We’ve all heard the client horror stories. You know, the ones that bring to mind a certain comic from The Oatmeal? Still, if you’re a client and unsure of what goes into the development process, coming to a place of understanding means viewing things from the developer’s perspective. To help out clients (and give devs some peace of mind), we’ve put together a list of nine things WordPress developers wish clients knew about the site design and development process.
A look through this list ought to act as a bit of validation for devs and be highly informative for current or future clients.
Just Because A Plugin Exists, Doesn’t Mean You Need To Use It
“I wish more clients would know that just because a plugin exists for something, it doesn’t mean that functionality will be incredibly quick and simple to integrate within their project,” says Kristen Faulkner, a WordPress web designer, and developer.
“While plugins are great and can definitely provide a strong starting point, there can often be significant customization involved to get that functionality fully up and running.”
She offers an example:
“I love WooCommerce, but getting a fully functional store that perfectly matches the rest of a custom theme isn’t going to just be a matter of installation and activation,” she says. “It’ll give you a huge leg up on that feature but modifying templates and CSS will still take time […and] there are cases where a plugin might not even be the best route to achieve certain functionality.”
At the end of the day, just because a plugin exists and can add certain functionality to your site doesn’t mean it should be used. “It would be great if there was a better understanding that the work rarely stops at ‘Activate,'” she says.
It’s Okay To Ask Questions
Asking questions about the designer or developer’s experience and skill set is totally acceptable, says Laird Sapir, owner of Memphis McKay, which specializes in websites for authors. “Any developer who acts like they are too cool to talk to a client like a human is one you probably don’t want to work with,” she says.
Also, being nice matters. “If someone doesn’t communicate in a professional and friendly way before you hire them, they are not likely to act any different after you do,” Sapir says.
Shortcuts Aren’t Worth It
Sapir also wishes clients knew that shortcuts just aren’t worth it most of the time. “Doing something right the first time might cost more money up front, but it will save you money down the road,” she says. Shortcuts apply to the cost of design services as well.
“What takes me 10 minutes to do took me 10 years and countless investments in software and my education to learn how to do,” she says. “If you wouldn’t haggle with your plumber or your electrician, you should probably not haggle with your designer.”
A Website Should Reflect The Client’s Brand And Message
A website is about the client’s company and/or brand, so it needs to reflect this fact, notes Ryan James Rhoades, co-founder and creative director of Reformation Designs.
“A company’s website is basically their real estate on the internet and should be valued as such,” he says, adding, “A lot of people just think that if they throw up some DIY website from GoDaddy or the other hosting providers that it will be as good as if a professional designed it and it’s just not true.”
To better illustrate this idea, he offers an example: “In the same way, that I wouldn’t trust amateurs to lay the foundation of a house I was about to purchase, I would not trust amateurs to lay the foundation of my brand online (my website).”
Building Websites Takes Time
How long it takes to accomplish certain tasks in web development is important for clients to know, says Rhys Wynne, Lead Developer of Winwar Media. “Often things that are ‘can you just…’ are actually quite difficult in the grand scheme of things,” he says. Developers need to clearly communicate how long tasks take so clients will come to an understanding about “how long things are expected to take, rather than have preconceptions,” Wynne says.
Good Hosting Is Worth Its Weight In Gold
A good hosting provider can make all the difference in the success of your site, says Sapir. While it may not sound “glamorous” good hosting is “worth the investment.” She recommends paying a little bit more for a host that “goes the extra mile” by offering advanced security features, speed optimization, and good customer service. “Worth. Every. Penny.”
Appreciation For The Process
Jason Resnick, WordPress developer, wishes more clients were like his current roster and understood that “things aren’t fast, quick, AND cheap,” he says. The process of building sites requires “a ton of moving parts…” and “…like a car or a house, things need to be kept up with and checked on regularly to make sure that the site is performing at its best.”
“I think many clients realize that things need to be kept up with, but they really only want to pay for the things that are visual rather than the foundation that the site is built on,” he adds. This might work for some in the short-term, but ultimately a site without a strong foundation is one that will cost the client exponentially more in the long-run should they decide to make dramatic changes later.
Websites Are Built For Your Visitors, Not You
Even though it’s your website, Greg Young, developer for Emily White Designs, wishes more clients understood that “Your website is being built for your visitors, not you, and it is being built for them to use.”
A lot of the time, clients prioritize their personal design preferences over function.
“Put your attraction to fun fonts and busy backgrounds aside, and focus on developing the most user-friendly interactive communication tool possible,” he says. “Absolutely add your own touches of flair where appropriate, but the needs of the visitor must always come first.”
Websites Are Living Things
“If there was one thing I wish clients knew about building WordPress websites, it’s that it’s a living thing,” says Matt Cromwell, Head of Support at WordImpress and co-author of GiveWP. “So many people still think of websites as static and don’t go into it thinking of how their site should grow and evolve over time.”
If there were a better understanding of this fact, he’s convinced that clients would be more likely to invest in the “right tools” and even in “their own personal education on using WordPress,” he says. With this concept in mind, clients would be more likely to “dedicate funds to having someone maintain and update their plugins/themes and even their content,” he adds.
He closes with this thought: “The simple step of thinking of a site as a living thing positively changes the whole way a business owner or site admin deals with their website and their hired developers.”
While no two developers are exactly the same in their approach to site design, there are numerous commonalities, especially in terms of client interaction and relationships. Hopefully, these devs have offered some valuable insight.
Now we’d love to hear from you. What do you wish clients knew about building websites?