As a web developer I consistently see clients obsessing over the small things. The design isn’t quite right or this feature doesn’t perform exactly as they imagined it in their head. I once had a client completely lay out how they wanted their ecommerce site to function, including illustrations, yet we clearly outlined in the scope that we were using an off the shelf cart. This is not the clients fault, they are spending a lot of money on the site and it’s natural for them to offer guidance and instruction as to what they want. In fact, it’s imperative to the project for them to give us as much feedback as possible. Where things get messy, is when we, as web developers, don’t communicate the rules of the game. One of our jobs as web developers is to help our clients understand the value of a WordPress website.
It always goes back to budget. How websites have become affordable is that we use a quiver of pre-built tools to customize how websites behave and function. This drops the cost of website development considerably, literally making it affordable for hundreds of thousands of people, than it ever has before. Many clients take this for granted, thinking that “switching” out functionality is like replacing one puzzle piece with another and we just have to keep doing it until we find the right piece. This action, if not intercepted, leads to devastating project delays and inevitably a downward spiral to the demise of the project. The reality is that every “puzzle” piece replacement takes exponentially more time and money, diluting the profitability of a project to the point where it seizes.
Clients believe they come from a perspective of quality, “only wanting the best”, where they are standing their ground getting the most value for their money, while unknowingly, they are sabotaging their own project. Again, this is about budget, because what the client has paid for is not custom development, but “hybrid development,” a mixture of custom and fixed pieces to make an affordable website. This hybrid approach is misinterpreted as low quality, where in fact, it’s completely the opposite. Every pre-built piece, i.e. CMS, plugin, widget, has been most likely tested hundreds of times before. Many if not all of the bugs have been worked out and inevitably that code is more secure. I believe that a completed website created with WordPress is inherently more valuable than any custom coded website from scratch.
There is a lot more quality inside WordPress than people realize. When going to WordCamps you get to meet some of the core contributors to WordPress and see presentations by top plugin makers that jump through hoops to modify their plugin for a single user, most often not getting paid for their efforts. The majority of plugin developers create plugins out of need for their own projects and then freely give them away to the community or ask for a very nominal fee. Even more valuable is that there has been a tremendous amount of trial and error done perfecting the workflow of a plugin or the amount of flexibility it offers. This isn’t saying that it’s functionality can’t be improved upon, but clients should be informed of this value that they are getting right out of the box.
Something happened along the way in software development that created a sense of distrust among the people who commission us to create websites for them. There is this “get everything you can, before they disappear” attitude that exists with many clients I meet. I spend the majority of some client meetings trying to convince the client that I’m not going to screw them. This would drastically change if the perceived value of WordPress was much higher. I’ve always said, “when creating a proposal for a website you have to create overwhelming value.” The client needs to feel that they are getting more for their money. I do my best to enlighten potential clients on the value of WordPress. I think we are getting there, but more needs to be done. I’m still waiting for that day when a client is so impressed that I develop with WordPress that it doesn’t matter what the features are or what the design looks like, they will know that because I develop with WordPress they are getting a top piece of software that is priceless in its evolution and extremely dependable in its execution. Their past experiences with software development won’t matter. They will be confident it will just work.