When you’re getting ready to hire a WordPress developer for your website, there’s a lot you should be considering.
Yes, it’s exciting. Yes, you can’t wait to see the end result. But, if you rush the decision and choose a developer hastily, that end result you’ve been looking forward to can quickly turn into a nightmare.
From projects not completed on time to projects not completed at all, there are plenty of ways for so-called WordPress developers to make you regret ever working with them.
Not to mention how many times WordPress developers simply miss the mark completely, delivering a project that is underwhelming or even unusable.
This checklist was made with YOU in mind. We want to help people who are looking to make a smart choice when hiring the right WordPress developer do exactly that.
And, while we can only make one absolute guarantee (scroll to the bottom if you’re in a hurry), we can promise that using this checklist will help you avoid many of the developer horror stories we’ve heard over the years.
(Pay for all the work, wait an additional two months, and then get a website delivered that’s not even yours? Yeah, it’s happened).
This WordPress developer checklist is as simple and straightforward as we could make it while making sure it’s thorough and helpful too. You’ll find some of the steps are fairly intuitive, but some of the other notes really do deserve a thorough read-through.
And, if you have any other checklist steps you think we should add based on your own experience, please share!
The 7-Step Checklist for Hiring the Right WordPress Developer for Your Business
Step One – Understand Your WordPress Choices
One of the most basic mistakes people make when hiring a WordPress developer is that they don’t know what they’re looking for in terms of a WordPress website.
With so many WordPress websites out there, it’s easy to not understand what you’re really looking at when you’re checking out the competition or getting ideas for your own design.
To make things really simple, we’re going to break down the giant world of WordPress websites into two basic categories: Store-Bought and Homemade.
- Store-Bought: We like to think of the WordPress developers who use ready-to-go themes as the moms who brought home a frozen lasagna and put it in the oven for dinner. There’s nothing wrong with this option – it’s just different. A store-bought WordPress theme is faster and more affordable. It allows developers an incredibly solid foundation to build from. And, thanks to the open API of WordPress, it still allows for quite a bit of customization. (Think of it like a mom grating fresh Parmesan cheese on top of that frozen lasagna and then serving it on a super awesome plate decorated with flowers and llamas and succulents). Store-bought themes can also be used by businesses without the help of a developer at all. (You can think of this like a teenager putting the lasagna in the stove all by himself). Either way you slice it, you’ll still end up with a usable WordPress theme that gets the job done. It can look really awesome and custom if you use the right professional. Or it can look pretty out-of-the box generic.
- Homemade: A homemade WordPress website can be understood as the mom who made her lasagna from scratch, right down to those incredible noodles. More time-consuming and often more expensive, a developer who makes a homemade WordPress website takes on more risks than the developer who goes the store-bought route. Yes, when done by someone who really knows what they are doing, homemade almost always looks, tastes, even smells better. But, if someone less skilled attempts to create something incredible from scratch, there’s a much higher likelihood that the end result will be a flop – even if edible, you might have preferred the store-bought option in the end.
One of the biggest benefits of homemade WordPress websites is that there’s a lot of room for customization. While you can only do so much with the store-bought choices available, the sky really is the limit when you make it yourself.
Of course, for people short on time, money, or who are just more risk averse, the store-bought route is a better choice.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing which WordPress website option is right for you.
The biggest takeaway is knowing that there is a difference and that you have a choice. Just like lasagna for dinner, when you’re choosing WordPress for your website, you know you’re off to a good start.
Step Two – Understand Your Developer Choices
We’ll leave the lasagna comparisons to rest here, but, again, there are two basic choices you can make when you’re looking to hire a WordPress developer.
In general, you can elect to work with a freelance individual or you can place your bet on a contracted team. The other option often discussed is hiring an in-house WordPress pro, which, while a great option, really isn’t realistic for the majority of businesses, especially those that are just getting ready to build or redesign their website.
So, in the sake of time, we’ll focus on the two types of developers you really should know about.
- Freelancer: There are a ton of talented freelancers who are incredibly capable of making you an awesome WordPress website. The problem, however, is finding them. The freelancer industry is exploding, which means there’s a lot of talent – and a lot of riffraff to sort through. One of the biggest risks of hiring a freelancer is knowing that they can (and will) do what they say. The main benefit, of course, is that they can be hired at more affordable prices (especially if you find someone who lives in another country and uses a different currency).
- Contracted Team: A contracted team often has their own website (a good chance to see real work examples when you’re looking for a WordPress developer) and is generally a bit more professional to work with throughout your project. While occasionally more expensive (although not always), the biggest benefit of choosing a contracted team over a freelancer is that they are more reliable. Because there is an entire team working on and responsible for your project, you typically won’t have personal problems and emergencies get in the way of work being delivered on time. The reputation that a contracted team wants to maintain and create helps them to be accountable, which gives you an oftentime better final project in return.
Step Three – Create a Project Brief
We know, it sounds boring. But this crucial step is so often overlooked (and then instantly regretted the minute a project comes back that doesn’t deliver) that we want to remind you again right here: Yes, it really is important.
Rather than thinking of it as another step or item to check off, think of it as an opportunity to stretch your creative wings and to construct a really tangible vision of what you want your end result to be.
Without creating a solid project brief for yourself and your potential developer, you won’t be able to communicate what you want and need to be done.
Skipping this step can delay your project for months, even if you find a great WordPress developer, because there will be a lot more back and forth rather than direct communication.
Here’s what you’ll need to make a thorough project brief before hiring your WordPress developer…
- Clear Goals. Why are you having a website created for your business? What is its purpose and what does it need to do? These types of broad questions can help you start creating a brief that is informative and helpful for your developer.
- Total Budget. WordPress developers vary greatly in price. Some will charge per hour and others will charge per project. Having a clear budget in mind and communicating that in your brief can help developers know right away if they can work on a project or not. While some contracted teams will have a set price in place, many development projects can end up costing more due to unexpected issues or coding complications. When communicating your budget, be sure you have some flexibility, especially if you’re working with a freelancer.
- Knowing when you need the project to be delivered is another important piece of information that should be communicated upfront. In addition to a firm completion date, bigger projects and WordPress builds can benefit from check-in points along the timeline. If there are certain elements you want to see first, be sure you let your developer know. The best way to be disappointed with a development project (or any project, for that matter) is to not communicate.
- Your Audience. Who do you expect to come to your website? Who is already coming to your website? Giving your developer some context in terms of who will be landing on your website’s pages will help them determine what’s needed and can help guide creative decisions, such as font, images, color schemes, etc.
- Brand Book. If your business has a brand book, or specific colors, fonts, etc. that need to be used, this is a must for your developer. Not giving this crucial information upfront to your developer can cost both of you a lot of time (and potentially money, too).
- What are your must-haves when it comes to your website? Are there any design features you have to have? Are there any elements that you would be disappointed if they were not incorporated? Don’t make your developer read your mind. By giving them specific guidelines, you help them make your website better. These guidelines can be used at the end of the project to help determine if your developer was successful, so don’t overlook these and don’t leave anything out. If you’re not happy with your final website but you didn’t give clear guidelines, then you won’t have a good case for asking for elements to be changed or modified.
- While they can’t be used in place of guidelines, examples can help developers get a feel of the end product you’re looking for. There is, however, too much of a good thing. A list of thirty websites you love is less helpful than a list of three. Keep it simple, short and sweet. And, when you can, explain what you like about the example (and what you don’t like) to provide even better direction.
- The front-facing features of a website are easier to grasp and explain for most people than the back-end development, which is why a lot of clients will focus their attention on the “look and feel.” The back-end of the development process is critical, so if there are any specific requests you have about how you need or want your website to operate, this should also be included in your project brief.
- How do you prefer your developer stay in touch with you during your project? Do you love phone calls or are texts best? Do you want weekly Skype updates or are emails fine? Is leaving a voicemail ever appropriate or should everything be kept strictly in the inbox? Letting your developer know which form of communication is best can help make sure you get important messages and notes, and without ever feeling like boundaries have been crossed.
- Intellectual Property. Will the developer have claim to the IP of your final product or will you? Do not leave this up to guesses or assumptions.
In addition to this information, a great project brief will also be very clear about payments.
Is there going to be a payment made upfront? Will the entire project be paid in full after the project is completed? Will there be payments made at specific milestones? Managing expectations here at the very beginning can help keep you and your developer on good terms throughout the project.
Step Four – Find a Few Good Fits
While you’ll ultimately choose just one WordPress developer for your project, it’s okay to swipe right on a few that pique your interest. Having a few developers in contention can help you compare (and fill in those missing details on your pro/con list).
Depending on your personality and your project, you may stay in dating phase for a bit, which is totally fine! Don’t feel like you have to rush the process.
But, when you do find a good fit, don’t drag your feet either. Deciding to finally pull the trigger on your website development project can feel a little scary, but it will be even scarier to try to carry your business without a great website!
Step Five – Talk to Real People
Part of “dating” your potential WordPress developers is to talk to them – in person. No, it’s not always an option. But, if it isn’t, you might ask why.
Is there a reason they don’t want to list a phone number? Is there a reason why they aren’t willing to be responsive? If getting a hold of the developer or the team you want to work with feels like dragging your high school sweetheart to dinner at your grandma’s house, then maybe it’s time to reconsider.
If, however, you talk to a real person, you get the benefit of making a real connection. This connection can help serve you if you do move forward because it can help you navigate any of the issues that might come up during development.
If you’re having a hard time deciding between your few good fits, talking to real people is usually where that decision gets made.
Step Six – Ask the Right Questions and Hire
If you’ve gotten a developer on the phone, then using your project brief as a guide can help you ask the right questions.
Knowing what you want and when you need it (for starters) can determine right away if the developer you’re working with can deliver. Some individuals and teams are great at making wonderful impressions. Some are even better at selling! But, if they’re not able to give you exactly what you need, then you’ll still end up disappointed with your choice.
Keep your conversation focused and have an idea of how you want or need your developer to respond to certain questions. While you have them, ask for recommendations that you can follow up with, especially if they’re a freelancer with a small or less visible portfolio.
After speaking to your developer and making your final decision, there still should be a formal “hiring” process – even if that’s just an email.
If you’re working with a professional team, it’s likely that you will go to their website to finalize some sort of “check-out” process. If it’s a custom request, that might come through a link dropped in an email. If you’re working with a freelancer, making sure you have some sort of proof of a written agreement before sending payment is key. Never send payment for a project without an agreement for what will be delivered and when.
Step Seven – Don’t Stop Communicating
Even if you follow steps one through six perfectly, there’s a good chance something will still go wrong if you don’t stay in the loop.
Be available to answer questions your developer may have as well as hold them accountable for milestones and deadlines. If something comes up in terms of schedule for either yourself or your developer, both parties should know that they are responsible for communicating.
While it’s easy to want to put all of the accountability on the developer, you still need to do your part as a client to be an active participant in the process.
The One Guarantee We Can Make About Hiring the Right WordPress Developer
Like we said earlier, this checklist is a tool to help you increase your chances of hiring a talented WordPress developer for your website. Following the steps is a great place to start, but it’s by no means a guarantee that you still can’t be underwhelmed with your final project.
Freelancers can disappear.
Reviews can be crafted by businesses.
Products can be falsely advertised.
That’s just the way the world works, especially when you deal with the wild west of online business. But, if you’re looking for a solid guarantee, there is one we can offer: Work with us at FreshySites.
FreshySites is a professional contract team that will develop the WordPress website you’ve been wanting.
We’ll talk to you. We’ll listen to you. We’ll even scroll through your Pinterest boards to find that graphic you’ve been thinking about. We’ll go above and beyond to deliver a website that does what you want and without ever sacrificing the way it looks.
We have a long list of super satisfied customers that can vouch for our work. (We even have physical locations staffed by incredible teams of WordPress pros – the same ones that will work on your website).
At FreshySites, we can guarantee that your final product will be exactly what you wanted. And, if it’s not, we’ll keep working.
We have a reputation of being the best WordPress developers for businesses across the country, and we’ll do everything we can to keep it that way.
So, when you’re ready to get started making your list of WordPress developers you want to consider for your project, we hope you’ll consider us and our dedicated teams.
In a world where website development really can be rotten, we’re here to keep things fresh for you and your business.