Can you fix my site that I made with Visual Composer (or other drag-and-drop tool)?

Yes and no. Drag-and-drop systems allow a lot of editing without writing code. Great, right? But Visual Composer (“VC”) is not a panacea, and may actually make significant site changes more difficult. To make things easier for you, it adds a huge amount of its own code to each page. That can bite you when you want to add components that are not part of VC – they may conflict with VC’s code. What’s more, sometimes normal WordPress functions won’t even work on a VC-edited page.

A little secret: If you find at some point that you don’t like VC, you can’t just uninstall it without losing all the formatting of your content. You’ll also end up with disabled VC “shortcodes” all over your content. So in effect, they hope to lock you in so you use their product forever, and you get to pay them money every year. Or you could instead buy a new theme, enter all your content all over again, and arrange it carefully once more – a lot of extra work to undo all that was done with VC. Of course they don’t tell you this.

The same type of problems also apply to varying degrees with other “builders” and various Themeforest themes.

Are you a designer?

Strictly speaking, I’m a developer. That means that I usually build a site from an existing graphic design, and handle programming tasks that most designers don’t do. Most often, I work in tandem with a designer.

Still, I often handle a lot of design on sites, sometimes all of it. I have a good sense of color, typography, layout, and usability. I can easily turn a designer’s PSD into WordPress templates used to build your site. I can also create a design for you from scratch if  you’d like.

Many of the items in my portfolio were actually designed by others, but coded and built by me. That’s why they look quite different from each other – I can build out almost any kind of design.

Do you do ongoing site maintenance?

In some cases, yes. Some clients want ongoing support, and I sell them pre-paid blocks of time. Let me know what you’re looking for, and we can discuss it.

Can you make my site look good on my phone, iPad, or tablet?

It’s my standard practice to build a new site with responsiveness in mind, which improves the look of your site on small devices.

I work hard to make your site look good on as many devices as possible by using current practices that work with the most popular devices. That said, there are countless varieties of web devices, which run many types of hardware and software. This means that I don’t guarantee perfection for your every gesture, on every device, and on every operating system.

On the other hand, when I see that you’re requesting a site feature that will compromise usability on various devices, I will let you know.

Will my site run forever without a problem?

It’s important to remember that although I am very diligent and use quality practices, I don’t guarantee that a site will work forever without updates and attention, and really no one can. As technologies change, sometimes a site will need to be changed to keep up. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have your site checked pretty regularly. I don’t offer this automatically, because many customers’ budgets don’t allow for it, but I do sell pre-paid blocks of support time for those who are interested.

Can you teach me how to use my site?

In many cases, yes. Most of my clients are out of town, so I don’t visit them in person. But I use Skype (or phone) to talk with them if needed to help them out. Depending on the situation, I may treat instruction as billable time. I can also recommend good sources of information, both free and paid.

Can you clone a particular feature, or even a whole site?

There’s no harm in getting general ideas from another site – that’s a very valid approach. In many cases I can clone features, or get general inspiration from another site. But some of my clients want to do a full cloning job, and I strongly advise against that – along with being just plain unoriginal, it’s surprisingly expensive.

You could say that there are two approaches to making a site:

  1. Have your site built from components that are put together efficiently, allowing for mild customization – getting the job done with a minimum of fuss. There is some give-and-take on specifications, keeping down the costs and time spent.
  2. Build everything super-customized to very exacting specs with little compromise. This is expensive – potentially more than doubling the costs and time of the first approach.

Either approach can be valid, depending on your budget and goals. Option 1 will cost less, yet you can still do this with a completely custom design. It’s the way I recommend.

Interestingly, the second approach can apply to both highly original designs or exact cloning – they both require huge amounts of detail work, which is expensive. Copying a site isn’t like just making a copy of a document or digital file.

Can you move my site to a new host?

Yes, and with a good host, this goes pretty quickly, although if you happen to have chosen poor quality hosting, it may take longer. You’d be amazed at how many hosts, even popular ones, are awful. Some of the worst hosts I’ve dealt with include iPage and Dotster, for instance. Godaddy hosting was mediocre for years – they seem to have recognized this and have recently plowed back some of their earnings back into improving.

Note – if your email is hosted on your old host, and you want all the old email moved to the new host, this isn’t something that I offer. This is something that clients often aren’t aware of when they want to move hosting, and fortunately, this doesn’t come up often anymore. This issue doesn’t arise at all if you use the popular webmail hosts, such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc., and simply want your site’s email addresses to be forwarded to webmail.

What are some good web hosts?

These days I’m recommending Idologic, and Siteground. They are modestly priced, work really well, and have good support.

When your site gets very popular, you can think about upgrading to dedicated or cloud hosting. One important thing to think about: hosting is always a moving target. Any host may change over time. A couple of companies that I used to happily recommend ended up causing problems for me and my clients. WPEngine is a nice host for WordPress sites. They cost more, but offer some nice features such as automated staging systems for testing before going live.

I don’t work on Windows hosting servers much. This would include IIS, ASP.NET, and the like. I work in the far more common Unix environment. If you don’t know what platform your site runs on, it’s probably a flavor of Unix. That said, on occasion I have worked on sites hosted on Windows servers, but if you need significant alterations at the server level, that may not be my type of job.

I’m getting an error on my site. Can you fix that?

Very frequently, yes. I enjoy the challenge of troubleshooting!

Can you come to my office to do the work?

This may not be possible, as most of my clients are in distant cities. But I communicate well, and try to give my clients a sense that I’m in the same building as they are, if not sitting right in front of them. There’s a nice upside to this, too – travel time that I would bill you for is completely eliminated. I’ve been working successfully this way for years now, and I can prove that it will work for you.

Have you ever worked with someone on another floor in your building, or just in another office nearby? That’s pretty similar to working with me.

Can I work with you via texting?

This often works badly, except maybe a short question. Even using regular phone calls can be problematic, because nothing’s in writing. An offhand (but important) comment might slip by, even if we take notes. Phone calls can be helpful for getting acquainted and clarification, but are not as good for giving site specifications. Site details are better conveyed by email, screenshots, documents, spreadsheets, and so on. Of course, these things are helpful even if you’re working in the same office with someone. I also use project management tools that facilitate this process when needed.

How much do you charge?

I’m happy to discuss rates if you give me a clear idea of what you want me to build. I would describe my prices as small city prices for big city quality work.

Can I call you for free? What about emails?

I normally do a free initial phone consultation (or Skype) so we can get acquainted and make a plan for your site. Some people are very concise on the phone, but others like long, open-ended conversations. Another thing that takes a surprising amount of phone time is if you give me your site specifications over the phone instead of in writing.

Your time is valuable, and mine is, too, so I may charge for time on the phone after the first free call.

It’s also important to remember that emails may take up significant time. I’ve had clients send me over 100 emails even on a small project, and they are usually surprised to hear this. If I write a detailed, thoughtful reply to each email, it’s easy to see that this takes up a lot of time.

Similarly to the initial phone call, I will email you for free while we figure out if I’m right for your project.

Are you available 24/7?

I communicate frequently and well, but I’m not available 24/7. I do respond promptly during regular business hours. I may be working with more than one client at a time, and I strive to make each one get excellent service. One way I do that is by avoiding overbooking myself.

If there are any concerns with my availability, I will let you know. When a site is “going live”, and in other important situations, I obviously focus my attention very squarely on the tasks and respond rapidly.