What makes a good freelance WordPress developer?
WordPress is a very popular content management system. There are hundreds of thousands of websites running on WordPress and there are also lots of people claiming to be Wordpress developers.
However there is a difference between being able to install WordPress or upload a template and being a full-fledged freelance WordPress developer.
2 traits of a good freelance WordPress developer
There are two things common to all stand-out freelance WordPress developers.
- Expert level WordPress know-how
- Capability in related coding languages or technology
1) Expert level know-how
There are four areas of the WordPress platform a good developer will have expert knowledge and experience with:
Templates & Themes
Templates and themes control the design, functionality and interactivity of the instance of WordPress. Projects for development or customisation of WordPress are by far the most common.
A good freelance WordPress developer will know how to create a Template from scratch adhering to WordPress' conventions and best-practices.
Plugins are custom-written ways to extend the functionality of the core WordPress platform. Popular plugins exist to create enquiry forms, add custom fields to a page template and to integrate website analytics. Due to the sheer number of plugins that already exist, custom plugin projects are not as common as template projects.
In addition to being able to create a plugin, a good freelance WordPress developer will understand WordPress' rules around Plugin requirements and the submission and approval process.
Contributing to WordPress Core
WordPress is an open-source platform, developed and maintained by a community of contributors.
This is where the good WordPress developers set themselves apart from the crowd. Any developer actively involved in developing the WordPress Core is certain to have an exceptional level of know-how on WordPress development.
WordPress best practices
When developing WordPress there are a number of best practices or development considerations a good freelance WordPress developer should have in mind:
- How to make WordPress run sites that aren't blog format
- Custom post types/custom taxonomies
- When to use a third party plugin and when to develop their own functionality
- The security risks of setting up and running WordPress
- How to deal with performance/scaling issues
- Best practises for updating WordPress and plugins
- SEO considerations
- How to deploy sites with minimal downtime
- What to do when things go wrong and best practise backup strategies
- Hosting considerations (cost vs performance vs security vs learning curve)
- Offloading static assets to a CDN/Static host
- Benefit of using Disqus for commenting
2) Capability in related coding languages or technology
WordPress is a great platform but it doesn't work in isolation. To run a website, a good freelance WordPress developer will also need to be capable in other related coding languages or technology.
WordPress is written in PHP so a good WordPress developer will know and understand the wider capabilities of PHP, including Object-Oriented Programming, conditional statements and loops.
WordPress uses MySQL as its database management system. In an ideal world a WordPress developer shouldn't really need to write any direct SQL statements, but a good WordPress developer will know and understand the capabilities of MySQL, including database structure, data-types and complicated JOIN queries.
Linux & Apache/Nginx
Knowing about file permissions and Rewrites/Redirects on the server is pretty key to good WordPress practises.
Front-end development (HTML/CSS/JS)
Source / Version control
As the size or complexity of a WordPress development project increases, so does the likelihood of there being a development team and version control. Knowing and being able to work with Git or Subversion will enable a good freelance WordPress developer to integrate easier with an existing team.