If you’re in the position where you need to hire a developer to assist in making changes to your WordPress website or building a new website, here are a couple key recommendations:
Create a Scope of Work
The first thing I’d recommend is sitting down and gathering information on what your specific needs are. Whether this is a list of tasks you need done on an existing WordPress website or outlining the functionality of a new website to be built, being able to provide this to a developer will expedite receiving a quote to complete the work and ensure all parties are clear on what actually needs to be done.
Classify the Work You Need Done
I think it’s also helpful to know the general classification of the work you need done, such as:
Theme Modification: If you have an existing WordPress website and you’re looking for someone to help you customize its appearance or add additional functionality, you are likely looking for a developer who can do this type of work. It is helpful to know the name of the theme you are running in this instance. If you do not know offhand, you can find this information under Appearance > Themes in the backend of your WordPress website.
Custom WordPress Development: If you have a completed design concept and you need a WordPress website developer to take that custom web design layout and make it functional, you are looking for custom development work. If you are looking for this type of work, I would recommend finding a web developer who can build completely custom WordPress themes. Some WordPress developers do not build custom themes and will instead just try to make an existing theme get as close to what you’re after as possible. This can lead to a sub-par end result.
Custom Design & Development: If you want to completely revamp your website in WordPress but you do not have any design work done for it, you need custom WordPress design services in addition to custom development. Web designers work with you to create the look & feel of your new website and then a developer brings it to life in WordPress.
WordPress Conversion: If you have an existing site that is not built in WordPress, but you would like to have it migrated to WordPress so you can easily change content, you are looking for a WordPress website conversion or migration to WordPress. Custom WordPress website developers can create a custom theme to match your existing site’s aesthetic to seamlessly bring it over into WordPress.
Knowing the general classification of the work you need done will be beneficial in finding a WordPress developer who is best suited for that type of work.
Finding the Right WordPress Developer
Now that you know the type of work you need done and have a specific scope of work, it’s time to find a good fit to complete the work.
If you are looking for theme modification work, finding a developer who is experienced with the theme you’re using or comfortable working with any existing theme would be ideal. Some themes provide a partner network of developers they recommend for customization projects.
If you are looking for custom WordPress development work, I would recommend finding a senior WordPress developer who is comfortable theming from scratch and who isn’t dependent on page builders and plugins to achieve all functionality in any given project.
Unfortunately, WordPress does attract quite a few individuals in the development space who are really more advanced WordPress users. These individuals often cannot write much custom code or styling, but instead just work within the confines of an existing theme’s settings panel or a page builder’s built-in settings to create websites and then rely on WordPress plugins to add all functionality. While these are valid skills that may be completely fine for your needs if you just need assistance fixing a few small bugs on your website or help with initial WordPress setup or theme configuration, it can quickly get problematic on custom builds. If WordPress developers aren’t properly vetted and can only use what’s out there and not build anything themselves then you may find yourself in a tough spot on a custom project.
Vetting WordPress Developers
Any qualified developer should have a portfolio and/or work samples that can be easily accessed or provided. I would recommend checking out these resources, as well as asking some more detailed questions if looking for custom WordPress website developers, such as:
- How many years experience do you have working with WordPress?
- Are you comfortable with custom theming or do you only modify existing themes?
- How much do you rely on plugins to achieve functionality in projects?
- Are you comfortable setting up and working with custom post types, taxonomies and fields?
- How do you address technical aspects of SEO in projects?
- How do you optimize site speed in projects?
- Are you comfortable extending plugin functionality with hooks & filters?
Experienced WordPress developers should be more than comfortable creating custom WordPress themes, working with custom post types, creating custom taxonomies and custom fields. They should be aware of what needs to be done in projects from a technical SEO perspective, as well as understand site speed implications of project choices and how to best optimize them.
While leveraging WordPress plugins and using them selectively is completely expected, a quality custom WordPress developer wouldn’t be reliant on a plugin existing to achieve all functionality. They should also be able to extend plugin functionality with hooks & filters, if needed.
With custom WordPress website projects especially, I would really stress finding a quality, experienced developer over just looking for the cheapest resource. While senior developers do often have higher hourly rates, please factor in that hourly rates standalone mean nothing. If a senior developer has an hourly rate of $100/hr but they can build you a better site in substantially less time than a less experienced developer at $20/hr, then you’re ultimately causing yourself more trouble (and potentially money if you have to rebuild the subpar end result) by going with a less experienced developer.
WordPress is an awesome CMS that you can do incredible things with but it is also remarkably easy to make a mess of if you work with a WordPress developer who is not skilled at what they do. I know I’ve personally gotten a lot of work rebuilding WordPress sites that were created poorly, resulting in a bloated mess of plugins that made the site slow and painful to work with moving forward. By taking the time to gather your project requirements and then using those to find the right fit, you’ll walk away with a stronger WordPress website.