Remote development is a growing trend for many platforms and functions. However, most advice on the topic is awfully general, targeted towards large-scale product development with multiple developers. This kind of remote development differs in key ways from remote front-end WordPress development. As a result, there are concrete ways you should adapt your management when you hire WordPress developers. Here are some of the main mistakes to avoid, specific to WordPress.
1. Thinking it’s just as scary and complicated as managing other types of development
Actually, it’s easier. Most advice on this topic refers to multi-month projects with multiple developers contributing to the same project. Unsurprisingly, a huge amount of discussion is about tools and methods to keep everybody on the same page, moving towards the same goal, coordinating, etc.
That’s all well and good, but you probably don’t need most of it with WordPress development. After all, usually you will only have one person working on a PSD to WordPress for a few days or weeks at a time. Even if you hire multiple WordPress experts, you only have to ensure good one-on-one communication between yourself and each of them. (In comparison, when managing group development projects you also have to make sure developers talk to each other!)
2. Assuming your developer “gets it”
Managing a project with one developer is obviously easier than multiple, but achieving good communication is still crucial. What does that mean practically in the context of outsourcing web development for WordPress?
- Communicate your priorities.WordPress agencies usually have an angle that’s a key part of their pitch to clients — some are focused on design, and want everything to be pixel-perfect from the get-go. Others are focused on marketing and need to ensure all the SEO settings are in place and images are optimized for loading time. Naturally, it helps if you work with developers who have high baseline standards across the board. It’s still your responsibility to communicate what’s needed.
- Set clear objectives and deadlines, in writing. Put it in black and white, literally: what needs to get done and when. This doesn’t need to include every detail about the project, but the key goals and deadlines should be listed in an easily accessible location.
- Use a shared task management system. For any project, there plenty of small to-dos that come up. Keep these from cluttering up your chat and email conversations by placing them in a shared system like Asana, Trello, or Podio.
3. Avoiding meetings or regular check-ins to “save time”
Some remote development teams are vehemently opposed to meetings. Github is one notable example. However, a key feature of contracting out WordPress web development is that the coding process is fairly short. Most individual projects for our clients take only a few days, or up to a couple of weeks at a maximum. A short project timeline means it’s probably worth checking often — if not, misunderstandings might not be identified until the project is finished (or supposed to be).
There are potentially useful alternatives to having a Skype meeting every day. One interesting suggestion is to ask your developer to make a short, 1- to 3-minute long video at the end of each day recapping what he or she has accomplished. That way, you can stay on top of progress and also keep an eye out for potential misunderstanding without sinking into the meeting time-suck vortex. This is an especially useful suggestion if you are going to hire multiple WordPress developers.
4. Treating small talk as a distraction
In the last point, I explained how to avoid meetings. It’s true that meetings sometimes feel like they are a distraction from “real work.” But they have a special role in remote working relationships. When you work in an office, you naturally find moments to chat and connect about things in addition to work. You chat about the local sports team or compliment a co-worker’s outfit.
When you’re working with others remotely, you typically only talk when you have a specific, work-related reason. But this setup doesn’t mean that you should discount the value of the personal relationship. A feeling of mutual trust and support is a valuable component of productive teamwork — and it’s hard to create if you only talk strictly about what’s on the agenda.
So since you don’t usually have those natural opportunities to talk otherwise, don’t be too quick to crack down on friendly chatter in meetings with your WordPress experts. Get to know each other a bit.