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WordPress Developers: Rip Off Merchants Or Vital Coding Experts? We Investigate

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Last Updated on June 17, 2019

WordPress development costs are all over the map. I’ve seen WordPress development costs range anywhere from $500 to $2,500 and beyond, and that’s just for a simple website.

But, when you can get a professional-looking WordPress theme for just $50-200 that you can get up and running all by yourself, is the money you pay a developer actually worth it?

Well, the answer is yes and no.

You can play around with a premium WordPress theme and get something pretty good. But, if you want something mouthwatering that looks and performs better than the other sites in your niche, then you might want to bring a WordPress developer on board.

When it comes to pricing, if the site matches your expectations and fulfills your needs, then the high price will leave you feeling elated. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel like you got swindled.

So, we run into the age old issue of spending too much money for something you don’t want.

Below you’ll learn about the issues surrounding development pricing, the balance between site needs and price, and finally what steps you can take to find the best WordPress developer for you.

The Debacle of Development Pricing

[viral_gform id=”12″] The price you pay for a site should be directly linked to the value you’re getting. But, the biggest problem we run into is the lack of defining that value from the client’s side.

After all, you won’t be able to evaluate price quotes if you don’t know what kind of finished site you’re looking for. Just saying, “I want a website for my nail salon isn’t enough.”

If the client doesn’t know what they need, the chances are high they’ll end up overspending on a site that’s far more than they actually want.

If you’re reading this from the client side, then you need to look at your business first and what you want your website to achieve before you even start shopping around for developers. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s your budget for a new site?
  • What’s your goal for your site? To generate leads? To showcase my products? To have a content-focus to grow my authority? To act as a simple portfolio of my services?
  • What are your future goals for your site after the initial build?

With a well-defined idea of the present and future goals of your site you’ll be much better prepared to analyze price quotes against the final deliverable promised by the developer.

Price issues arise when the developer is playing the guessing game. Instead of being able to quote accurately based upon creating a site that suits the client’s needs they make a guesstimate of what the client wants and overcharging can result.

That being said, not every developer is honest with their pricing, which we’ll get into below.

The Best Developers Are “Best” for You

When you’re trying to find the right developer, you’re not necessarily looking for the best WordPress developer in the world. Instead, your focus should be on finding the best developer for your specific needs.

One of the big issues in pricing comes out when developers who specialize in one style of site try to sell this style of site to their clients. Even if it isn’t the best option for their needs! The only outcome in this negotiation is an unhappy client.

Instead of pushing for their unique solution, developers should be in a problem-solving mindset. If they aren’t best suited to build the site you want, then who is?

If the client is still unsure about the exact style of website they want, then the developer should work with the client to discover this. If they aren’t in that position, then maybe it’s a good idea to bring in a consultant who can help uncover the client’s needs, even if that means losing the client.

In the age of specialization, you can surely find a WordPress developer with experience in the exact kind of site you want to build.

You Need a Timeless Design

When thinking about your site you need to have a future-oriented mindset. Something that looks great today might look “so 2017” in a couple of years. You want to avoid this.

Have you ever come across a site that screams 1990? It’s kind of scary and makes the business look like a joke. Although it would be difficult for your site to travel that far back in time, you want to make sure you work with a developer who can future proof your site.

This means they’ll need to focus on making your site clean, simple, and very usable. Sites with too many interactive elements can become dated rather quickly.

However, choosing WordPress does gives clients a super solid and flexible foundation to work from, even if the site needs to be redesigned in a few years. Worst case scenario, you have to change out your theme in a few years.

How to Hire a WordPress Developer

WordPress is an incredible and flexible platform. Hiring the right developer will help you maximize the potential of the platform.

The better prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be able to find the perfect developer for you. Below we walk you through the process of defining your project and determining your overall needs.

1. Create a Brief

A great way to figure out your needs is by creating a project brief. This little document will come in handy for your purposes, and the developers you might end up hiring.

To create your brief answer the following questions:

  • What is your company about?
  • What are the business goals for your site?
  • What’s the overall scope? Customizing an existing theme? Building a theme from scratch? Any additional custom plugins needed?
  • Do you already have your domain and hosting taken care of?
  • What are your competitors’ sites? Are they doing anything you like?
  • Do you have any existing brand elements? Your logo? Color scheme?
  • Who is your very specific target audience for the site?
  • What’s your existing budget? An estimate is fine here.

2. Set a Ballpark Price

Rates for WordPress developers vary widely. The most common pricing model is a fixed price based upon set deliverables. If you check out Upwork, which has millions of developer profiles, the average WordPress developer rate ranges from $20 to $100+ an hour.

The larger your budget the better quality WordPress developer you can afford to work with. However, this isn’t always the case. You’ll want to analyze each potential developer with the process highlighted below.

3. Define Project Scope

To get accurate project quotes there needs to be a detailed project scope. The project scope will reflect the total amount of work required for the developer.

Whether you’re looking for a full-blown eCommerce store, or a simple 3 page website to showcase your local business, the site-building process will generally involve the following steps:

  • Initial marketplace and audience research
  • A basic wireframe to map out site pages and layout
  • Theme choice and customization
  • Adding (or coding) any plugins required for functionality
  • Testing across multiple browsers and devices
  • Edits and final site approval

4. Look For “Perfect Fit” Developers

The search for the “perfect” developer begins with knowing what to look for.

There is a big gap between great WordPress developers, and developers who know how to install a theme and edit a few files. Great developers will cost more money but will be able to deliver a timeless high-quality website.

When searching for a developer keep the following in mind:

  • Check out their portfolio, websites, and profiles on sites like Github. This will give you a feel for their work and what the end result of working with them will be like.
  • See if they have any case studies that document their work and thought process.
  • Look to see if they blog regularly. This will give you an idea of their communication style and overall working knowledge.

WordPress Developers should possess these technical skills:

  • Properly enqueueing styles and scripts. This will ensure that styles and scripts are loaded at the right time as well as integrate better with plugins such as Better WordPress minify.
  • Putting any custom functionality into a plugin instead of the WordPress theme. This is important for future redesigns.
  • Delivering clean, light code that validates. Having a website without code bloat is very important for the page speed of your website, while validated code could reduce cross-browser inconsistencies.
  • Recommending plugins that perform well. A competent WordPress developer will know which plugins to use and which to stay away from.

5. Choosing to Go Local or Not

You might decide that you want to hire a local developer. Some people feel more comfortable being able to talk person-to-person. If this is you, then keep in mind that this will shrink your pool of available applicants.

If you’re spending a lot of money on a new site, then you might prefer to work with someone in person. This will give you a more hands-on approach to building your site and will help you avoid any lapses in communication.

If you choose to work with a non-local developer you might be able to find a high-quality developer for a lower price. For example, you can find a great and very affordable Ukrainian designer, but it might be hard to communicate the subtleties of what you want. However, paying someone $25 an hour, versus $250 an hour, might help to offset any inconveniences that arise.

Ultimately, the route you choose depends on how much you’d like to spend and how comfortable you feel in your hiring.

Places to Find Your Ideal WordPress Developer

The ideal WordPress developer will have experience in creating sites like yours, have a portfolio of completed projects, and be within your price range. With a number of WordPress developers out there you’re sure to find one that matches up.

Of course, the options below don’t cover every single avenue for finding a developer. But, they will give you a great jumping off point.

1. Freelancer Sites and Job Boards

There are hundreds of freelancer sites across the internet where you can post jobs and have hundreds of freelancers bid on your project. Some are WordPress-specific, like WordPress’s Job Board, Smashing Jobs, and WP Hired, but others are more general project bidding sites, like Upwork and Freelancer.

If you post a job on a WordPress-specific job board, you can expect more qualified and pricey developers. While on more general freelancer sites, you’ll get a lot more bids for your job, but not all of them will be relevant. You might have to sort through a lot of bids to find someone qualified (who actually read your proposal).

2. Seek Out Recommendations

Referrals and recommendations are a great place to start. The chances are slim that a friend or colleague of yours will recommend a shoddy developer.

If you know someone who hires a lot of WordPress work, then ask them who they use and if they’d mind getting you in touch?

Another method is to find WordPress websites that you love and getting in touch with the developer. To do this, install a Chrome extension called Page X-Ray. Whenever you visit a website, the toolbar will show a WordPress logo if the site was built on WordPress.

If they’re not a direct competitor, you can contact the owners and ask who did their development work.

3. Look for Specialized WordPress Agencies

Finally, there are several WordPress agencies that solely focus on building WordPress sites. Working with one of these agencies will be a more expensive option, but the process should be straightforward and headache free.

WP Engine maintains a Favorite Consultants page where they list their top choices of consultants that provide services for your WordPress website.

In Closing

It’s not the case that WordPress developers charge too much, but instead that the final product doesn’t align with the client’s goals and expectations. By finding the perfect developer client match the notion of paying too much goes out the window. When you do have the extra cash to spend, premium WordPress hosts such as WP Engine are worth looking into for a sensible investment.

What do you think about WordPress developer pricing? Too high, too low, or just right? Please share in the comments below.

Last update: September 12th, 2017

Kevin Wood is a freelance writer specializing in technology and human potential. When he’s not digging deep into technical topics, you might find him getting lost in the woods or scrawling lines of poetry in a notebook.