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Need a WordPress developer to fix an issue or create your website, custom theme or plugin? You’ve come to the right place.

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What makes a good WordPress developer?

Website builders and consultants are a dime a dozen – but are they all the same? The simple answer is “no” – of course not. The reality is, a lot goes into building a plugin or theme that’s fast, attractive and maintainable. WordPress makes it easy for people to get going fast, and that leads to a lot of inexperienced designers claiming they are experienced developers.

Can you afford to get things wrong? Learning the ins and outs and becoming a good developer takes years and it pays to go with an expert. The best developers will save you time and money upfront as well as the costs of poorly coded work that doesn’t work, has security holes or has to be redone completely. Below is a list of what great WordPress developers know like the back of their hand.


The entire visual structure of a site depend on two things: HTML to structure content and CSS to style it. Without a strong understanding of both of them, many developers struggle to get things to “look right” and make choices that cause layouts to break. This problem is shows up the most on mobile devices. Ever heard the line “we can’t make it look like that“? With HTML and CSS, you can make it look like anything you like.

PHP and JavaScript

The backbone of WordPress is PHP – it is the programming language that allows users to login, save posts, process forms and complete other complex tasks. JavaScript is the programming language that allows interactions with the browser like animation, real-time updates and analytics processing. A good WordPress developer is an ace at both of these.

WordPress Standards

What about code quality behind the scenes? There are actually standards set out by the WP core team. If a developer doesn’t do things “the WordPress way” or understand the importance of quality, you end up with bugs galore and people afraid to make updates because something might break. The reality is, a client doesn’t know if the code is good quality until something breaks, so it’s important to choose someone trustworthy.

WordPress Ecosystem

If your developer doesn’t know the ecosystem of this beautiful, crazy CMS, you should run – fast. Successfully adding custom functionality to WordPress depends on this ecosystem. Important examples are knowing not to use a theme unless it’s actively maintained, or when to buy a supported plugin instead of coding it or using a free version. This takes experience and care about the success of the project.

User Interface and Experience

Most plugins and themes are designed with a user in mind. If the form is hard to use or the page is not attractive, it’s bad for user experience. This can make the difference between happy customers and employees using your site and unhappy ones not using it at all. A good developer can create attractive, intuitive user interfaces and pair it with a solid, high-quality backend.


An example of a clear membership user interface done for a client


Do you know if your site is secure? Probably not. The reality is, no site is 100% secure. Security is one of those things no one – except responsible developers (and maybe your legal team..) – wants to address. Choosing only paid plugins, using https, securing user inputs by escaping/sanitizing, using a monitoring and malware removal service, and a few other security strategies are essential to protecting your site and users’ data.

Speed Optimization

Speed is important – in fact it’s so important that Google wants you to make your site faster and shows you how with their PageSpeed tool. A slow site is bad for user experience, search engine optimization, sales conversions and updates. Static and dynamic caching, image resizing, compressing files, limiting plugin and theme bloat, and fixing bad database queries are the main ways to greatly improve your site’s speed.

WordPress Developer typing on laptop

WordPress theme developers

WordPress themes are a set of files that control the presentation of your website content. According to the WordPress theme developer’s handbook“any theme you create should not add critical functionality”. The problem with most themes is that they try to do everything. This makes them slow, buggy and hard to maintain. It also means that if you ever want to change the theme, your site won’t function the same and might even break.

A good WordPress developer will create a theme that makes it easy to handle the visual appearance of the site and put functionality into separate plugins. Read below to see what goes into a good theme.

Any theme you create should not add critical functionality

WordPress Developer's Handbook Tweet

What is a good WordPress theme?

A good WordPress theme is fast, attractive and secure, while allowing users to easily make style changes without being overwhelmed. It should allow changing of the colors, font style, header and footer, page layout and other display elements easily through the WordPress customizer panel. And it should be tested and coded the WordPress way so it is compatible with plugins that provide functionality like payments and custom maps.

Theme Bloat

Bloated themes that try to do too much are bad news. Developers that make these themes try to pack as much functionality as humanly possible to impress beginner developers and do-it-yourselfers. A week or two after the site is done the real problems start. Slow loading times, functions that don’t work right, weird layout issues, errors in the backend – the list goes on. Fixing these problems is often impossible or very expensive and time-consuming. Stay far away from bloated themes and thank us later. 

Child Themes

Choosing a well-coded existing theme as a base for your project is a good idea. Hundreds of hours went into building and testing it and the theme will be updated and supported in the future. But 90% of the time the theme is not “quite right” and you need to customize it. A good WordPress developer will use a “child theme” to override the “parent theme”, allowing for customizations without messing with the .  

WordPress child theme

WordPress theme dashboard, with child theme active

The index.php and style.css

There are only two files required by a WordPress theme. The index.php file is the main file that structures the presentation of your site by combining HTML with dynamic PHP content. It can be very simple or complex depending on the layout and features of the theme. The style.css file controls the visual appearance of the site including headings, images, colors, sizes, positions, borders and more.

Additional Theme Files

Most themes contain many files including JavaScript for user interaction, PHP files for complex functionality and additional CSS files for fine-tuned visuals. It’s common to see images and other media files, Read Me information, as well as language localization files as well. These files all work together to give your site the look and feel that you want and make it easier to integrate plugins like eCommerce, forms and others.

Programmer girl working on computer

Tips for managing a WordPress Developer

An expert WordPress developer will guide you to make the right technology and design decisions based on experience. But as the client, you’re responsible for clearly communicating the vision and priorities for the project. It’s impossible to get all the information at the beginning, so you’ll also have to be there to ask and answer questions as the project goes on. Below are some tried and true tips for managing a successful project.

Be organized and provide info quickly

Development is complicated. There are images, text, designs, code, testing and a whole bunch of other stuff to worry about. This means when a WordPress developer needs something from the client, they probably need it right away. When clients take a long time to reply, these tasks get stacked up and they are hard to keep track of. By being organized and providing info as soon as possible, your project is much more likely to go smoothly and get out on time,

Don't make major changes midway

Introducing changes partway through the project is one of the easiest ways to increase costs and miss deadlines. It is really, really easy to underestimate this. Having clear goals and boundaries upfront avoids these kinds of changes. When suggestions come up, all you have to ask is “Does this change significantly improve our chances of achieving this core goal on time and in budget?” – the answer will most often be “Well.. no”.

Trust the developer's judgment

As developers, we often warn clients about doing things that are more effort than they’re worth. If there’s some technology or feature choice that a WordPress developer warns you about, it’s a good idea to listen. Expert judgement goes a long way in creating a site successfully and having it work in the long run.

Spend effort on good communication

You should be speaking with your developer at least a few times a week. This helps you keep updated on what’s going on and allows you to give feedback before they get too far. It prevents things from moving in the wrong direction. There should be one main form of communication (email, Skype, etc.) as well as a backup. Like any relationship, good communication is the key to success.

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We asked Ridinghood Media to create a site that incorporated rental payments and modern design – let’s just say, they delivered! – Founder, Red Door Studios

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