wordpress website designer selection

WordPress Website Designer Selection

Judy VedderWebsite Design, WordPress

WordPress website designer selection is a very important step in your website project. There are hundreds of website designers to choose from, and unlike some professions, there is no exam to demonstrate a minimum level of competency. Anyone with a computer and a basic understanding of websites can call themselves a website designer. Working with an inexperienced website designer can end up costing you far, far more than you expected if they do not build your website correctly.

To select a qualified WordPress website design partner who can build a quality website, advise you, and support you through the full development of your website design project and beyond, ask the six questions below before selecting your WordPress website design partner.

1. WordPress Security – How will you make sure my website is secure?

All websites, large or small, are a target for hackers and malware. So do not dismiss website security as unimportant because you think nobody would want to hack your website. There is big money behind website hacking, so they are motivated to hack any website.

A professional website developer will be able to explain:

  • secure hosting options,
  • https protocol,
  • proper file security settings,
  • security hardening plug-ins,
  • secure ways to manage user accounts and passwords,
  • back-up strategies with off-site storage options for disaster recovery,
  • upgrade strategies,
  • how to clean or recover a website if it is hacked or attacked with malware

If your potential website designer cannot explain these website security measures then they may leave your website vulnerable to attack and most likely will not be able to help you if your website is infected.

2. Website Design and Customizations – How will you meet my marketing needs? How will customizations be done to ensure that your website can be upgraded?

Your website design needs to showcase your brand and present your content in a manner that will make it quick and easy for your target market to understand what you do and why they should engage with you. This sometimes can be achieved with a pre-built WordPress theme, or it may require that a custom WordPress theme be developed. A professional WordPress website designer will take you through a website design process that will help determine which solution will best meet your needs.

If a pre-built WordPress theme is going to be used you need to understand why a specific theme is being suggested and ensure that the theme author is reputable, that theme is being maintained, and that it is compatible with your version of WordPress. All customization must be done in a theme area, or child theme, that is not overridden on upgrade. Unfortunately, we have had people come to us with a broken website because their “website developer” customized files that are overridden on upgrade. This can be a budget buster if the website owner now has to absorb the cost to have the work done correctly. It is often less expensive to hire a professional website developer to do the work correctly the first time.

If the website developer is creating a custom theme for you, ask them if they are using a starter theme, such as Underscores, to ensure that they are following all WordPress theme development best practices.

3. WordPress Plug-ins – What plug-ins do you plan to use on my website and why? How do you select plug-ins?

WordPress plug-ins can provide important functionality to a website, such as a contact form.  However, before installing plug-ins on your website, you should ensure that the author of the plug-in is reputable, that the plug-in is being maintained, and that the plug-in is compatible with your version of WordPress.

A professional website developer will be able to tell you the main plug-ins they expect to use on your website, what functionality each plug-in provides, and how they select plug-ins to be installed. If a website developer cannot provide this type of information they are likely inexperienced and you should move on.

We often have WordPress websites that come to us as maintenance clients and the website is loaded with unnecessary plug-ins or plug-ins that are deactivated. Plug-ins, like WordPress, need to be upgraded on a regular basis to keep your website secure. If you have unnecessary plug-ins installed this adds to the maintenance of your website and provides avenues for hackers to access your website.

4. Website Performance – What steps will you take to optimize the performance of my website?

Google’s PageSpeed Insights  is one tool to measure the performance of a website.  Their website performance includes how fast the website loads on desktop and mobile devices and the usability of the website on mobile devices. Websites with good performance will rank higher in search engines and will provide a better user experience. We all have left a website that simply took too long to load.

A professional website designer should be able to explain what steps they will take to optimize the performance of your website and demonstrate what they have done on other websites to improve performance.

5. Search Engine Optimization – What on-page SEO steps will you take?

Search engine optimization is a very large area and is often a whole project on its own. However, fundamental decisions made now will build a sound SEO base and can save you a bundle in the future.  Any website project should plan the website structure, use of heading tags, meta tags, page descriptions, categories, tags, and sitemap xml. Any public website, unless you take active steps to forbid it, will be crawled by search engine bots and indexed in search results. Basic on-page SEO gives you more control over what is shown in search results. However, this work needs to be done correctly. We have had clients come to us and we discovered that the “SEO expert” actually did things that could get the website penalized by search engines.

If the WordPress website designer cannot explain what on-page SEO steps they will take and demonstrate the effectiveness of these steps on other website that they have created, then you would be wise not to select them as your WordPress website designer.

6. Past Performance – What other project have you done? What did you do on the project? Was the project successful – why or why not?  What would you do differently on the next project and why?

The step of checking on past website design projects is often skipped, and it may be the easiest step for a person not familiar with website development to perform.

Ask the WordPress Website designer to show you at least two past website development projects that are similar to your project and explain what they did on each project and why. This allows you to understand the website designer’s communication skills and level of knowledge.

Request client contact information for the same website projects and communicate with the reference to understand their experience with the developer, the quality of the work performed, and the developer’s work style.

The time spent reviewing past website projects and checking references could save you a lot of time, a lot of money, and frustration in the long-run.

In summary, asking these six questions will help you separate out the professional WordPress website designers from those whose knowledge does not go beyond a one click WordPress install and adding a theme.