There are a number of advantages to being a WordPress developer in Los Angeles. For one thing, the weather is always nice here! For another, work is plentiful, and I can usually find something that interests me and pays enough to keep the lights on. However, there are definitely some challenges involved in being a website developer. What’s more, the culture in Los Angeles can make those challenges even more, well, challenging. Here are a few examples of things I have encountered in WordPress development, and how the culture in the Los Angeles area has made them more challenging than they otherwise may have been.
Being a WordPress developer takes technical know-how
Here’s the thing: WordPress is so easy to use—at least initially—that you end up with a large number of people who claim to be web developers simply because they can install WordPress and then use a theme. Being able to do this does not make one a WordPress developer!
And yet, because of the proliferation of so-called website developers, properly qualified website developers like myself face an uphill battle. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and nowhere is that more true than in the arena of website development.
The Los Angeles area is infested with unqualified people who call themselves WordPress developers; these people often take on new clients for a pittance and then end up walking away when they cannot perform the work for which they were hired. This leaves the client holding the bag and hesitant to pay even more to a real WordPress developer who can actually fix the issue.
Making matters worse, even when a company has not been burned by an incompetent so-called “WordPress designer“, the sheer number of people calling themselves that makes it difficult for a business to find the right professional to do the website work they need. A simple search for WordPress developers in the Los Angeles area will turn up hundreds of results; in this environment, finding the right developer can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
If you are looking for a website developer, keep this in mind: WordPress is merely a framework, and in order to put together a good website you must have a number of skills that are all related to effective website design. A good website developer will know about SEO, information architecture, website usability, market research, and other basic matters. Further, he or she should be able to assist clients in understanding these topics, and seeing how they relate to the effectiveness of their website.
Building trust between a website developer and a client takes time, but trust is one of the requirements for the relationship to work. Given this, and given the plethora of people claiming to be WordPress developers in Los Angeles, it can be particularly challenging establishing the relationship you need with a potential client.
The cultural lack of urgency in Los Angeles
While there are many hard working people living in the Los Angeles area, there is an overall cultural attitude that pushes people to have “soft deadlines” when it comes to business. They are aware of what needs to be done, but are not too worried about getting it done on a timely basis.
It is not uncommon for a new client to approach me about getting a WordPress website up and running. At that stage, the client is eager to get things moving along and wants to do whatever it takes to get a leg up on the competition. However, after I have put in the legwork and gotten the website ready for launch, that sense of urgency disappears.
For example, when asked to provide images and blog posts for a website, many clients tend to put things off. Likewise, it is not uncommon for a client to approve a specific website design and then start to have second thoughts when the site is close to going live.
Of course, developers around the world experience similar issues, and I’m not saying this is unique to Los Angeles. However, it does seem to be the common consensus among website developers that these issues are more prevalent in this area.
Clients—particularly in Los Angeles—can be temperamental and demanding
Whether it’s the fact that life is quite comfortable in the Los Angeles area or some other factor, clients here tend to be more fickle and demanding than in other areas of the country. There is a sense of entitlement when it comes time to discuss things such as deadlines, rates, and the type of work they want to have done.
When you are a website developer for a large business, things are different. There is a sense of formality when it comes to these matters, and the specifics are often predetermined on a routine basis rather than on a case-by-case basis. However, as a freelancer, you are able to have a more casual approach to these matters. While this is a nice touch, it can lead to unrealistic expectations from clients.
Sometimes, I have been generous with a client in order to establish a rapport, only to have my generosity taken for granted. This stems in part from a common misconception on the part of clients: they think that if your prices are cheap, you must be either inexperienced or desperate. As a result, being too generous with a new client can come back to bite you.
WordPress website design is a process, not a result
Many clients do not understand the nuts and bolts of putting together a good WordPress website. Rather, they think of website design as an interchangeable fungible good: something that can be done equally well, and with about the same amount of work, regardless of who is doing the work.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Web is a medium, and putting together an effective website requires knowledge about a wide variety of things. Of particular importance is the ability to understand and take advantage of the interactive qualities of the Internet. A website is not like a poster or the cover for an album; a website—at least a good one—is a dynamic presence on the web with which users can interact.
Lacking this knowledge, clients frequently attempt to micromanage the website design process without fully understanding what all goes into putting together a good website. This can end up ruining what would have been a great website.
This is especially challenging for freelance web designers who may be working with a tight budget. Clients, lacking an understanding of how websites work, are reluctant to pay for the additional design work that is necessary to meet their (often unrealistic) expectations.
A real-life illustration of freelance website design challenges
Recently a well-known Los Angeles firm asked me to take a look at their WordPress site. The firm just wanted me to make a few superficial changes and add some functionality.
When I started reviewing the code, I quickly saw that this was the worst WordPress installation I had ever seen. It was incredibly bloated with unnecessary and unused features. For example, there were 8 slider plugins installed—and all were running—but only 3 were being used. There were more than 30 different kinds of plugins installed, and only about half of them were necessary.
The part of the code that dictates how the top of the website appears had 3000 lines of code—in contrast, most of the websites I put together have fewer than 100 lines. I could readily tell that several different people had worked on the site and they had not bothered to communicate with each other. As a result, there were many unnecessary and overlapping features.
In addition to an overwhelming amount of unnecessary code, the site design was a disaster as well. The white space was irregular and inadequate. Fonts were mismatched and incredibly undersized. There were buttons that didn’t work, features that did not fit into the overall design, and elements that overlapped. It was a mess.
I could see that to perform the work they wanted me to perform would take me about 3 times as long as it should. It would require an incredible amount of digging through code and rewriting conflicting items. Even if I did that, cleaning the site up and getting it running smoothly would have been an impossible task.
My recommendation to the client was to start over with a fresh website. Of course, this idea was not well received, and they just wanted me to add in more code and features. Knowing that I could not do the work they wanted with the budget they were allowing me, I declined to accept the job.
What I’ve learned as a freelance WordPress developer in Los Angeles
Fortunately, I’ve taken a thing or two away from my experiences. One thing I have learned is that it is crucial to interview a client (just as they interview you) before taking on a project. You need to be able to learn whether a client is going to defer to your expertise and let you do your job without undue interference.
You also must set limits regarding the scope and timing of the work you’re going to do. This is an absolute must if you wish to prevent the client from taking advantage of your ability to work in an informal manner. I’ve learned that some amount of formality is a good thing, because it puts the client on notice that you are a professional, with the commensurate knowledge, skills, and abilities (as well as the right to be paid as such).