Do you know what a “legacy project” is? That’s when a client hires you to take over someone else’s work (their legacy). I have seen some really Bad WordPress Habits that have compromised the client’s ability to upgrade and in turn benefit from all the new features that come with new releases. It’s truly sad because the whole point of going with an “open-source” platform is to benefit from the community (collaborating with others).
There are some really talented programmers out there that can script anything you can imagine, but that doesn’t mean that they play well with others which is the foundation of open-source. That said, I strongly advise that you ask these questions before starting with a new developer to ensure that your site stays inline with WordPress standards and best practices.
1) Will all plugins and theme be safe to upgrade as new releases come?
You want to be sure that they do not code the site in a way that customizations are lost when the respective plugins and themes are upgraded. Upgrading is very important if you want to defend yourself against the latest WordPress exploits (hackers, viruses, etc.) and more often than not, it’s the gift of wordpress, i.e. new free features and improvements… how many developers are willing to spice things up free of charge? There lies the reason why you don’t want to get “ball & chained” by a developer who choses to work within his own playground.
2) Will the plugins and themes you use have detailed documentation on usage? What about your changes, will they be logged as notes somewhere?
Sometimes developers cut corners by writing their own little scripts within the plugins they’ve installed, the theme they selected or even worse… within the WordPress installation files. If these small changes they make aren’t noted then you will discover them the next time you upgrade when everything breaks. This has happened to me a few times, even if I checked for compatibility with the previous developer before upgrading. Often, they don’t even remember the changes they made themselves because they never wrote them down. Make sure your developer appreciates the importance of detailed notes for future reference.
3) Will you be using your own plugins? If so, are they part of the WordPress.org plugins library?
Finding a developer who can write custom plugins is great but it’s even better if the plugins they write are part of the WordPress.org plugins library. Think of plugins as either “white box” which is open to everyone versus “black box” which is only available to you. If the plugin is open to everyone, then bugs and patches are rendered much sooner.
Would you rather have a plugin that is exclusively yours or one that has been tried and tested by hundreds if not thousands of other users? When you submit your plugin to the community you are effectively hiring an army of people to help improve it and not relying on one developer who has only one unhappy client. When plugins become incompatible with new releases… all the users that have it will be asking the developer or even helping the developer to debug it.
4) What do you know about search engine optimization? Do the sites you build rank well?
You may or may not know that there is a simple little switch within the Settings menu for WordPress that allows you to block search engines. A good developer will build your site behind a curtain by blocking it from search engines or better yet… using a secret domain name. You just want to be sure that they remember to unblock the site and submit urls to search engines when it launches. Otherwise, you might have a pretty website that no one can find.
I would be curious to know if they have used Google Webmasters and know the general guidelines for SEO… otherwise you may find yourself with a big mess that could require an overhaul. I’ve seen developers make a mess of urls by renaming posts or categories and forgetting to update their slugs. Duplicate content can really weigh you down if your developer isn’t in the habit of cleaning up all the “half-assed” changes they made in the past.
5) Can you make sure the site design is consistent across all browsers?
This is another nasty surprise. Be sure you ask your developer to ensure the site design doesn’t change from one browser to another. I’ve seen clients gasp when I meet with them and show them their website on my notebook which uses Firefox instead of Internet Explorer. Little did they know that their site could look different from one computer to the next.
There are 3 main CSS engines, i.e. Trident (Internet Explorer), Gecko (Firefox) & Webkit (Safari). You may want to consider using a service like “browsershots.org” to check your site on all browsers rather than installing multiple browsers on your computer. Generally speaking, if the site looks consistent across the 3 main css engines you should be a-ok.
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