WordPress development services are offered by agencies, freelancers, remote outsourcing companies, local development companies, and probably anybody who knows how to use site builders by this point.

Thanks to the high level of standardization around the WordPress CMS, WordPress development services are well suited for outsourcing, generally speaking. Frankly, that’s why WordPress outsourcing is what we do, and all that we do.

But we often get requests that we pass on, and for good reasons. We believe that some types of WordPress development projects are best handled in-house, or at least locally. Here’s a quick summary of what we don’t recommend outsourcing in case you don’t have time to read the full article:

  1. Customization of pre-built WordPress themes without design mockups
  2. Introduction of new non-trivial features to complex sites that already exist
  3. Development of sites that are much more complex than what you’re used to

Reasons you might want to outsource WordPress development

Your reason to outsource certain WordPress development services actually has to bear on whether it’s a good idea to do so.

The opposite of outsourcing would be to either do it yourself or to have someone else in your company do it. In the list of reasons to outsource below I use “you” for simplicity, but it can also refer to your team if you’re an agency:

  1. You don’t have time
  2. You can spend your time on more valuable things
  3. You don’t know how to do it

Differentiating between these may seem trivial or unnecessary, but it’s actually really important to know the reason behind why you’re looking to outsource part of your work. I’ll leave it there for now and get back to it later in the article.

“Your reason to outsource certain WordPress development services actually has bearing on whether it’s a good idea to do so.”

Different types of WordPress development services

Most WordPress development services offered by individual professionals and companies will fit into one or more of the following categories:

  1. Customization of a versatile pre-built WordPress theme
  2. Custom WordPress theme development
  3. Adding templates and features to an existing WordPress site
  4. Bug fixing an existing WordPress site
  5. Scheduled maintenance of an existing WordPress site
  6. Technical optimization of an existing WordPress site

The first two are really about building new websites, whereas the rest relate to work done to existing WordPress sites. So which of these WordPress development services will be suitable for outsourcing?

Customization of a pre-built WordPress theme

In short, by customization we refer to the process of buying a WordPress theme and then “designing the site” as you go by selecting templates, choosing blocks and adding content.

In other articles, we’ve covered what’s the difference between a custom WordPress theme and WordPress theme customization and the difference between custom themes and premium themes so I won’t go into more detail on those here.

This is probably the most common type of WordPress development service request that we turn away. Can you guess why?

Customizing a pre-built WordPress theme may seem very easy, probably the simplest and fastest way to build a website even. But the problem is that the task is complex, and requires a good understanding of multiple disciplines.

As you customize the theme, you will need to make decisions on what content to present to the user and in which order (UX / Strategy), how to adjust the look and feel (design) and how to resolve any issues with compatibility or responsiveness (development).

The two reasons we don’t take on this type of project are that we don’t have a pool of multi-skilled people who want to do this type of work, and there’s no way of knowing that we’ll meet the customer’s expectations. “Does it look good?” …. We would likely have a feedback loop that cost more than this type of customer is willing to spend.

Customizing a pre-built WordPress theme may seem very easy, probably the simplest and fastest way to build a website even. But the problem is that the task is complex, and requires good understanding of multiple disciplines.”

Custom WordPress theme development

Yes, this is a great service to outsource! Okay, my opinion is biased but my words should have some weight since I lead a company that does it successfully since 2013.

If an agency (it usually is) prepares unique designs for a website and wants to get those built as a WordPress site, it’s clear for the developer what the end result should be.

“Does it look good?” in this case becomes “Does it match the agreed requirements?”, and the design files can easily be compared to the result. The skill needed to complete the service is therefore primarily development. The developer needs to be able to communicate, interpret the designs, manage their time and so on, but that’s a given for a good developer.

Some terms for this service imply that it’s an automatic conversion of designs into a website, like PSD to WordPress, Sketch to WordPress, Adobe XD to WordPress and so on but you still need a developer to do it.

A common mistake when outsourcing custom WordPress development

There’s one common mistake that agencies and companies make when outsourcing WordPress development of custom sites. Even if you have a great external team, you shouldn’t be too far behind skills-wise yourself on how it works.

This relates to the reasons for outsourcing. If you do it because you don’t have the skills, you should make sure that whoever does isn’t too far away.

If you’re entirely in the hands of an external team for updating a complex site that you’ve sold, you risk losing face when your client needs to wait for days to get their small support requests completed.

An extreme example would be when we get requests to build a large site for someone who has a startup idea but no clue how a website works: “How much would you charge to build something like this: eBay.com”. Hmmm… how many millions of dollars can your budget cover?

“If you’re entirely in the hands of an external team for updating a complex site that you’ve sold, you risk losing face when your client needs to wait for days to get their small support requests completed.”

Adding templates and features to an existing WordPress site

If a company already has a WordPress site and wants to make updates and improvements, it’s time to get the developer involved again. Whether this WordPress development service is suitable for outsourcing or not mainly depends on what changes are needed.

Two factors are relevant: 1) the complexity of the change requested and 2) if the task can be outsourced to the original developer of the website.

If the task is simple, including the context of where the change will happen (i.e. the site isn’t likely to break somewhere else because of a change), any developer could probably do it. Good for outsourcing. Just make sure there are clear instructions with design files if there are layout changes that need to be specified. (My colleague also suggested I add here that a backup is always a good idea, as well as doing some quality assurance checks afterward. It runs in our blood I guess, thanks Stacy! As Intel’s founder Andy Grove said: “Only the paranoid survive” 😉 )

If the task isn’t simple, you shouldn’t try to outsource it to just any developer. The complexity of adding new features or pages to an existing website shouldn’t be underestimated. First, the developer needs to understand how the site is built and what impact the changes will have on the rest of the site. Then they have to code it so that it both works and doesn’t break anything else. Plus there’s a risk that your complex updates cannot be explained easily, so there’s a risk of misinterpretation of your instructions.

You’ll have two options. Either you go to the developer who initially built the site, whether internal or external, or you find an experienced developer to do it. If you have an experienced developer (probably with a high hourly rate) they’ll be able to figure it out or tell you if it’s too complex and not feasible. But if you feel that you need a lot of communication back-and-forth to get the instructions right, best to go with someone who can have coffee with you or bring you over to their screen for discussions.

Bug-fixing an existing WordPress site

Bug-fixing an existing website can be very complex, or quite simple. Similarly to updates and changes to existing sites, you probably want to go to either the original developer of the site or to an expert.

The nice thing about bug-fixing, especially if it’s something that appeared after an update or because of the website getting hacked, is that the site used to work. There’s a reference for the developer to understand how it should have worked, and the issue is again contained within one specialist area: development.

“The nice thing about bug-fixing, especially if it’s something that appeared after an update or because of the website getting hacked, is that the site used to work.”

There are also companies that specialize in getting in and fixing broken WordPress sites, so they are experts in that particular area.

Possible to outsource, if you turn to the right developer or company for help.

Scheduled maintenance of an existing WordPress site

Scheduled maintenance is sometimes not even a real WordPress development service since there’s an option to have a hosting platform take care of it for you. WP Engine, Manage WP and others will help you update your plugins and theme, and to make sure that you’re warned if any issues appear.

However, many companies prefer to do this manually and as long as you turn to the same team or developer to manage your maintenance over and over they’ll be able to do it for you. It’s a routine task, so probably something that you don’t have time for or that you think someone else can do faster or cheaper.

Technical optimization of an existing WordPress site

To get help with technically optimizing a WordPress site is similar to getting help with bug-fixing. This could be page speed optimization, some aspects of on-page SEO work, changing payment systems, code cleanup and so on. You need someone with technical skills to do it, and there are companies and freelance developers that have specialized in it.

If the site is complex, you should take precautions that the updates don’t break the functionality of the site so best to go with a local or internal team. However, if it’s not too complex you’ll probably find luck with a specialized team.

Conclusion

Depending on the type of WordPress development service that you need, and the complexity of your website and request, you can figure out whether it makes sense to outsource the work or not.

First of all, think about why you want to outsource. If it’s because you don’t have time, you can probably feel safe about evaluating the work that someone else is doing for you. However, if you’re outsourcing because it’s outside your skillset then you really need to find a developer or development company that you can trust and reach if you run into problems.

Here is a summary of our recommendations.

Suitable WordPress development services for outsourcing:

  1. Custom WordPress theme development based on design files
    Condition: It’s not rocket science level compared to your own skills.
  2. Adding templates and features to existing WordPress sites
    Condition: You have the same developer that already built the site, a simple request, or an experienced developer.
  3. Bug-fixing an existing WordPress site
    Condition: You find an experienced developer or specialist in bug-fixing
  4. Scheduled maintenance
  5. Technical optimization of an existing WordPress site
    Condition: You find an experienced developer or specialist

WordPress development projects you should probably keep in-house or with a local development company:

  1. Customize pre-built WordPress themes without design files
  2. Add non-trivial templates and features to a complex site
  3. Develop custom WordPress sites that are much more complex than what you’re used to

If you need any of the WordPress development services that we believe are suitable for outsourcing, look no further and send us a message 🙂