WordPress projects are complex. They require a broad range of skills and a great deal of communication – on both the client and developer side – to go smoothly.

For many of the world’s most experienced and successful web developers, identifying bad projects comes naturally. After spending more than a decade in the WordPress development industry, you begin to get a feeling for what works and what doesn’t.

But it’s not the established developers that need this skill the most. Newcomers, less-experienced developers, and small web agencies need to learn what separates a great project from a bad one as soon as possible. This single skill can be of make-it-or-break-it importance for a new developer.

If you know to refuse bad projects, you’ll dedicate more of your time to good ones. You’ll be able to streamline your professional life while maintaining a better work/life balance and earn more per project.

What Makes a Bad WordPress Project?

In order to find out how to avoid bad projects, we need to carefully define what turns projects bad. Generally, when a project requires more work or more resources than originally planned, or when it involves greater risks than originally foreseen, it counts as a bad one.

This typically happens for one of three reasons:

  • Incomplete Developer Knowledge. There is no comprehensive, industry-wide list of skills that someone needs to have to certify themselves as a web developer. Some projects require skills that developers may not have – or worse, not even know they don’t have.
  • Troublesome Clients. Bad clients run the gamut from perfectionists requiring constant revisions to leaderless organizations giving confusing, contradictory directions. Clients who are dodgy when it comes to money also fall in this category.
  • Poorly Conceived Projects. Sometimes, good clients and good developers work together seamlessly on projects that are simply not destined for success. It’s only a matter of time before project failure leads to recrimination and blame.

Top Warning Signs To Look Out For

In most cases, these three bad attributes come along with warning signs that web agency owners can train themselves to identify. If you invest time in project discovery, you’ll almost certainly come up against one of these warning signs, but in many cases, they are apparent even earlier, from the very first conversations you have with clients.

Incomplete Developer Knowledge

Web agencies looking to outsource WordPress projects will often run into problems with WordPress developers who use mass-market technology to workaround incomplete knowledge of the platform. If you are hiring a WordPress developer for a client, your name and reputation rest on that developer’s WordPress knowledge.

That means that your developer should know PHP and be able to demonstrate that fact. Your developer should be familiar with WordPress APIs and have at least a few private plugins already made.

Be wary of developers who rely on page builders or immense, highly customizable themes. Plenty of good developers use these tools to make good WordPress sites, but many use them to work around gaps in their knowledge.

Troublesome Clients

It’s quite rare for a client to know exactly what he or she wants and to know what technology is needed to produce that result. In most cases, you will get one or the other – and this can generate conflict during the later stages of a WordPress project.

But these conflicts are easy to resolve when clients are organized, consistent, and professional. WIth disorganized, inconsistent, and unprofessional ones, they can be disastrous. If there are internal conflicts in the client’s organization, you might end up taking the fall.

Look out for last-minute cancellations, lapses in communication, and a general lack of agreement between project stakeholders. Also, be wary of clients who ask for specific technical features rather than solutions – if you don’t know what services features are supposed to provide as part of a strategic direction, you’ll be in trouble later on.

Poorly Conceived Projects

This is an area where having more than a few years’ experiences developing WordPress websites is invaluable. Sometimes you get a project that simply isn’t going to work – at least, not in the form, your client is proposing.

Large-scale marketplace-style websites are a great example. Amazon, eBay, Uber, and AirBNB are some of the biggest and most visible tech companies out there. They work by matching both buyers and sellers on a single platform.

In general, WordPress architecture is not well-suited to this kind of functionality. It can be done, of course, but there are better options out there. This begs the question – why use WordPress at all?

Usually, the main reason is cost. Compared to a highly customized, multi-platform solution like the one Uber uses, WordPress is definitely cheaper. But if you try to build something like Uber on WordPress, chances are it won’t work. At the very least, the process will be far more unwieldy and difficult than it needs to be.

Any serious project will come with a clear long-term strategy and a plan for using the appropriate technology for the job. Expert WordPress developers learn to ask these questions early on to discover whether the project can feasibly achieve success or not.

Success: The Right Team, the Right Clients, the Right Projects

You won’t always be able to identify a bad WordPress project from the start. But if you keep looking out for warning signs, you will be able to protect yourself from losing too much time and energy and them.

As you develop your agency, you will get a clear feel for projects where your outsourced developers, your team, and your clients adhere to a set of well-defined principles. These are the projects upon which you will build your reputation, and the ones that you should seek out moving forward.

If your clients are tasking you with WordPress projects that you’d like to complete quickly and professionally, talk to our team at UnlimitedWP.