If you have been running a website of your own for some time, there is a very good chance that you are beginning to think about creating a custom theme to stand out from the crowd. While premium themes and frameworks will take you far, there is nothing quite like having a theme developed to your exact requirements.
You may have tinkered with a theme to make it look the way you want but there is almost always something that just isn’t quite right. The customizations you make to an existing theme are almost never going to make your website look exactly as you want.
The problem tends to be that you are too busy running the site. You don’t have time or patience to learn to code or make those changes on your own. Rather than getting caught up in the development aspect of WordPress, why not take the sensible approach and hire yourself a WordPress theme developer to build a custom theme for you?
Decisions to Make Before You Hire a Developer
There are a couple of things you should decide on before you begin to look for a developer to create your custom theme.
Firstly: You need to decide whether you are going to find someone to both design and develop your theme, or whether you are going to separate that job into its two distinct parts.
Not all developers will carry out the complete process of a theme creation. It is far more likely for a developer to take a PSD file of the finalized design and create a working theme from it.
I would recommend you split the project into the separate design and development stages. This allows you to find people who specialize in each aspect. You can work with a designer to create your theme’s look down to the smallest detail where they will be able to offer constructive and skilled advice.
Once you have a completed the theme’s design it can then be passed to a developer whose only focus is to turn that design into a working theme. This frees them from any design decisions and discussion to concentrate on what they’re best at.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, you have to know what you want from a new theme. There’s no point going into this without a clear idea of how you want your website to look and function.
The details may change as you discuss the theme with a designer, but the core look, design and functionality choices for the site should be clear in your mind from the very beginning.
Finding Theme Developers
Once you have a complete PSD file of the site design, you can now begin to look for someone to put it all together for you.
There are several places you can go to find a developer to carry out the work. One of the best places to begin is to actually ask the designer you worked with if they can recommend someone.
It’s very common for designers and developers to work together and recommend each other to clients. If your designer has someone they trust to do a good job then it is certainly worth speaking to them. They may not be ideal for you to work with, but as they already come with a recommendation of someone you trust, you could skip several potential hurdles.
Another option to find a developer is to use one of the bidding sites such as People Per Hour or Elance. Or you could try Envato’s latest service based site Microlancer. These sites aren’t great for finding high quality developers, as most people leave them behind once they build a decent portfolio of work. However, you may find a new developer who is keen to build a portfolio and will do the work far cheaper than you would expect elsewhere. Personally I’d avoid this option, but if you are working on a small budget it may be a good solution for you.
Another simple, yet effective option is to do a Google search for WordPress developers in your area. It really can be that simple. You will find a multitude of people who are able to do the work, and using someone locally may be a better option for you than someone in another country.
The local option potentially allows you to meet the person, or at least speak to them over the phone at regular intervals during the project. It’s possible that you may not find the most talented developer for the job if you use someone local, but that can be offset by your ability to have a face to face discussion with them. It really depends on what makes you the most comfortable when running the project.
Choosing Your Theme Developer
Once you have a selection of developers, you will need to decide on how to reduce that selection to the person you will be working with.
You need to make sure that they are capable of carrying out the work and are easy to work with. The quickest way to do that is to look at their website. A developer’s website should look professional and impress you. If they have a bad website, why would you trust them to do a good job with yours?
You should be able to find a portfolio of previous clients on their site, and ideally client testimonials. It is far easier to trust someone who has proven that they can do the job and has several clients recommending them.
That’s not to say that a developer who doesn’t have these things isn’t any good. It’s simply much easier to hire someone who has addressed your initial questions of competence before you even ask them.
Setting the Project Guidelines and Contract
Once you have decided on your developer you must define the project and any milestones in writing. Never start a job like this without a contract and fee agreement in place. Ever.
It is a good idea to set certain things out in writing before you begin so that both you and the developer know what is expected from each of you.
There are a few things that you should include in any guidelines and contract you have.
- The full fee for the project and how that fee breaks down (advance/milestones/etc)
- Testing and revisions requirements for the theme before it goes live
- That the project is work for hire and that all copyright is retained by you
- Methods and frequency of communication (email/phone/in person)
- Estimated time for the project completion
There may be other things specific to you or specific to the developer that need to be inserted into the contract. What you should remember is that this is a business agreement and you should make it as specific or as relaxed as you need it to be.
Finding and working with a good developer needn’t be a difficult or troublesome prospect. There are thousands of great developers out there. You want to work with someone talented, but more than that you want to work with someone who is reliable and a pleasure to deal with.
No matter how talented a developer is, if they can’t meet a deadline or they are horrible to work with, you’re going to regret using them.
When you do find a developer who does a great job and works well with you, stick with them for other projects. Recommend them to your friends and other people in your network when they are looking for developers. If you can build a good relationship with someone they are likely to go that extra step to help you out, which can only make their work better.
Have you had a custom theme built for your website? How did you find a developer and what advice and recommendations do you have for the process? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.