WordPress sites are everywhere these days. And so are WordPress developers.\nBut hiring a good developer for your custom WordPress theme is difficult! Before you go out and start trying random developers that may or may not work out, read this guide.\nIt’ll tell you everything you need to know to hire the best developer for your WordPress site. First, though, let’s talk about why you should hire a WordPress developer in the first place.\nDo you really need a WordPress developer?\nWhen you are building a WordPress site, you have two different paths you can take:\n\nBuy an off-the-shelf theme from somewhere like themeforest.net or themify.me\nWork with a WordPress developer to create a custom theme\n\nWhy would you want to use an off-the-shelf theme?\nOff-the-shelf WordPress themes are great for a few use cases. Most importantly, they enable you to go live with a simple site for your idea or small business without much overhead cost.\n\nPros of a pre-built theme:\n\nCost is minimal—you could even use a free theme!\nFast to set up if you have minimal needs and requirements\nGreat for brochure sites and small businesses who don’t need much customization\n\nCons of a pre-built theme:\n\nDifficult to customize\nNot easy to add custom landing pages\nNot all plugins and third-party tools will be compatible\nDebugging or fixing issues may be more difficult\nDoesn’t support the scale and customization required for larger businesses\n\nWhile these cons might not seem like significant drawbacks, they can make your life more difficult if you want to expand or augment your site in the future.\nSo it’s definitely a good idea for most people to go with a custom WordPress theme.\nBut what does that even mean?\nCustom WordPress solutions\nWhen you commission a custom WordPress theme, you get a site that is built specifically for you. It takes into account all of your needs and use cases.\nOnce the site is completed, you will have a content management system (CMS) that makes it easy for you to manage all the content on your site. And you’ll have a custom design tailored to your business.\nHere’s a custom WordPress site that we built for Detail Delivery. It captures the feeling of their business, presents all the important information a visitor needs, and looks much better than an off-the-shelf theme:\n\nIn the future, you’ll be able to expand your site out as necessary with additional content and landing pages without having to modify theme code.\n\nCustom WordPress themes make your site look great and work exactly as you need it to\nNo coding is required to update to your site. Just add content when you need it\nCustom themes equip sites with different functions, page layouts, widgets, and other visual enhancements\nYou can easily customize and extend features for your needs using core WordPress functionality\n\nFor your corporate business, it’s best to build—or hire someone to build—your CMS. Small businesses have a lot to gain from custom WordPress development, too. Of course, this requires that you have deep skills designing, developing and implementing WordPress sites.\nDo you have these skills or experience in-house? No? Then it’s time to find someone who does…\nYou’ve got options\nThere are three main options you have for custom WordPress development: a freelancer, an in-house developer, or a contracted WordPress development team.\nIf it helps, here’s a very detailed read about real costs for hiring an employee versus a contract developer. (Spoiler: contracting is cheaper.)\nAs you might expect, there advantages and disadvantages to each.\nFreelancers\nHiring a freelancer is a great option for those looking to keep costs down. But there’s some risk, since you are relying on a single person for support and updates to your site. Someone needs to directly manager freelancers, and their success (or failure) is largely dependent on the person hiring and managing.\nSkill level is difficult to determine unless you’ve worked extensively with the freelancer in the past or know someone who has and offers a great recommendation. Be doubly sure to check portfolios and recommendations where they’re available.\nIn-house WordPress developers\nHiring in-house could be a good way to go for teams that have a large number of WordPress sites to manage. Especially if they’re making constant updates to the codebase or otherwise have a large amount of support required.\nIf you don’t have the need for full time changes and updates to the site, the overhead of a full time WordPress developer may outweigh the benefits. It’s also hard to find full-time developers of any kind!\nContracted WordPress development teams\nDo you want want a more managed process? You can rely on a contracted team for planning, development, deployment, as well as long-term support and updates. This is great for a business looking to support their marketing or IT teams with a quality CMS who don’t need or want to hire a full-time WordPress developer.\nA great contracted team will build your WordPress site to make it easy to manage and sustainable long term by enabling you to use it as a true Content Management System as opposed to a site that is difficult and cumbersome to edit.\nFor the vast majority of people, a freelancer or a contracted team is going to be the best choice. Once you’ve decided which route to take, though, you still have to pick a developer.\nHow do you do that?\nHow to find a custom WordPress developer\nNo matter which type of developer you decide to go with, you’re going to need to do some looking around to find one. There are three main ways you can do this.\n\nAsk for referrals. If you know anyone who’s had a custom WordPress theme developed for them, ask if they could recommend a developer for you.\nSearch online. Running a quick search will give you lots of options. But they won’t necessarily be the best ones. You’ll have to do some research.\nCheck a freelance marketplace. Lots of freelancers have profiles on marketplaces like Hubstaff Talent, Upwork, and Freelancer.com.\n\nUsing a combination of these methods will give you a short list of potential developers that you could hire. Once you’ve chosen a few, it’s time to get down to details and make your final choice.\nHow?\nBy asking a few key questions.\nQuestions to ask a WordPress developer\nYou’re locked and loaded, ready to create your WordPress CMS site. Good choice.\nHere are some questions to ask your candidate WordPress developer or contracting shop. Use these to help determine if they can build your CMS.\nWhat . . .\n\nis your process for setting up a custom theme? Do you start from scratch or modify existing themes?\nare some best practices for creating a styling a WordPress theme?\nare your favorite or most-used plugins?\nis a widget? Will I need one?\nare the steps to create a simple plugin?\n\nHave . . .\n\nyou created a master-child WordPress theme? What are the steps involved?\nyou done other work that I can see?\n\nCan . . .\n\nyou write front-end code and WordPress\/PHP code?\n\nHow do you . . .\n\ncreate themes? From scratch, or by modifying existing ones?\ncreate a custom page template?\nmake a custom WordPress theme menu?\nedit that menu?\nensure that content on the template can be edited in WordPress?\ninclude CSS and JS in a WordPress theme?\ncharge for your work? Hourly or per-project?\n\nDid they pass? Glowingly even? Oh my.\nOnward…\nIncrease your chances for success\nGreat. You feel confident in your developer’s technical skills to create your custom WordPress site.\nBut you’ll need more than that for a successful project. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:\nPlan your project\nUnderstand what to build before building it. Duh. You’d be surprised how many people don’t.\nInstead of going in blind,\n\noutline and share your requirements and specifications with any candidate developers\ndesign the look and feel first, then start building building your custom site\nthink about who will use your site, as that may determine the functionality it needs\nplan ahead and think about what you might want in the future\n\nOnce you’ve spent some time planning, make sure you have a solid project plan written down. Share it with the development team and anyone else involved in the project. If everyone’s on the same page and has the same vision for the project, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.\nBe sure to think carefully about what you’ll want in the future, too. Having WordPress SEO improvements built into your theme from the start can be a big help.\nSet a timeline\nYour chosen freelancer or contractor should give you a proposed timeline in their bid, but it’s always a good idea to go over it again. Here are some thing you’ll want dates for:\n\nDesign mockups, if you’re having design work done\nArchitecture and wireframes for the final site\nA test or demonstration site to make sure everything’s working\nFinal delivery for the completed project\n\nOf course, there will probably be more dates you’ll need to get locked down, too. Especially if you’re responsible for delivering visual assets, copy, content, or anything else that needs to go on the site.\nNo matter what each group is delivering, make sure you have a solid timeline. That way everyone knows what they’re doing. Using project management software can be a big help here. (This is why we developed our own tracking dashboard at Code My Views—it helps us keep customers up to date on everything we’re doing.)\n\nTest and review\nIf you’re not familiar with custom WordPress development, you might think that when a developer sends you the final theme, you’re totally done. But that’s not quite true.\nThere are a few important steps left:\n\nTest the site to make sure everything is working\nReference your project plan to make sure everything’s in place\nAsk for revisions from your developer or team\nGet all of the relevant files from the developer, in case you need them in the future\n\nOnce you’re satisfied that everything is working, and that you have all of the files you could possibly need in the future, you’re set! You’ve successfully hired a custom WordPress developer, had a site coded for you, and have published it online.\nNow all you have to do is let the visitors roll in . . .\n(If only it were that easy, right?)\nWhat’s your experience with custom WordPress development? Have you used freelancers, in-house developers, or agencies? What about off-the-shelf themes? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!