WordPress professionals work with the world’s favorite content management system every day and develop an intimate knowledge of the best way to build and manage WordPress sites. We wanted to understand how the most sophisticated WordPress users approach creating a great experience for their clients, so we asked some of our favorite WordPress professionals about their secret formula for creating the ideal WordPress experience.
The answers were varied: some focused on the technology, some on creating an elegant user experience, and some on the finer details of content management. In this article, we’d like to share a collection of the most insightful responses we received.
Heather Acton is the founder of Helio Interactive, a custom web development and strategy agency. She advocates a dual approach that combines a deep understanding of WordPress with careful attention to the specific needs of clients:
“Our ‘secret formula’ for delivering an ideal WordPress experience is twofold. On the site administrator side, it’s about staying on top of WordPress development – ensuring we know what is possible with the software and what the right way to implement those things are. Examples would be use of custom content types, taxonomies, and meta information. On the site user/visitor side, It’s about listening to our clients’ needs, doing market research, and implementing solutions based on what we’ve learned.”
Ian Wilson of premium WordPress plugin developers Kraftpress puts strong emphasis on creating a thoughtful, coherent experience for clients:
“I’d say that the secret to delivering the best WordPress experience is to take the time to understand how it works, and how it is supposed to work, and build accordingly. Creating a patchwork of disparate plugins that split up the functionality of the site into a multitude of individual settings pages and widgets is one of the worst user experiences imaginable, and yet I see it on a regular basis. People who do that don’t care about the user experience, only about providing a quick fix for a problem they didn’t take the time to understand in the first place.”
In a nutshell, the only “secret” is hard work and dedication to craft. Good old fashioned blood, sweat and tears.
For web developer Joseph Casabona of Manifest Development, the secret to the ideal WordPress experience is to remember that it’s not only the client you should aim to please, but their users too:
“Delivering an ideal WordPress experience is no different than delivering an ideal Website experience; talk to your client and more importantly, talk to the users. Ask them how they plan on using the website, the most important interactions, and make sure it’s easy to use. With WordPress, pick the right plugins and themes for the job. If that means making a custom one to get the best experience, then do that.”
Kyle Maurer of Real Big Marketing reminds us that not everyone is wants or needs the full complexity of the WordPress dashboard: many clients are more comfortable with an interface that provides only the functionality they need to be productive:
“My ‘secret formula’ for delivering an ideal WordPress experience actually has a lot to do with customizing and simplifying the WordPress dashboard for my clients so that they are able to be productive without being confused or overwhelmed. To that end we have been developing a cool plugin which allows webmasters to take control of the WP dashboard and customize the experience for their users based on their specific needs.
We also utilize other helpful plugins like WP Help for giving clients FAQ style information in the context of their dashboard as well as a number of others for things like support tickets, capability management, user activity tracking and integrated tutorials. With all of this in place, our clients are empowered and set up for success from the get go.”
Kyle’s sentiments were echoed by Mark Jaquith, a WordPress consultant with Covered Web Services:
“My secret is to give the user precisely what they need to accomplish their goals, and nothing more. If there is a part of the user interface that they don’t need to be touching, I want it gone. They should feel that everything they can touch is useful, and everything is safe for them to use.”
Jake Goldman, President and Founder of 10up, a web design, development, and content marketing consulting agency and a WordPress contributor, offered responses from two different perspectives:
As an agency: Assembling the right team of design and engineering talent that understands that, within the realm of content publishing and management, almost anything is possible, that there’s no such thing as “making a website for WordPress” – there’s just making a great website, powered by WordPress.
As a developer of modules for the platform: Ask “What Would Core Do?” Embrace the core philosophy of “decisions, not options,” and create modules that feel like an organic extension of the core software. If someone using WordPress for the first time can tell where WordPress stops and your solution starts, you’ve failed.”
These guys are the best in the business and the message is clear: if you want to build a successful business around WordPress, make an effort to understand the WordPress platform and ecosystem, and listen carefully to clients so you develop an understanding of both their needs and their users’ needs.
Most of all, keep in mind that people come to you for solutions and WordPress is the tool you use to build those solutions; give them the functionality they need in a context they understand, and don’t burden them with unnecessary complexity. Simplicity is the key to providing the ideal WordPress experience.