WordPress development strategy work requires setting realistic expectations with the client. This is vital when plugins and/or SaaS tools are used to deliver advanced functionality such as e-commerce, memberships or IDX integration. Misunderstandings about what can be customized in any plugin or SaaS implementation can negatively alter a client’s opinion of the finished site. The amount of effort required by the site owner to setup and operate a plugin or SaaS tool is often underestimated by clients as well.

WordPress Development Strategy: Plugins and SaaS Tools Aren’t Magic

One important limitation to any WordPress development strategy is understanding that if a WordPress website has a business requirement that is solved by plugins or Saas tools, then the underlying business processes may need to adapt to the plugin or Saas tool’s way of doing things. This is especially true for ecommerce sites, membership sites and publishing/subscription sites using various plugins or SaaS tools. Likewise it is true for real estate sites using an IDX plugin. In these cases the plugin or SaaS tool is solving a business problem in a very standard way. It is not necessarily solving the customer’s particular problem so the customer may need to adapt their process to fit the plugin. The alternative to using a cheap plugin or SaaS solution is a much more expensive custom development project. There really isn’t much middle ground.

The other expectation that must be set is how much time someone from the end customer organization is going to need to dedicate to learn, setup and manage the new system(s). If the plugin – whether it be Woocommerce or IDX Broker or whatever – requires data entry and making business decisions about settings like sales tax, shipping options, etc., then someone from the end customer needs to be really, really involved.

WordPress Development Strategy: A Learning Experience

Currently we are working on a project for an end customer and while working through the WordPress development strategy with them, we helped them to evaluate several plugins and SaaS tools for managing print subscriptions and controlling access to WordPress content. They selected a SaaS tool and they now have issues with how some of the workflows operate within the SaaS tool which is causing them to express frustration with the project as a whole.

Although we thought we made our proposal and the subsequent contract very clear that:

  1. The SaaS tool was their selection and we didn’t make any representations, recommendations, etc.
  2. Their process was going to need to adapt to the SaaS tool because customization is not an option, so they better evaluate it very carefully

We evidently needed to do a better job up front explaining to them what their realistic expectations should have been. Given their budget, opting for a SaaS or plugin-based solution was their only option – custom development was out of the question – and as such, they need to accept the limitations that imposes. We also needed to make it more clear that someone on their end was going to be spending hours and hours with the SaaS tool in order to make sure it was setup correctly, their subscribers were moved over from their old system, etc. We thought that was obvious and we assumed it would be obvious to them as well, but based upon their feedback it was not.

WordPress Development Strategy: Conclusions

When WordPress sites require additional “technology” in the form of plugins and/or SaaS tools to deliver required functionality, it may require the business owner to modify their processes to fit the tools. It definitely requires the business owner to invest in an in-house resource to own the new platform.