I was recently working on a site for a client. It was a developmental project of sorts. They had hired a freelancer to create a site using WordPress and needed me to fix and finish what they didn’t like. Apparently, the previous fellow didn’t have the best communication skills. I have no problem fixing and finishing; I actually do quite a bit of that.
Anyway, after a conversation with the client, it became clear they weren’t sure what they wanted. They had an idea, but didn’t really know how to verbalize it. Instead of taking the time to dig for these answers, the previous developer decided to take advantage of the situation and really did what ever he wanted. And it wasn’t to the benefit to the client. This made me start thinking about how this could have been avoided.
Based on the design, what would you like to be permanent features and which would you like to change out periodically. These could be “hero” images, banners, anything really. Ask the developer/designer what you will be able to modify yourself. Make sure anything they hard code is going to be a semi-permanent or permanent feature. Have them create a “how-to” to help you out on any special modifications they made so you have a clue when it comes time to make changes.
Don’t assume they have your best interest at heart. You may think you are asking bothersome questions but it is your project, your money and your business. Make sure you are getting what you want. If you don’t plan on making these changes yourself, is this developer someone you will want a long term relationship with?
Updating your theme! WordPress always has updates. They add new features, increase security and fix bugs on a regular basis. When a new WordPress release comes out, you should always upgrade. This will ensure your site remains secure. If your developer is creating a theme from scratch, ask if they are going to ensure the theme will be compatible with the newest releases. This may mean that they will have to test and fix things from time to time. Will this be part of the package or will you have to find someone else to fix the theme if it breaks?
Often you may start with a commercial theme you fell in love with and have a developer make tweaks for you. That is all fine and dandy, but make sure they make modifications the correct way. Just like WP, commercial themes will also have updates. If the developer doesn’t use a child theme, each time the parent theme (the commercial theme) is updated, it will overwrite any modifications made. Your site will be back to square one. Make sure they are using parent/child themes correctly. If they don’t know what a child theme is, run. RUN AWAY!
Support! Will your developer be around to provide support? Is it included in the fee? If so, is it only for the first year? Often if you buy a commercial theme, especially from some place like ThemeForest or Elegant Themes, you will get a year of support or at least access to the support forums. When you use a developer, make sure you have some sort of support agreement. This may not cover modifications you make, but it should cover basic functionality and cohesiveness with the latest WordPress release.
You may find someone on Elance or another service willing to design and build an entire site for next to nothing. It may be a wonderful deal, perhaps it is someone just starting out that needs the experience and may do a wonderful job, but…they could also be using your site as a link farm. The site I recently fixed had links buried in every post and page for things like cialis and viagra. There were even a couple for porn. While your visitors will never see this, it does hurt your SEO, especially when the links have nothing to do with your content. If in doubt, you can check the source code. Just remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Web development is one of those things where you get what you pay for.
If you have questions or need help with any of these things, let me know. I am always happy to help.
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