Before we dive into the questions, there is an important question to answer – “What is Custom WordPress Development?”
Custom development means to manually write functionality and styles for a web site or an application. Of course, that would include the use of many already created solutions like plugins and tools, server configurations and scripts, but the core of it is building something new and tailor-made by programmers and designers.
And the reason we look at this question is to clear up any misunderstandings that might occur. There are many “WordPress Expert” Fiverr offers, lots of marketing agencies that provide web-design work and so on. However, most of them fall in the “WordPress Lego” or “Page builders” type of work.
Usually, when talking about building websites, people associate it with a person that picks a premium theme (something already created by other developers and sold on “per-site’ usage) and sets it up on his WordPress site.
Then, thanks to integrated theme page builder plugins like Elementor, Beaver or Avada’ the site owner creates his landing pages. And this leads to the first frequently asked question, we will cover:
1. What Is the Difference Between a Custom Build Website and Page Builder?
In many open offers for freelancer work as well as from the sale pages of various WordPress agencies, web development companies or even SEO companies, you will find terms like “Custom Web Design”, “Build a WordPress site”, or “I will design professional and responsive WordPress website”. However, when you look closely at what is included, it says things like “Design Customization” as a perk (which is obviously good), but for only $50 for all the work.
Realistically, this is something that directly falls under the “Page builder” category. Why? Because a full development of a new website includes:
- A discovery phase – The agency/developer looks into the existing code base, what has to be migrated, what has to remain or be re-implemented
- A good understanding of the problems to be solved in order to commence with the new design. Many iterations could happen during this stage.
- Custom code written for the WordPress theme, custom plugins for needed functionality. This can take between a few weeks and a few months depending on the scope.
With a page-builder approach, many of these issues are skipped simply because it’s not custom.
Instead, you pick a premium theme that has its predefined look and feel (or provides a set of options) and then you build the pages with the provided tools, sections and elements. Of course, designers can still work on custom graphics and images, but quite often that requires a second person to do the job.
Some of the differences between the two might be:
You can read this in more details in this article: Custom-Tailored WordPress Themes vs. Premium Themes – DevriX
2. Why Choose WordPress in the First Place?
Many business owners ask themselves this even before they get in touch with a WordPress agency. And it’s a very valid question as there are so many solutions out there such as completely custom built systems with something like Laravel, Node or Django even. But the thing is, that for most jobs, WordPress is the perfect choice.
Some of the reasons to go with WordPress are:
- It’s open-source. Well, technically most good CMSs are, so it’s not the main factor.
- It’s time tested. It’s been around for over 15 years, most of the problems one could face have been solved and it’s built to work with little error on huge websites.
- It’s PHP based, so even if your dev team is less experienced with WordPress, as long as they have PHP experience, a lot can still be achieved.
- There are a ton of high-quality WordPress development agencies out there.
- It works very well on both large and small websites.
- There are a ton of community events around WordPress.
- It’s not just about blogs!
In addition, there is no real reason to limit your tech-stack, WordPress can work great as Headless too where you build your client-facing view in something like React or Vue.js and connect to the WordPress data via REST API or GraphQL.
For many businesses, WordPress is also a very good pick due to the robust Multisite system and advanced e-commerce and multi-lingual extensions.
3. Can We Easily Edit Our New Landing Pages?
Many WordPress site owners started by purchasing a premium theme and building the core landing pages via a page builder. Due to the UX of such builders problems often occur when positioning elements or in responsiveness, speed or usability.
The next step for growing businesses is to contact professional developers, who can bring their websites to the next level. However, depending on what developers they go for, whether it be cheaper freelancers, dev agencies or premium ones with more experience, the end result will vary a lot.
On the lower price range, a developer can build the custom design statically – meaning, it’s practically just an HTML/CSS file that outputs text on the page. No way to edit that. This is where, more often than not, the question about editing the new landing pages pops up.
A couple of development approaches which will allow you to edit the content are:
- Builder-like experience with the new Gutenberg editor. Requires experience with the Gutenberg API, React, PHP, UX and CSS to make it look nice
- ACF (Advanced Custom Fields) for each string on the page that needs an edit
- ACF with Flexible Templates which represents editable sections that can be reused to build custom landing pages with predefined components
Technically, a custom design could also be made to work with page builders, (as are all premium themes), but this would also allow the site editors to mess up the look and feel of the site and often takes more time to implement compared to other solutions.
Read more about what goes into building a custom theme here: What Goes into Building a Custom WordPress Theme? – DevriX
4. What Does the Process of Building a New Website Look Like?
This is a huge question. We tried to dive into more details in a separate article here: The Complete Action Plan for Building and Growing a Professional WordPress Website – DevriX
But to sum up the more important bits:
- The initial phase is mostly focused on gathering information. What is the problem the current site faces (if it exists) or what the new one should solve?
- The design phase is where the new look and feel is decided. Design and content creation often go hand in hand. A great help to the designers is to have a general outline/content to follow.
- The web development part is where the initial look of the site is created. This is what we consider a v1. Before releasing the initial version, many out of scope requests might come up, which can be postponed for post-release if they don’t fit in the initial budget. With a Retainer based plan, such out of scope tasks could be tackled in the following weeks and months after the initial release and of course, develop them further.
Most development companies would also create a setup that optimizes the development, presentation of updates and the testing of the new site and its features as well as subsequent version updates.
- The creation of a development staging and testing staging where copies of the live site can be seen. At this stage, it is only visible to the client and the developers (often behind a password). There they can showcase any new features and test them.
- Management/ticketing system to track requests and updates. This could be done in a version of a controlled management system like Github in the form of Issues or a dedicated PM system like Asana or Jira.
- A daily/weekly/monthly status update for the progress, any problems faced as well as demos for the work done. Here, the main goal is for the client to see how things are going and provide feedback/thoughts on whether something could be changed/updated.
Of course, it’s not impossible that some requests don’t fit in the initial scope, so during such calls/talks, the two sides could come to an agreement about fitting them in or changing something from the original scope. It’s important to note that the more changes, the harder planning becomes.