What may be surprising is that the tickets generally describe a problem with a former developer, or worse, a problem that was caused by the previous developer. So, we’ve seen our fair share of headaches that WordPress website owners experience after having worked with under-qualified developers or companies that just can not provide the level of expertise that they need.
Here are some things to keep in mind when outsourcing WordPress support projects to help you avoid some of the problems we’ve witnessed and worked with:
Look for More Than a Developer. Seek a WordPress Expert.
WordPress is built on PHP. So naturally, most users look for a PHP developer to help them. We’ve seen this sort of hiring happening all the time. Sometimes, the results are unfortunately disastrous, as some PHP developers that aren’t familiar with WordPress use the opportunity to experiment with it.
When outsourcing WordPress support projects or looking for technical support in general, don’t just settle with a developer who’s proficient with PHP, JS, HTML, and/or CSS. These are the very basics when it comes to troubleshooting WordPress. Instead, look for someone who is an expert in all things WordPress and has the experience to speak to their solution.
WordPress is a very robust application with hundreds of features that probably go unused at any point. For example, in order to implement an email tracking solution, whether it be through a plugin or a customized application, you want to tap into a WordPress developer that understands how the wp_mail() function works.
When you start to work with a new developer whose background you haven’t vetted, set up a couple of pilot tasks for them to do in a staging environment. To set up a staging site, you can either clone yours or just spin up a separate instance of WordPress. Most commercial hosts nowadays, even budget hosts, should provide a staging environment feature.
Then, create a test/fake problem that can only be fixed effectively by someone who really understands WordPress. For example, you can specify a blog index page and ask the developer to filter the display to exclude posts that are tied to one of your categories. For most themes, this would call for one to first create a child theme and make some light changes to some files. This should take no more than 30 minutes for a WordPress developer.
But, someone who isn’t experienced with WordPress will either modify the parent theme directly or struggle with creating a child theme, hence taking a very long time to complete the task. This is one of the tasks we require developers to solve when hiring for our support positions.
Logging or Record Keeping
In many instances when we get new signups at Zen WP, the first ticket contains a message along the lines of “I don’t know what my last developer did, but I’m having this issue.”
The problem here is that when you begin working with the new developer, it can take a long time to figure out what went wrong previously. You can avoid the same fate by always asking for detailed records of everything in the form of a report. Your relationship with the developer, when outsourcing WordPress support projects, is always going to be temporary and will only last for the duration of the task or project.
Make sure that when they complete a job, you also receive a detailed explanation or report on:
- Where the changes were made (files, location, etc.)
- Records of anything such as code that was deleted, changed, or added
For example, let’s say you want to remove some elements in your header that comes packaged with the theme’s design. If your developer ends up writing some CSS to hide the element(s) in question, you should get a very specific report like so:
Location of changes:
CSS added beginning on line 323:
Adding the following CSS in your child theme’s stylesheet:
Notice how it’s very clear where the changes were made and what was added. This ensures that when you have trouble getting in contact with the developer again in the future, there isn’t a loss of knowledge as you begin to work with someone else. At most, you’ll be able to revert the changes back yourself by referencing the information provided.
Take a Backup Before Outsourcing WordPress Support Projects
There are a lot of great developers out there. Unfortunately, not everyone is honest. We’ve heard stories where WordPress users hire a freelance developer online for cheap where they wreck the website and mysteriously disappear. It’s sad and unfortunate, but it happens quite a bit.
So what can you do to protect yourself against these scenarios?
The best safety net when anything goes wrong is a complete backup of your site that can be restored quickly. Whenever you decide to work with an independent developer who hasn’t been vetted by a reputable company, make sure you have access to secure backups in case the developer goes AWOL.
Even if you’re working with a company or a vetted developer, having backups for your website is always good practice.
Ideally, you would have some sort of “one-click” backup option implemented, whether this function may backup your entire server or only your WordPress instance.
Regardless, you should take a backup right before your new developer begins working, so that if needed, you can quickly restore a version of your site as it was before the developer began working.
Get Peace of Mind
In conclusion, WordPress is used by all kinds of people; both technical and non-technical, code-savvy or not. Unfortunately for the non-technical folks, you have to rely on help from a developer when you need help introducing new functionality to your website, troubleshooting WordPress problems, or whenever you’re outsourcing WordPress support projects.
Thus, there may be a lot of hesitation when considering outsourcing the work to a third-party. But, by keeping these three points in mind, you can make sure you’re able to protect your website from any critical failures that may affect your business.
On the other hand, seek a reliable WordPress development company or partner that has a history of success and is available to help troubleshoot any technical problems at any time. Most businesses won’t have the budget to hire a full-time developer on stand-by. However, you can work with a WordPress development company to get the same level of service for a fraction of the cost.