This is my talk at WordCon / WordCamp Asia 2011. Here are the notes from my presentation – for my reference and yours. If you enjoyed my ideas here, please Like or tweet this post. Thanks!
I’ve had the privilege of working on many WordPress projects big and small throughout my career. However in many situations I’ve realized that creating a great design and then turning it into a high-quality WordPress theme is not enough to make the project a success. WordPress developers can find themselves in this situation when
- the client has different expectations – the developer delivers a theme, but the client is left scratching their heads wondering, “How does this WordPress thing and a zip file going to become my website?”
- there is little or no documentation – the developer assumes that the client can just figure it out because hey, WordPress is a piece of cake!
- there is little or no support – what happens when the client needs help? Most freelance developers do not specify a support process for clients, which leads to frustrations on both ends.
I have identified 4 approaches for developers to prevent unnecessary stress between the client and developer:
- Don’t use WordPress, just because you’re familiar with it and especially if the client doesn’t need a CMS.
- Provide website updates and support as monthly subscription
- Simplify WordPress by removing menus and unnecessary features. I’m against this because it makes WordPress into something it’s not.
- Bulletproof WordPress (and the client-developer relationship) by implementing the strategies below.
Educate clients about WordPress and set expectations. Make it clear to the client that running a website is like driving a car so that they are prepared for the commitment in owning one. If they aren’t prepared, you the developer are available to provide assistance. Just like how they might send their car for a professional wash and wax, your professional help costs money too.
Pre-empt potential problems. Anticipate stumbling blocks and nip them in the bud, e.g. feature overwhelm and auto-updates not working. Take the extra time to do these before handing over the site and developers will save time in providing support.
Proper documentation. Again, taking the time to create the documentation for the site will save time later. Instructions hurriedly sent over via email does not constitute proper documentation. There are lots of options to create manuals, user guides and tutorials for the client. My favorite technique is to record a screencast for the client.
Provide inline / contextual hints. Similar to the above, this strategy advocates creating documentation for the client but breaking it up smaller pieces and displaying them only where necessary.
Provide shortcuts for more complex functions. Finally, shortcuts are stuff that makes it easier for the client to perform a particular task, e.g. formatting text and adding images into the sidebar – difficult with the text widget, easy with the Rich Text Widget. I also like to make use of custom shortcodes in my themes.
In conclusion, some clients really are idiots but most aren’t but will still need hand-holding, support and education. Despite needing extra time and effort to bulletproof your work, it’s worth it because happier clients will lead to more business for you :)
P.S. Dear clients who are reading this post, ‘idiot’ is just a moniker. I don’t mean you. Really :P
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