You’ve got a website project, you’ve decided on WordPress as the platform. Next up you have to fine a WordPress developer to work with you on the project. Using Google you will find loads of freelancers and agencies that look like they could meet your requirements.
In this blog post we set out some thing to consider before jumping starting a WordPress design or development project. Let’s get into it!
Not all WordPress implementations are equal
WordPress at its heart is a content management system. The reasons why many choose it as a platform are many and varied. One of its strongest features is that it’s easy to use.
As a platform it’s highly customisable, this can be seen also as one of it’s strongest features but in reality it is also a pitfall. How your website is built on top of WordPress varies greatly between developers.
On one had you might be delivered a standard WordPress install, a customised theme installed and that’s it. For a relatively simple site that might be ok but can be troublesome for mid sized or slightly more complex website.
At the other end of the spectrum you will see that the developer has customised the WordPress dashboard to meet the requirements of your website. Different types of content have been separated into custom post types and labelled as such in the dashboard.
For example: data like your “our people” section can have custom fields added so you can easily and consistently add information like their phone numbers or URL to Twitter profiles etc..
You (as a user) should be able to edit just about every piece of content on the site (it’s a content management system after all right?). That phone number at the top right of the main interface, can you edit that?
You should be able to.
Forms (think contact forms or signups to newsletters etc.. ) should be able to managed. There is a number of very good form plugins for WordPress (think Gravity Forms), using one of these is what you’re looking for. You shouldn’t have to go back to your WordPress developer every time you would like to add a new field to a contact form.
Why choose a WordPress centric developer or agency?
In business it’s common practise to specialise, from a web developer’s perspective, there’s plenty of good reason behind wanting to do this. WordPress, while easy and approachable for most developers, it still represents a learning curve. You’ll often hear or see in the WordPress world people saying things like “do it the WordPress way”. What’s meant by this is doing things the way the platform intends. Sure you can bend it to your will but using the correct programming techniques will mean the site will continue to work when new versions of WordPress and any plugins that you might be using are updated.
A web developer or agency that does not specialise has to try and keep up with an ever changing landscape across many different software platforms. It’s not an easy task.
Look beyond the portfolio
We all like to show off our best work!
If you’re looking through such a WordPress portfolio though ask questions about the projects. Did the developer in question do the whole job? Perhaps a third party did the graphics and they built it and delivered it in WordPress. Or was it that they have strong design skills, the design was their work but someone else did the development side of things. There’s nothing wrong with either of these things, they happen all the time as developers collaborate on projects. Knowing the answer however puts the portfolio into perspective.
Another good idea when viewing a portfolio of work is to ask to see projects that have a similar budget to what you’re contemplating as well as similar functionality. How does the social media tools work on that site or see how a gallery of images has been presented.
Take a look at the project process
A successful website project is going to be one that follows a process. WordPress developers and agencies may well have a variety of ways that they approach a project. There’s no correct answer here. Do however ensure that the developer you’re going to go with has a process. Review it and consider if it’s going to suit how you see the project working.
How do we do it at the DMA?
We have been refining our project process over the past couple of years. We use Trello as a project management tool that allows us to capture all the balls we have up in the air at any one time.
Our projects always start with a solid scope of works.
One of the key reason why this happens is that they have not sufficiently outline what is considered to be included in the project and what is not.
We run our projects with very clearly set out stages with each finishing by our client signing off on the work. Read more about our project process here.
Who is actually doing the work?
Ask the question: who is actually doing the work?
Does the agency or developer do it all in-house or are some aspects of the project out-sourced to others? Don’t confuse ‘out-sourcing’ with remote working though. Teams working together that are not all in the same room are very common in the web development industry. At The DMA we have people in Sydney and Melbourne as well as China, France an Pakistan. The point is we are a team. It’s the same people building a site today as it will be building a new site in 3 months from now.
The point here is: you want to know that the developer that is working on your project will be around to tweak or do round two of your project down the road.
Ask for references
It’s unfortunate but it’s true. Many people begin a web development project but don’t get what they bargained for. Instead they get a bad experience and not the result they expected. The reasons are as varied as the projects themselves.
Why not ask to speak to some previous clients? It’s not hard to do, a quick phone call explaining that you’re thinking of hiring a particular developer or agency.
So, I hope you’ve picked up a few ideas and enjoyed reading this post, good luck with your future projects!