How to select a WordPress web development or design agency
WordPress is a brilliant tool to create many and varied websites. Choosing it to build your new website in WordPress means you have a wide range of choices when looking for designers and developers.
Type “WordPress website”, “WordPress web design” or “WordPress developer” into Google and it will throw up a huge amount of possibilities but how do you decide who you should work with? How do you know you will work with a competent WordPress designer and developer, and not some fast talking code cowboy from the web?
There are some basic fundamentals that you need to understand about WordPress and what makes it tick. Once you have some idea of how it works it will give you a better idea of what outcome might be best for your own website.
WordPress is a CMS (Content Management System). It accounts for somewhere around 50-60% of all content management systems on the internet and over 26% of the top 10,000 websites on are powered by WordPress. You are in good company.
Not all WordPress websites are created equal
WordPress is highly customisable and that is one of its main attractions. This means it can be adapted to run a vast array of differing websites that require different functionalities. How your developer builds your site with the WordPress platform can vary enormously, and this is where you need to have an understanding of what can be done.
Your website represents your business. You’ll need to decide on a budget and get the best theme you can afford, but just how do you go about that? Should you customise a theme? Or start one from scratch? What are the differences?
Using a premium theme
In many cases developers may take a premium theme and adapt it to your needs. Some of these themes are built very well, some are not. The developer may utilise the framework in place and cut and paste your copy and images where needed. They may customise areas specifically for your website but still use the main theme features.
This may be perfectly acceptable for many websites who are of a smaller scale but it can lead to a “cookie cutter” look. Premium themes tend to drag down many resources when opening a particular page and reference many external libraries, this can lead to slow load times and unnecessary http requests.
Creators of good premium themes will provide support and updates, so it is very necessary that you have an ongoing relationship with your WordPress developer so that updates and changes can be made. Using a premium theme can give you a slick look out of the box for a lower cost but it does mean you have a long term commitment to a third party and their associated plugins.
There may be some cost advantages upfront but as your website grows and design changes the custom coding required to incorporate changes within their framework may prove difficult and costly.
WordPress also supplies some standard themes with every install (Twenty Thirteen is a default theme supplied with every new install) that can be used to develop WordPress sites without so many bells and whistles. It is these themes that run a great deal of the WordPress personal blogs.
Custom WordPress theme development
Why should you use a custom WordPress theme? Out of the box WordPress comes with some very powerful functionality that can be adapted to deliver you exactly the website you want without cutting any corners. By creating a custom WordPress Theme, your design and functionality will be unique and can be adapted and updated as your business needs change.
It may seem counter intuitive from a cost perspective to create a custom theme, but with more complex websites the time spent struggling with someone else’s code and framework can quickly blow budgets and deliver less than stellar results.
A custom theme will not require the bloated resources of a premium theme, they are slick, and very fast. They generally use less plugins and allow for faster load times providing a better user experience and added juice to your page-rank. It will provide you with a unique basis for updates that is specifically tailored to your needs.
WordPress web design or developer?
You now know bit about WordPress and the options so how do you decide what to do next? Do you find a designer now? Or a developer?
There are a lot of options. You could find someone online who may be able to translate your ideas into a design and then find a developer who may be able to create the functionality within that design, but every time the process is passed to another party obvious difficulties will arise.
A good WordPress website should have a developer and designer involved from the very beginning. The web designer needs to run ideas by the developer to ensure that ideas and functionality mesh and that the desired design outcome can be achieved programmatically.
If you have a very good understanding of WordPress process you may be able to use two separate parties, or alternatively use a project manager, but in general we suggest to find a provider that can handle it all.
Moving forward as your business needs changes you will need to adapt quickly. By having a team that can provide every element of your website you won’t experience downtime and changes will be made fast and generally at a more competitive cost.
What to look for in their work and what you should ask
Not all WordPress developers are created equal. Your website is not a stand alone piece, it needs to interact with all your other touch-points. When looking at potential partners look at their past work, and look at who trusts them with their brands.
Have a very clear understanding of what you want your website to do. Is it simply a brochure site? Does it need to look glamorous and cool? Or is is a website that drives sales and needs to have measurable ROI?
Have a check-list of what you want. Can your potential partner deliver custom imagery and branding elements? Do they need to farm design out? Do they create custom web designs in-house? Do their developers work overseas or in-house? Who will be working on your project? Do they understand SEO from a structural and on page point of view? As your business grows can they assist you with marketing and blog posts or will you have to create another relationship? How long have they been in business? Are they WordPress centric?
Always look beyond their portfolio of work. Ask about their process, and what costs were associated with other projects similar to what you are contemplating. How are projects initiated? Do they provide a clear scope of works and what are the sign-off off touch-points for the project?
Have a clear idea of what you are wanting to achieve, and ensure that any agency you are contemplating engaging with can re-iterate this to you in a clear and concise way.
WordPress is a wonderful tool in the right hands.