WordPress is quite the Swiss Army Knife of website tools. With all of the available plugins, themes, hosting plans, and developers out there, more and more people are turning to the platform for their most demanding needs. But many companies struggle with knowing whether they need to invest in custom WordPress development for their project or if there are third-party tools to get them there in a much more cost-efficient manner.
Here are five ways to know when you need custom WordPress development.
There are a host of great themes out there that can be had for under $50 and look incredible. What I often see overlooked is how a business’s brand will be handled in such a theme. Every logo is different, and every business wants to see different levels of customization to reflect the brand as it was intended to be used. If you have specific and significant brand standards, custom design and development is likely to be the most direct path to satisfying those requirements.
Custom Post Types
At it’s heart, WordPress has always been built around a single post type, a blog post. The advent of pages came as a result of introducing the ‘post type’ column in the WordPress database. This opened the door to innovators to introduce new types of posts along with enhanced capabilities in the admin section.
For example, a post type of ‘Staff’ could have a way to select which department the individual is a part of and identify their phone extension as well. The use of custom post types provides a fool-proof method to ensure data ends up in the right place and is consistently displayed on the front-end.
If you have a major section of your website dedicated to a type of content that wouldn’t be classified as a post or page, then you could benefit from custom plugin development. Yes, there are a host of great plugins out there that do a great job of enabling custom post types, but many of those also require developer level skill to configure. Also see the ‘just a few tweaks’ category below on this topic.
In the current atmosphere where mobile usage and search engine visibility are cut-throat, website load times are essential to being competitive. One of the downfalls of utilizing existing themes or plugins is that you are saddled with their specific treatments of loading resources in the WP environment. This means you are likely to be saddled with more bloated scripts, numerous extra http requests, and redundant functionality that slows your site down. If you are happy with a 5-8 second load time, you should be fine. But if you’re looking to make WordPress perform in the 2 second load time neighborhood, you will likely be forced to customize your code at least at the theme level.
Many businesses jump into a WordPress project focused on the design and presentation of data without thinking about some of the more complex functionality that may be required to perform the level of integration necessary to make your new website speak to your existing systems. From e-commerce to simple contact forms, integrations often require custom development that may not have been planned for. And that is the most expensive kind of custom development when a timeline is looming and your resources are scarce.
Just a Few Tweaks
The most insidious force behind the need for custom development comes from the inability to clearly articulate expectations up front. A common situation is that project stakeholders are shown a flashy demo site for the third party theme the designer plans to use and everyone nods their heads in agreement. What some stakeholders will articulate at this point is, “Yes, that looks good enough to move forward. We’ll just need a few tweaks to make it ours.”
Ouch. As someone who has had to walk clients through such situations in the past, I can tell you that these clients spend more money achieving what they wanted through unplanned revisions than if they had embarked on a custom project from the get-go.
The few tweaks required are often seen as minor design adjustments, but there is likely either unplanned functionality in such tweaks or the third party theme makes such tweaks less than routine. Clarity around expectations and clear documentation are a sure way to address these needs up front and avoid the ‘un-planned’ custom development.
If you are concerned about any of the above, chances are that you will need some level of custom WordPress development. Be sure to ask any prosepective web design or development partner to spell out their capabilities in the areas important to you.