Talk to A Developer

Mark Root-Wiley & Scott Marlow
These two developers are happy to answer a few questions!

Last week I gave not one but two talks on WordPress for nonprofits. At the first, Mike Brogan and I talked about what it takes to keep a WordPress site going after you’ve launched it. We presented it as part of the 501 Commons Technology Brown Bag series and it was great to share that information with 25-30 people! I’ve posted the slides from that talk at the end of this post.

The next talk was two days later with Scott Marlow at the May 2014 SeaTech4Good meetup. At this meetup, we discussed the advantages of WordPress as compared to other CMSes and gave some tips for getting started with WordPress.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, there was a common thread that arose in both talks. As you might guess from the title, it was this: Talk to a developer!

It’s a Jungle Out There

WordPress sites are relatively easy to setup, but things break, features get more complicated, and sooner or later, a site owner needs help. The flip side of “things break,” is that certain things break less and a good developer can help you make good decisions before you run into problems.

This tweet during the event offered one good reason:

Just on, there are 2,500+ themes and 30.000+ plugins. There are others all across the web. While puts up some low barriers to try to ensure quality, you can bet that most of those themes and plugins aren’t up to snuff. There are entire WordPress theme “marketplaces” that I refuse to buy from due to multiple past bad experiences. What’s more, most of those bad experiences were helping people who had picked a theme and plugins before coming to me. I wonder how much time, money, and pulled-out hair we could have saved if they found me or some other WordPress developer earlier?

Web development can indeed be expensive, but many developers are happy to offer a few quick pointers and links or craft a small project to fit whatever budget you have. Even if you can’t afford to pay much now, find a developer who can help you a bit now and be on call in the future.

If you look at the Services page of my site, you’ll see a lot of technical skills. I know Photoshop and Illustrator. I write code in PHP and CSS. I use weird-sounding programs like XAMPP and Filezilla. ((Filezilla, unlike Godzilla, has remained roughly the same size over its lifetime.)) But a lot of the value I offer my clients is hidden. It’s knowledge of best practices, what themes to use, little gotchas, and common problems. For examples, as I write this, there are 1,337 plugins related to “SEO” ((SEO is “Search Engine Optimization” if you’re not familiar with the acronym. It’s the process of making your site rank well in search result pages.)), yet there’s only one I would use, and it’s served me well for years.

So one way or another, talk to a developer! You—and the developer you hire in the future—will thank you.

As promised, here are the slides from the Brown Bag talk.

2 thoughts on “Talk to A Developer”

  1. Great and important post!

    I can’t help but comment on the first slide in the deck here and the possibility of “wanting a WordPress site”. I think that is such an unfortunate way to approach a communication/engagement problem and one that I do come across more often than I would like.

    You might decide you need a website and you should know the goals it is trying to achieve. But to decide on the platform before finding the right partner is a mistake.

    Find and choose a great individual or team that gets you and will be committed to help you achieve your goals.

    Then in the course of conversation with that partner let him/her/they share why they believe their technology of choice is a great platform to meet their needs. If it is you, you would share the greatness that you can deliver with WordPress. It if were me, I’d share the same about Craft or Statamic.

    Tech should not come “last” after all strategic, design, and resource decisions are made … but is also should not be first.

    1. Seth, thanks for your thoughtful and concise response. (Thanks for the RT too!)

      I completely agree with you that tech can’t come first when it’s at the expense of other conversations around needs, goals, design, strategy, and more. You’ve convinced me that should we give the presentation (we hope to), the title should change! In fact, a lot of the major points we made were platform agnostic but framed with WordPress-specific examples. (Fortunately for us, the attendees at that presentation seemed to fall entirely into the “have a WordPress site” camp. Phew!)

      At the second presentation (about getting started with WP rather than maintaining it), we actually spent a fair amount of time talking about other options (multiple people in the audience had experience with Drupal in particular) and ended up recommending that one attendee get away from WordPress!

      If you’re ever in Seattle, hopefully you can come to SeaTech4Good and give a good pitch the capabilities of your CMSes of choice!

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