliable. Not sure what the deal was between them and that other developer, but they will have to get things sorted out first.
As you have everything, you can make the changes and use FileZilla to upload everything again. That is, if you have access rights to write to the server. Keep in mind that you will be messing with a live site so any error might crash it. (Keep backups that you can put back, just in case.)
As for 123Reg… Well, your client already have the domain name registered and I hope it’s registered in the client’s name, not that of the developer. (Otherwise, they don’t even have a domain name!) But it is registered with 123Reg so if you change to a different host, you’ll have to change the DNS settings in 123Reg. Your client should be able to do this or else provide you proper login data to do it yourself.
It’s a fun puzzle but it didn’t take much time for me. Decades of experience can be very useful. :slight_smile:

It is now up to the client to decide what they want. Based on what I see, it’s not too complex although you might actually want to redo the whole site in WordPress. Makes it easier to maintain in the future and most hosts will support it. Not much coding in WordPress although you would have a challenge to get a very similar layout. But once it’s up and running, the client should be able to maintain most of it themselves.
I don’t think there’s much you can break as these are static pages. Just get it all to run on your local test server before deploying it to theirs. The HTML pages are nicely formatted and have some proper comments that should be useful. (Yes, these are static pages so I can see the HTML very easily!)
You also have to check the /js/ folder for any custom JavaScript in it, but most seems to be Bootstrap, JQuery and other frameworks. But there’s a main.js and a count-so.js file, and probably a few others, that are custom files for this site.

If the customer is smart, he’ll just ask for a few simple tweaks while he considers his options. Rather than static pages, he might prefer one of these solutions:

Most hosting companies will provide one or more of these solutions, with WordPress being the simplest one. But moving to any of these will take time, making it a bit expensive. Your client will have to decide if static pages are okay or not. If it’s only for a showcase site with no real visitor interaction then it should be good enough. Otherwise, ask him what he wants and make him aware that it has to be built from scratch. (But using an existing CMS should speed up things and should allow him to make modifications himself.)

You should open the HTML files with Notepad. Then again, Visual Studio can also open them, but view them as text, not as markup. You will have to brush up your HTML and CSS knowledge. And your JavaScript knowledge too.
There is no server-side code except that PHP code to send emails when visitors fill in the contact page.
Those JavaScript files that you see are part of Bootstrap and a few other client-side frameworks. The .html pages have links to these scripts which the browser will load and execute. Thus, everything is done client-side.
You can ignore most of them as you don’t want to mess with those frameworks. The only ones you might want to check are:

  • /js/contact-form-script.js for the contact form.
  • /js/main.js for generic code. This is where you should do programming, if need be.
  • /js/count-to.js displays that splash screen of a rotating square.

A few things that need to be fixed, though.

  • The site uses SSL with HTTPS but you call some resources over HTTP. This includes the FontAwesome resources and more. Just replace http:// with https:// and test if it still works.
  • /img/designer-bathrooms-2.jpg and /assets/img/timer.png seem to be missing. These should be /img/slider/designer-bathrooms-2.jpg and /img/timer.png if I’m not mistaken.

I also notice the file .DS_Store… Someone who uses an Apple Mac has been accessing these files. Possibly the previous developer. You can ignore that file as it’s for Mac systems only. It has no use on the server, though.

Hi Wim,

Sorry to have taken so long to reply. I am currently working on another client’s website (in WP, thankfully) and I hadn’t realised it was so long since we talked.

You said, ‘It is now up to the client to decide what they want. Based on what I see, it’s not too complex although you might actually want to redo the whole site in WordPress. Makes it easier to maintain in the future and most hosts will support it. Not much coding in WordPress although you would have a challenge to get a very similar layout. But once it’s up and running, the client should be able to maintain most of it themselves.
I don’t think there’s much you can break as these are static pages. Just get it all to run on your local test server before deploying it to theirs. The HTML pages are nicely formatted and have some proper comments that should be useful. (Yes, these are static pages so I can see the HTML very easily!)’ in your reply to me on the 13th.

I can’t see the HTML on those pages, whereabouts are you looking?
How do I find my local test server?

I have been back to the files I have and I can’t find where you were looking at

  • The site uses SSL with HTTPS but you call some resources over HTTP. This includes the FontAwesome resources and more. Just replace http:// with https:// and test if it still works.
  • /img/designer-bathrooms-2.jpg and /assets/img/timer.png seem to be missing. These should be /img/slider/designer-bathrooms-2.jpg and /img/timer.png if I’m not mistaken.’
    From your reply to me on the 14th.

I feel like I’m missing a huge piece of the jigsaw. I don’t know what the first steps are with this site. For example in WP, after I’ve actually installed WP on the site I then import the theme and the child theme. From there I then begin by adjusting all the settings so that the Home page is the home page and the blog is the blog etc. Then I start working my way through the site methodically. I know the steps, I know what to do next. With this site I open the various files and look at them and I haven’t a clue what my next step should be. As I said, I don’t even know where you got the info from that you gave to me.

Which files should I put in Notepad? I don’t recognise any of them.

I wasn’t intending to mess with the Java script because I don’t know enough about it.

I assumed I would be able to simply upload a few new images and a few new reviews on a fairly regular basis until the client was ready to have a new site. I was looking for the HTML script so that I could insert the images in the right places and I was looking for the image folders so I could store the images there.

Am I wishing for the moon with this ‘website’?

Sorry to keep bothering you but you are the only person who has been kind enough to actually look deeper into the issue for me. I don’t think I could do what you suggest but I was hoping I could do a little something with the images and the reviews.

Thanks Again

Jacquie x

I’ll copy/paste your image here: image
See the contact-us.html file and the other .html files? You should open those in Notepad instead of the browser. Then you can edit the pure HTML that is in it.
As for your local test server. You will need to install IIS (Windows) or Apache on your computer, although you should have it already if you have Visual Studio. Then create a site within IIS and copy all files to this site. This should be basic developer knowledge. You don’t “find it” but you have to make it.
Once you have a test server, you can make modifications and then check if it still works and if the results are okay. If that’s the case, you can have the modified files uploaded to the remote server. (Through FTP or whatever.)
It seems to me your job is easy, but I also notice some inexperience. That’s okay, as developers always learn on the job. You just have lots to learn. :slight_smile:
But again, look at that image as the files you need to edit are right there! Well, the *.html files at least. I don’t think you’ll have to edit the JavaScript files, although it’s a good idea to just review them to learn more about them. Try to see if you can find out what they do, what they are used for and how they work.

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