There’s been a lot of discussion in the WordPress community lately about who is and isn’t a developer. Being able to install WordPress and add plugins and themes to create a working site doesn’t make you a developer–but it does mean you have skills other people might pay for.
If you’re talking to me, you probably want a website–either a first website or an overhaul of an existing website. And you probably don’t care whether it’s designed, developed, implemented, or pulled like a rabbit out of a hat as long as it works and helps your business grow.
I’m at the “Google it” stage of development. I’ve been working with WordPress since 2005 and with the Genesis Framework almost since StudioPress created it, but I didn’t study programming. The languages I know are human languages, and the ones I know best (apart from English) haven’t been spoken for centuries. (Why no, I’m not the only classicist who ended up in a tech job.)
One thing I did learn in my years as an academic was how to do research. When I need to do something I haven’t done before, I can find out how. Since this is not always superlatively efficient, I subcontract the most complex programming to people who have a software background and know PHP better than I do. As the organizer of the East Bay WordPress Meetup, I know a lot of designers, developers, SEO experts, and others with specialized knowledge.
Mainly what I do when building sites for people–beyond the content strategy–is customize WordPress themes and integrate existing plugins (free or commercial) in order to support the client’s business goals. If someone needs a completely custom plugin coded, I will subcontract that particular job, because although I have a remarkable degree of persistence and learn quickly, you probably want your project done this year.
I like using the Genesis Theme Framework as a basis for building themes. I trust the team at StudioPress to create quality code and keep it up to date, and there are a lot of nice features built in to Genesis, like per-page layouts and search-engine friendliness. There’s a lot of functionality without a lot of extra overhead or bewildering arrays of theme functions, and once you learn the framework, knowing it makes developing faster.
I’ve also developed child themes based on themes produced by Automattic (starting with Twenty Ten and moving on up): they’re quality themes with trustworthy coding, and they’re free. (Why child themes? Because your customizations don’t get overwritten when there’s an update to the original theme.) I can work with most themes, but I’ll warn you if you’ve chosen a theme that won’t serve the purpose of your site very well.
Only an analysis of your needs–what’s known as “discovery” will actually determine whether you can use something off the shelf or need it custom-built. Sometimes it is actually faster to build something from scratch rather than attempting to shoehorn a square peg of a theme or plugin into the round hole of your site development needs, but I don’t love coding so much that I’m going to try to sell you a custom solution when there’s a better answer already available.
View my portfolio for examples of sites I have built, helped to build, and otherwise worked on.