25 Comments

  1. White Label Agency (@dev_wp)

    I read Mario’s post with great interest. He makes some strong points. Yes, it is a bit of rant in places – but one that is well needed. It has bits and pieces of some common rants that we find ourselves making all of the time here at The White Label Agency. He did a great job of summing them up. We talk internally among our management team all of the time about how the WordPress universe is still the wild, wild west in many ways. One thing that we see firsthand are agencies and individuals taking on projects that are beyond their skill sets and experience levels. I find myself having similar conversations with potential clients over and over again. I ask questions like, “Do you know specifically who at your client is going to own the new Woocommerce site you are proposing to build and do you have confidence that they are going to roll up their sleeves and totally immerse themselves in Woocommerce?” We are trying to stop clients from taking projects that are bad for them because as the outsourced WordPress team who will be subcontracted to do the actual development work, if it goes bad for them, it is going to go bad for us as well.

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    • Mario Peshev

      Thanks for the great comment, and I definitely agree about the “wild, wild west” remark. I remember when I attended a talk about unit testing a couple of years ago at a major WordCamp and everyone was stoked and speechless at the end, even though it’s practically mandatory in many communities such as the Ruby one.

      The fact that the vast majority of the service providers are amateurs – i.e. not practical education or experience in a real industry – is one of the reasons why we don’t have a solid foundation when it comes to best practices or conventions. And while marketers or hobbyists offer professional web development services instead of focusing on their own niche, we wouldn’t proactively move forward.

      P.S. I don’t mind any legal industry or profession and I have respect for people who are just starting and are passionate about learning the basics. But I wouldn’t tolerate people misleading clients by offering services beyond their understanding, endangering their businesses and harming the global reputation of WordPress as a platform and a community.

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  2. Jason Rox

    Hi there,

    Of course I have read your post and enjoyed it. I confess I am by no means an expert but do know a lot more than the average Joe. I never describe myself as an expert, guru or even indeed geek. Though my wife calls me geeky.

    I took note in your opening about how getting kids involved in the development part would be far more beneficial for them than wasting thousands of $ or £ in my case on college fees. I always encourage my son to develop his skills in this area. I fear that too many kids these days are being forced into college with the false belief it will help them to a great career. I know many graduates that are working in the so called McJobs for minimum pay with a massive loan to pay back for their universite education. Good point. No I would say an excellent point to make.

    Secondly I took note of the point where you mention items of a private matter end up on the “public” side of the site. I am working on a site at the moment for a small hotel. I took over the site a couple of weeks back and sure enough I pointed out to them that their staff rota was there for the whole world to see. Not only was the staff rota there it was in a frame from Google Docs. I guess this is quite a security lapse?!? I deleted the page. Their site is a nightmare as it has not been set up correctly and rather than using “Categories” they now have 50 odd pages…. As said I am not an expert but a mere amature who is now banging his head off the desk at this hotel site…

    Lastly I would say you are a great poet?!? You might think “What are you on about you mad man!!!” Well I only say this as WordPress logo states “code is poetry” and I imagine you are great at code…

    Have a good day Jason

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  3. loganyott

    Thank you for writing this thought so eloquently and completely. I think it’s wonderful that WordPress has a relatively low barrier to entry (and so do clients). However, I concur that it has also created a horde of “experts” who claim the title and an ability to build you an advanced site when their feature building has little more scope than installing another contrib plugin.

    Unfortunately, I get the sense that this is the main reason Drupal or Laravel are the first suggestions I hear when a customer has an actual CMS requirement while WordPress is relegated to “you mean that blogging platform?” I can only hope that changes when JSON API and Fields API slowly find their way into core.

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    • Mario Peshev

      Thanks for chipping in to the discussion Logan! That’s exactly where I stand. Low entry point and free for people who just start is terrific, but that keeps dragging the platform development process since established organizations try to stay away from WordPress unless they have had outstanding peers in their network for years.

      Drupal and Laravel are the closest solutions that some organizations pick instead of WordPress, and there are plenty headed to Rails, ASP.NET, a Java framework, Django or something else. The amount of reliability and actual business awareness and appreciation is on an entirely different levels. I’ve spoken to successful business owners who often refer to WordPress as a playground, community by amateurs, a sandbox for kids just starting out. Developers at PHP conferences often kid about WordPress as well. There is a lot more going on, but reality is that we don’t invest in educating our community enough on quality based on the industry standards, and we keep referring to WordPress as merely being a marketing tool, almost as if it’s simply a landing page attached to a real platform.

      I’m also very excited about the coming release and the suggestions for featured plugins, let’s hope for the best.

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  4. Mario Peshev

    Thanks Jason, really appreciate the great feedback and the Code Poet analogy, especially given the more conservative overview on the matter.

    The hotel example that you just shared is something that we see all the time. Just over the last month we received several code review applications by prospects who had a similar problem, and one of them had a school leaking test results which failed several examinations for medical professionals. Imagine meeting a doctor who cheated on all of their tests.

    Customers, being unfamiliar with our industry, don’t realize the amount of responsibility of running a web platform – both in terms of security, online presence, branding, marketing, as a PR tool. They end up handing that to non-experienced service providers and gamble with their own business. That’s a major problem that requires a lot of education and mentoring.

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  5. Tom McFarlin

    This is a fantastic post for many reasons.

    To add to what Mario has shared (which is hard to do because it’s so well-written and comprehensive) is that there are a lot of people who have gotten into WordPress with no form of training in computer science, software engineering, architecture, and so on.

    I’m not saying that a formal degree is required to do this – now more than ever we have the resources online to teach this kind of stuff – but simply going through pre-written files and changing out strings or installing plugins is not development.

    When it comes to other fields such as Objective-C, .NET, Rails, etc., most of the people who work in those environments are people who have the conceptual understanding of how software is put together, they are familiar with concepts like version control and why it’s useful, understand the importance of project management software, and are familiar with bug tracking and reporting software so that they can resolve issues with their products.

    WordPress, on the other hand, is more like the wild west. You’ve got people ranging from those who cowboy code on the server to those who have strong opinions about the development tools they use on their local machine (and why they use them).

    The latter will likely be the ones you want building you a solution on top of WordPress.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that we’ll ever really see an end to the competition that exists from those who are less experienced and “assembling” solutions with themes and plugins to those who have a background in engineering or programming and who have chosen WordPress as their platform of choice for solving problems.

    If you’re looking to get more and more serious about WordPress development, there are some incredibly smart people in the community and every single day I think there’s an opportunity to learn from them (especially from guys like Mario, for example) so use those opportunities to expand what you’re doing via reading blogs, talking in IRC and/or Slack channels, reading source code, working on side projects, and so on.

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    • Mario Peshev

      That’s a great addition Tom, thanks for joining the conversation.

      There is a concept that seems to be getting more and more popular in the WordPress community, which states that WordPress is a marketing tool or a platform. I’ve seen hundreds of marketing and advertising agencies providing a large set of marketing and branding services and always adding WordPress website building as a natural continuation of their services, next to Facebook landing pages, content marketing, managing AdWords campaign and more.

      I have never claimed that web development is the only required asset for growing a business, but I have no explanation why building web solutions is now leveled to installing WordPress. This is the part that concerns me the most, since I’m open minded and understand a lot of misconceptions that don’t make sense to me, but I see some merit there, but providing web solutions requires some web development knowledge, even if you are not proficient what I would classify as required being algorithms and data structures, computer architectures and so on.

      WordPress is the only popular web development platform that is used mainly as a blogging platform, DIY site builder or a marketing platform, unlike anything else out there that powers major web solutions.

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  6. Evan Herman

    Your section about the WordPress landscape being diluted with users who are confused about where they stand in terms of development ability is spot on, and I feel is partially to blame for the major gap in salaries between a WordPress-centric position vs not. I also feel its to blame for the rates clients expect to pay to have a WordPress site developed for them.

    As you mentioned there are users who claim to be developers who purchase themes from theme marketplaces, throw up some content, swap out some images and charge an exorbitant amount for something that can be completed in a few hours. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with these users, and they certainly have a place in the community, but to label themselves as ‘developers’ is counter intuitive and a label used solely to raise rates. I’ve had my fair share of clients come to me after dealing with someone who said something couldn’t be done, just because they didn’t know how to.

    Great article and a great read.

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    • Mario Peshev

      Thanks Evan – and definitely with you on the salaries dilemma.

      We need standardized sets of skills for each job position. As a matter of fact, when looking for web developers for us or our partners, we no longer look for WordPress developers since the percentage of people who have seen code at all is far too close to zero. Looking for a Larevel or Zend developer or simply PHP developer generates far better results and requires much less training as compared to people with a “solid” WordPress portfolio unable to create a post type without a plugin.

      Offering development services without knowing what development is harms the industry as a whole. Imagine trying to offer medical or law services without the right background – you would have bought your one way ticket to jail.

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  7. Ahmad Awais

    An awesome resource for beginners in WordPress and web development community!

    I’d like to address another problem which can be stated as one of the reasons why these youngsters are not doing great. While it is good to learn a new skill and it’s true that learning it can make you rich or help you get the dream job, there is a hard reality packaged with this deal. That hard reality is confusion. By learning a lot of stuff without proper workflow and guidance, you don’t really find the perfect solution which leads to a never-ending state of being confused.

    To sell their courses and earn a few bucks, internet marketers have de-stablized the young minds. The presence of so many options and the absence of a true path to follow, which could lead to a successful career, has left the beginners in the middle of nowhere.

    It makes me think if what we had i.e. next to no options, was it a better time or this learn-anything-you-want age can still be preferred. While there is an argument about everything I said, facts remain the same and confusion is ever increasing.

    I think what’s missing is the ingredient of patience and hard work. One needs to stick to a field of at least a year or two and then decide if it is not working out well. Contributing to WordPress Core and building free open source plugins or themes can be a big step in the right direction.

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    • Mario Peshev

      Thanks for the great comment, Ahmad. I also see a lot of similarities with the Internet Marketing community, although I think that their work is entirely transparent online. In other words, if you are looking for an Internet Marketer, their online presence and success stories are exactly what you would need as a portfolio, while WordPress development is based on several technical layers that are absolutely unclear to a regular business owner.

      Moreover, plenty of successful technical companies are white labeled, or work with a single client or two for many years, building outstanding products. They don’t spend that much time on marketing and their skills are not necessarily shiny and meaningful to a non-technical user.

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      • Ahmad Awais

        Well, that’s a different perspective and I am in total agreement with you. Comparison between good IM’s and good WordPress developers, when it comes to it — how to find one (as a client) —it’s hard for WP developers to shine.

        That’s why I suggested, contributing to open source via core contributions or free GPL-licensed theme and plugins.

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  8. Patty J. Ayers

    Gotta love the insulting introduction. Anybody who builds websites for small businesses is a loser, eh?

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    • Mario Peshev

      Hi Patty, thanks for joining the open discussion.

      Just for clarification, the title of the post refers to successful WordPress clients in the higher tear of businesses, small and medium enterprises, as well as established corporations. The tips outlined in the post are suitable for consultants and service providers who are looking forward to polishing their skills and working on challenging projects, establishing businesses processes that require a different level of skills.

      That’s why I said that this may not resonate with small business builders. And I’m more than happy with that tier of WordPress service providers – as long as they are educated enough about the web development industry which includes a certain amount of know-how in the programming, system administration, performance and security fields as seen in every single web dev industry out there.

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  9. private

    Hi Mario

    Yes you are right, everyone is a expert. Out of that 170 people I can guarantee you only 1 person might be great at php, I’m not a coder but my business was voted top 5 in my country two years in a row, so I know how to run a great business. And whether its an agency or a shoe shop the basics are always the same. So I have tried lots of devs and I can smell their bullshit before it leaves there mouth hahahah. They have no concept of reality, there lazy, self expectant, self righteous not prepared to do whatever it takes for the customer, are not prepared to do everything properly, there to busy saying how good they are and talking shit rather than actually being good. Most people talk a good game but then when no ones watching they do the opposite,

    As you pointed out any loser can get going as a wp expert, I make it a point to our customers that I am not a coder and were very careful about who we pay to do what, I also spend alot of time trying to build great relationships with the right coders, designers as there valuable to me,and ultimately to my clients for the great work they do. I generally find maybe 1 out of 100 people are actually the sort of person a great business wants to employ or partner with.
    One of the worst thing i found at the moment is the Indian/ Bangladesh people who have littered every western job board with there rubbish profiles, pretending to be westerners. They don’t even speak english properly yet there all experts with hundreds of site they built bahahaha.

    And I think the post actually applies to everyone small or large, its basically showing people that talking crap is not a great way to operate and there is no long term business in that. However the other side of that is not everyone wants to be good either, i spend 30 hrs a week learning about wp, looking at everything and generally trying to be better and my basic wp skills, the coders i employ have written over 20.000 php tutorials for all of the top wp dev firms globally and are constant wp core contributors, and i’m really grateful that they allow me to work with them.

    My standards are extremely high and the only way to do things is once and do it right the first time, as you pointed out all those shit developers in them forest who steal form the repository then lightly modify, change the stock images then sell there as there own code, theme forest love these guys, there making millions from stolen code so there actually encouraging it, they know no one will put up the 2 million needed to stop them and close them down, i am actively working with some government agency’s to get them investigated as i am aware that fraud and certain parts of there operation are illegal in Australia. I also had a fight with the marketing manager form envato recently after telling a conference no to buy from envato, as its mostly stolen code and the shoddy owner is using practices that mean they are operating illegally. he quickly shut up and left like a moron when i challenged him. He knew there a scam outfit and want to bail as fast as he could.

    I like the article and only hope more people are inspired to be better and grow

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    • Mario Peshev

      Thanks for the detailed comment – there are too many valid points here which is somewhat sad, but could be interpret as food for thought and a lesson for all of us.

      The difference with small businesses is that you often don’t need to push the limits of a platform, and it will likely not be cost effective to hire a top notch consultant for a platform that is to be utilized at 3% of its feature set. I believe that there is a market for service providers for small businesses that are just starting and can’t afford a fully-functional platform. That said, the caveat here is that the majority of the providers talk big game and don’t outline the pros and cons between what they provide and what would be the difference with a complete custom platform.

      I.e. you can buy an iPhone replica for $40 online that looks like iPhone, but is a poor Chinese duplicate with a custom cheap OS and limited hardware resources. But it’s easier to make a difference with a product, which isn’t the case with custom solutions.

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  10. Dave Chu

    Hi Mario,
    That’s a great summation of much that’s going on in our realm.

    I, too, am amazed at some of the people willing to describe themselves as developers or designers, let alone all those other terms. While it’s handy that you don’t absolutely have to have certification to do this type of work, you do end up with more wannabes. Of course, being able to start a business with free tools and no capital investment sounds very attractive in a poor economy with high unemployment.

    I noticed recently that a potential business model seems to have sprung from this tendency – I’ve run across a handful of “white-label” shops whose purpose is to secretly write the checks that the “developer” or “designer” can’t cash, so to speak. ;) It will be interesting to see how they make out.

    Also anecdotally, it seems to me that the people who really can’t do the job well are becoming fewer, at least where I’ve been hanging out. So the problem may be self-correcting to an extent.

    Thanks, Dave

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    • Mario Peshev

      Dave, always good talking business with you!

      I do support the fact that certificates are not required. Or diploma for that matter. We’ve been brainwashed since forever when it comes to how important college or university is for everyone. The software engineering profession as a whole does not require a Computer Science degree, but it doesn’t mean that learning most of the curriculum is not needed.

      That said, right now everyone can provide WordPress services, but there is no sensible way for prospects to find knowledgeable service providers. No list of vetted people, no way to establish who is a good fit without relying on their personal marketing/brand self-promotion, especially for non-technical clients.

      But I totally disagree that those who can’t do the job well are becoming fewer – this may be the case in your area, but it’s getting worse globally every single week. Try posting a job on jobs.wordpress.net or any other job board and see what happens. I’ve been spending at least a day or two a month for several years now analyzing the market, and I keep seeing photographers, PRs, journalists, marketing people and thousands of other freelancers who start offering WordPress development services without prior background.

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      • Dave Chu

        Mario,
        Fair enough! Anything this popular will eventually be overwhelmed by “The Great Unwashed”, with a side-order of “race to the bottom”. Yummy!

        I’m thinking of blogging a list of questions for clients to ask potential “providers”. Of course they couldn’t verify every answer unless they were super-geeky, but even in that case they could at least gauge how much squirming is going on. :)

        Dave

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  11. Michael

    Love this post Mario! It was great to hear (see) someone express the frustration I feel when defining myself as a “WordPress Developer” without adding thirty seconds of explanation that I don’t just shop for themes and install plugins.

    I don’t recall you touching on this, but “those” WordPress developers are also a great source of business. While they, too, can be difficult to work with at times, they are good for repeat business once they know they have a resource for the most difficult projects.

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    • Mario Peshev

      Thanks a lot, Michael! There’s probably a term out there for “Tech Nazi” or something like that for geeks like us.

      Agreed on the business opportunity, although I’ve had a lot of requests by people who simply underprice big time simply because they do installments. I can recall a few examples where I’ve been contacted for various API integrations or complex plugins with 3-figure budgets simply because the service providers expected to find yet another free plugin that would solve their problem in the first place.

      But I’ve had some creative companies that focus on child themes and no code and often receive technical inquiries that end up with looking for technical WordPress development teams too.

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  12. ProWeb365

    Hey Jeff, as a guy working with WP in minnesota, Thanks for great post. I have been working with WP since 2009..and I have faced with a lot of problems with my clients. It’s luckily that all things seem to be okey up to now.

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  13. soflaweb

    Great article, I read this a few days ago and then I received an email from LinkedIn with the following subject, “I am a wordpress regesign expert”.

    I thought it was completely relevant: http://awesomescreenshot.com/0ab5787t86

    :)

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