5 Keys to Knowing Your WordPress Website Developer Knows Their Stuff

You need website help, but who do you call? How do you know you’re speaking to the real deal? Lately, it seems like we’ve been doing a lot of WordPress janitorial work (cleaning up other developer’s messes!). Hiring a website developer is a big decision and it can be hard to know if they they really know their stuff. It’s kind of like auto mechanics. Personally, I don’t know my ass from my elbow when it comes to fixing my car and when I shop around for a garage, it’s really hard to know if I’m being taken for a ride. The trick is having some ammunition in your back pocket that you can use to get a better understanding of their skills to make sure they can properly handle your job, and not leave you with a big mess.

There are many online directories for developers-for-hire, and there is always Google, but before you reach out to some random developer that has a cool looking portfolio, consider checking out theme affiliate directories like this one from Woothemes. FirstTracks is listed as an approved affiliate of Woothemes because they have reviewed our work and endorse us as a professional provider of their themes and framework. There are lots of these linked to the various theme providers, and they are good way of getting to a short list of experts. So here are my top 5 questions that you should be asking your new prospective developer.

1. What’s the difference between the WordPress Core, a Framework and a Theme?

Seems basic, but making sure your prospective developer has a good grasp of how the major parts of the WordPress system work together is VERY important. As systems get easier for novice users to single-click install the WordPress core, theme frameworks and themes, we are seeing more people claiming to be developers. What we find, is they have never really looked “under the hood” of WordPress. Here’s an analogy I like. Think of a WordPress website as a house. The WordPress core is your foundation. Your theme framework is the stick built frame that sits on top of the foundation, and last but not least, the theme is the outer shell of the home, i.e. siding, shutters, trim and paint. Understanding how these elements fit together is critical to the creation of a successful website using WordPress. For FirstTracks websites, we always use the most recent WordPress core (important!) and then use the Woothemes framework and Canvas theme. We like to use Canvas because it is essentially a blank canvas. We can create whatever we need for our clients without having to undo pre-designed elements and features. We build your site for you rather than trying to fit you into something someone else already built. This way, the site becomes yours.

2. Do you know what a child theme is and how do you use it?

Child Themes in WordPress are amazingly powerful tools, and we won’t build a WordPress website without one. A child theme allows a developer to customize your selected WordPress theme without touching any of the existing source code from the main parent theme. This makes future updates quick and cost effective. It still shocks me when I am asked to work on a site that doesn’t have a child theme set up. They are important and a development process that a true WordPress expert will always use.

3. What plugins/themes do you use on your sites and why?

In my opinion, any professional developer  has a list of go-to plugins they will use in their projects because they have tested them for consistency, reliability, and security. Sure, it’s great that there are over 28,000 plugins at WordPress.org, but do you want to be the guinea pig for your developer to be testing things they know nothing about? The same goes for themes. Your developer should have some go-to themes they use regularly. We use a lot of Woothemes themes for our projects because the framework is solid, secure, reliable and it’s updated and on a consistent basis. This creates peace-of-mind for us, and more importantly, for our clients.

4. Will my new site be fast?

Ask your prospective developer how they build and optimize their sites for performance. We find many sites running 40 or more garbage plugins all at the same time with no caching or CDN setup. There are excellent caching plugins out there, such as WP Super Cache that is easy to configure and when used in tandem with Amazon CDN, will provide very quick site delivery specs even if you are on the lowest of shared hosting plans. Your developer should know what kind of plugins and themes make your site faster or slower and what to do in order to maximize the speed of your site. They should also be very knowledgeable about how your hosting environment affects your site speed, and how to match your hosting plan with your site.

5. Do you know how to build a proper responsive website?

If you are speaking with a developer about building a new site or overhauling a current one, having that site responsive is a must. Responsive website design  is using what is called CSS Media Queries to dynamically change the presentation and shape of your website based on the size of the devise accessing your site (iPads, Mobile Devices, etc). Our approach is to always build from the smallest mobile devise first. This means that we look at your goals and audience needs and determine the most critical needs at the smallest access point (smart phone) and design from there up to the desktop. This is best because the functionality needed at the mobile level will also be what you’ll want at the desktop level. It’s just a question of how changes happen as the screen gets larger and available real estate increases. Ask your developer to explain their responsive development process and provide samples of their work. Having a website that properly adjusts to the user’s devise is crucial. If your site is difficult to view, your audience is gone.

How Can FirstTracks help you with your next WordPress Website Project?

Well this post ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be, but I felt it was time to get this information out there. Hopefully, this information is helpful when you go to meet with your potential WordPress website developer, or if you prefer, you can just drop us a line. We are always looking for interesting projects. We work with many different businesses and industries. We are WordPress ecommerce experts when it comes to Woocommerce and are excellent responsive website developers.

Save yourself some time, give us a call at 603-924-1978 or fill out our website development request form today and we can start discussing your project today!

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