5 Questions to Ask a Prospective WordPress Web Developer



Picking the right WordPress developer for your website project is daunting for most business owners. Many prospective clients describe being overwhelmed by unfamiliar jargon and options. They struggle with making an apples-to-apples comparison of the quotes they receive from vendors.

We get it. Most of our team has been on the other side of things in our careers. We can remember how challenging it can be to select a web development partner if this is not an area where you have expertise.

Here are several questions you can ask to help you find the best WordPress web developer for your project.

1. Who will do the work on my website?

Does the developer or agency perform work in-house or outsource it? Some marketing agencies cast a wide net and do not have internal web designers or developers. Instead, they take the project and farm it out in whole or in part to another company or freelancers.

Maybe working with an agency that will outsource your project is acceptable to you and might even save you money on the project. But you should know about it upfront, especially if the freelancers working on your site are based overseas.

Check if the company you hire has quality control and project management practices to ensure that any work they outsource is done right. Other important considerations are ongoing support, code quality and consistency, data privacy, and site security.  

2. What theme will you use to build my site?

Everything in WordPress starts with the design of the theme. A theme is like the skin for your website, controlling its look and feel, color scheme, font treatment, and user interface.

WordPress is incredibly flexible. There are multiple ways to build a website’s theme depending on a client’s requirements and budget. I could write an entire blog article on this topic. But here is a quick overview of the three most common approaches vendors will use to deliver a theme for a WordPress website.

A. Customizing a pre-made theme

A common approach to building a WordPress website is to start with a pre-made theme and then customize its appearance for a client. The look and feel of the pre-made theme are already done, including the design and structure of the site. But the designer can change the colors, add relevant images, and change the copy.

A pre-made theme can save money on website projects with smaller budgets and basic requirements. The tradeoff here will be how differentiated your site looks and how easy it is to customize. There could also be costs associated with licensing the theme to get future support and updates. You might also find yourself bouncing between the developer who customized your site and the original theme author when it is time to get technical support. 

B. Using a page builder to customize a theme

Page builders like Elementor, Divi, and Beaver Builder are popular because they allow users to build snazzy-looking sites quickly and easily using a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) interface without knowing any code.

A page builder can often reduce the upfront cost of creating a website, but there are downsides. Page builders typically have annual licensing costs, which you must pay to ensure your site’s software is up-to-date, secure, and continues to perform as expected. Also, the companies offering page builders design them to be multi-purpose tools with many bells and whistles, including animations, portfolios, galleries, slideshows, and other specialized widgets. Having all these tools might sound good, but chances are your site will only use a fraction of them. Meanwhile, all these features add significant extra code and functionality to your website whether you need it or not. That bloat can slow your website and potentially conflict with other plugins.

Page builders were almost standard in WordPress web development a few years ago. They were popular because WordPress’ original built-in editor lacked many features and could be difficult to use unless users were familiar with HTML and CSS. However, page builders are less relevant nowadays with the introduction and evolution of the native WordPress block editor and full-site editing capabilities.

C. A full custom theme

A custom WordPress theme will give you a bespoke website tailored to your brand. Done well, it will include only your needed features while leaving room to grow and adapt with your business over time. A custom theme should look great, load fast, have an excellent inbuilt  SEO foundation, and be easy to update for what you need for your business.

Best of all, if your developer builds your custom theme to take advantage of WordPress’s block editor and full-site editing capabilities, they can provide you with an excellent usability experience on par with a page builder but without the bloated and unnecessary additional features that would slow down your site and make it less stable.

Since custom themes are built from scratch or using a basic framework, they require more time and coding skills and are, therefore, typically more expensive than the first two methods above. 

All three of the above approaches have pros and cons. We have used all three to meet the needs and budgets of our clients over the years (although we primarily build custom block editor themes nowadays). When you evaluate vendors to help with your website, it is critical to determine which method they are proposing so that you can compare bids appropriately.

3. Can you provide a list of plugins you will install?

Plugins extend the functionality of WordPress, adding advanced and specialized features. Examples include features such as multilingual support, automated backups, e-commerce functionality, and third-party integrations. The sky is the limit with what plugins can do, which is both a boon and a bane.

First, the boon. Plugins are timesavers. Why reinvent (or recode) the wheel when a plugin exists to add a complex feature? Selective use of high-quality plugins is fundamental to cost-effectively delivering a well-made website. 

But they can also be a bane. Each plugin introduces third-party code that could potentially compromise your website. Too many plugins, poorly coded plugins, or abandoned plugins can all cause serious problems impacting your website’s performance, stability, and security.

The best practice with plugins is to be judicious, only using them when they provide significant benefits that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive or impractical to code from scratch. Examples include contact forms, administrative tools (e.g., backups, caching, etc.), e-commerce tools, forum functionality, localization, and API integrations.

A web developer should tell you upfront what plugins they plan to use on your site. Some plugins may be free and open-source, but others require paid subscriptions to ensure updates and support. Ask the developer to explain and justify why each plugin they plan to use is necessary for your web project and who is responsible for any subscription costs.

4. Will you provide training and ongoing support for my website?

WordPress is the most popular web content management system (CMS). That means you won’t have trouble finding resources and people to help with your website if needed.

But it is still essential to know if the team that built your website can provide training on using WordPress generally (and any custom features in particular). The same goes for ongoing maintenance and support. Some developers offer support plans, while others handle this ad hoc hourly. Be sure to find out if and how a web developer can provide training and support after they build your website.

5. What is your web development process?

Website development projects are complex. There are lots of steps involved. You want to know how a prospective web developer plans to manage the process to keep your project running smoothly, on budget, and delivered on time.

 A vendor should let you know who will be your primary point of contact, the project milestones, what you will be responsible for, and how they handle feedback. It should be clear how the vendor treats change requests or new requirements. Bonus points if the vendor uses version control while coding your website. When the project is complete, you should know whether the developer will help you get your new site online by providing hosting or installing it on your preferred web host provider. 

Get a WordPress website that makes you proud

This year, 2023, marks a decade that Digital Agility Media has been delivering outstanding WordPress websites for our clients. We create stunning WordPress websites that are blazing fast, built with high-quality code, easy to use and update, and optimized to your business goals.

Learn more here or contact us today to start a conversation on how we can deliver a WordPress website that you and your customers will love.

Steven Wolpern Avatar