How to Tell a Web Designer / Developer from a WordPress Theme Installer

I’ve recently been doing some research to find a little help here around I need someone who can do a little maintenance on some sites I manage, freeing me up for the more involved design and development stuff I personally enjoy.

Naturally, I’m looking through various Pittsburghers who call themselves freelance web developers, doing searches that include the word “WordPress.”

The results are kind of scary. The first ten people I found are touting themselves as web designers and developers…but they’re doing neither. What they’re actually doing is going out and buying a theme for their clients, clicking a few buttons, adding a few images, and calling it web design and development.

Scary stuff.

So what?

Okay so here’s the thing. Pre-built themes, like what I’m talking about above, are cheap. I’m sure many of these “designer/devs” are calling it “affordable”, but the fact is they’re cheap in every sense of the word.

The average pre-built theme outputs about 10 Javascript files and a handful of CSS files just to make it work. A good site would have only one of each, or no Javascript at all. These days, Google is measuring site speed in milliseconds, and every one of those files slows your site down all that much more. If Google doesn’t like your site, you don’t show up as high as you might want to in the search results. No search positioning, no one finds you.

Cheap is cheap. It’s like buying a piece of crappy plastic made in China for $0.10 and sold in the US for $10 when you were actually hoping to buy a car.


How do I avoid this?

There are two simple methods I personally use to evaluate how good a web developer is:

#1. View Source

Okay so in your browser, you know Chrome or Safari or Firefox or Internet Explorer or whatever you use, on your computer, go to their website.

Now right click anywhere on their homepage and click “View Source” (or some variant of that as it is a little different on each browser).

Next, press Command + F (Mac) or Control + F (Windows) and search for /wp-content/themes/

Note whatever piece of text follows that. It’s the name of the theme they’re using. Every WordPress site uses a theme, whether it’s custom or not, but once you have the name of the theme, you can Google it.

If you find the theme, and it looks very similar to the site they have, then they’re not a designer at all, and calling them a developer is a big stretch of the imagination as well.

Using a pre-built theme may work when you’re just starting out…as long as you’re not concerned with performance or customers finding you. No, it’s not impossible to succeed with a pre-built theme…it’s just highly unlikely.

It’s your call, of course.

#2. Pagespeed

This is even easier. Copy the website address (i.e.,

Go to Google’s Test My Site tool.

ClickNathan scores high across Google's tests
Not too shabby, and this is a full year after last updating my homepage.

If everything isn’t 90 or better, and especially if they’re “in the red”, then you should probably look elsewhere. Sure, often designers and developers are so busy working for clients they don’t have time to update their own sites, but then again, if they’re not building something great for themselves, what will they build for you?

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