The WordPress developer lock-in effect

It is easy to get stuck with a developer or how a website is developed. Too much customization or poor choices can generate unnecessary technical dependency.

Fresh Vanilla WordPress

A new WordPress installation is not only fast but also reliable. Although its functions and looks may be initially limited, the community has thoroughly tested them. With each new release, the platform’s dependence on custom development decreases, providing a stable foundation for a website.

A customer with specific needs

When a website owner who is not too technical asks for help, the kind of help they receive will depend on who they ask. 

Developers have diverse preferences when it comes to WordPress development. Some enjoy coding extensively to have complete control over every aspect, while others prefer the convenience of using plugins, which are pre-coded solutions developed by others. This flexibility caters to a wide range of developer needs.

Custom theme and plugins

A developer who is comfortable with code and has worked on several platforms might want to offer their custom solutions.

This could be the case if this developer does not know WordPress well enough or if the customer chooses a specific theme or plugin to start from, which could imply a new technology for the developer to learn from.

Custom code can be much more performant than using a bunch of plugins or snippets, but it will always have to be maintained by someone. Here is where the software/developer lock-in begins.

If instead of choosing to code everything, the developer chooses a well-known plugin to cover the solution, even better, if this solution extends the WordPress core and has standard ways to export the data rather than creating its structure, more people will be able to continue with the project if there is a need to, for example, end the relationship between the customer and the developer.

An experienced developer will know when to say “No” to a new feature, whether it doesn’t add real value to the project, affects overall performance or accessibility, etc. Usually, if there is no popular solution for a problem, developing it in the first place might not make much sense.

Even if this custom solution by the developer is well documented, the amount of developers willing to work with it is smaller and more expensive.

Web hosting specialized for developers

There are several ways to host a WordPress site.

Some traditional hosting plans simplify the experience and even help the customer by managing WordPress and having a specialized support team ready to offer guidance.

Other options can be more developer-oriented, such as cloud services.

Nowadays, cloud services offer pre-configured hosting plans but can lack a support team. They rely more on technical documentation. Even though they are usually cheaper, they tend to provide less intuitive interfaces to the end user.

A customer usually listens to the developer. If the developer recommends a cloud service in a similar way to provide custom code, it will also create a lock-in effect on the hosting plan. If the customer chooses to migrate, it will usually be more challenging, and they will need more technical help.

Building websites with the WordPress Site Editor following the documentation will help the ecosystem: the plugin and theme creators, the website builders, and, most importantly, the end users.

Please contact me if you need help with your WordPress development, theme, plugins, or web hosting and would like to chat.

Jos Velasco.

CC0 licensed photo by Jennifer Bourn from the WordPress Photo Directory.

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