Outsourcing Plugin Development

Outsourcing Plugin DevelopmentOutsourcing as it relates to custom WordPress plugin development refers to hiring contract developers from outside your business to fulfill the programming of your custom plugin development project, ideally including some of the engineering design planning as well. Offshoring refers to outsourcing to overseas contractors. Software development is an area of expertise that is most often outsourced and many times is offshore outsourced.

We have a little bit of experience on this topic and thought we would contribute to the discussion. We hope that we might help the WordPress webmaster audience understand some important items to consider when deciding where to obtain external resources.

Being a U.S. based contractor ourselves plus having more of a U.S. based audience, we are proud to advertise that we produce all of our work locally in the U.S.A. We distinguish ourselves from our competition, local and abroad, in certain respects.

Here’s what we recommend considering:

  • Forget about hourly rate. We learned this from one of our first clients, DesignWorks, who’s CEO, Chi-Ping Li, told us “Hourly rate means nothing”. That is, hourly rate means nothing without the number of hours required to meet your needs. Not the number of hours to reach a first draft, or even complete programming pre-implementation. We’re talking about the total number of hours required to meet your needs in full (and hopefully perhaps exceed them!). Good developers will take the time to understand your project and can provide a fixed cost or a reasonably reliable estimate based on this clear understanding.
  • Time to completion. Just because the marketing text on a website claims to get projects done within certain amount of days, you should get clarification on the time requirements for your project. If the project is estimated for 20 hours, will it be actually done in 3 business days or will it take 30? When problems arise, how quickly will these problems be addressed and with what priority level? Will other projects steal the attention you were expecting to get in the later phase of your project? Will you be going to battle on the design specs and what was included in the cost due to potential communication problems?
  • Time zone. Regardless of where somebody is in the world, what time of day can you reliably get ahold of them? Just because you might be outsourcing to a “third world” economy doesn’t mean they work presumably “third world” hours. You might think that if they work while you sleep that your email will be returned when you wake-up, come to find out it actually takes two days to get a response. Many times there is an intermediary involved on the remote end that lapses another day and results in an unsatisfactory response and paralysis.
  • Forms of communication. Does the provider offer multiple methods of communication—such as email, phone, chat, forums, and a tickets? Those are all common methods of communication. Which do you prefer? Are you okay if forced to communicate exclusively through a forum or ticketing system and not be able to call or email an individual directly?
  • Bait and switch. Even if you pick a local candidate, they might outsource your work to their “associates” who end up working from elsewhere. Do not trust anybody with your sensitive information until they have proven themselves to be trustworthy. You might try a small starter project before getting into a more important one. We’ve observed that most services sound good at first, but their quality doesn’t last through to completion.
  • The squeeze. Beware of salespeople! Software development requires an intimate relationship between you and the project manager or the developer themselves—ideally both. You want to talk to a nerd, and hopefully one that understands business as well. You will not get this level of understanding from somebody who only wants to close a deal.

In closing we should say that we have nothing against our competition, nationally or abroad. It has been our experience that you tend to get what you pay for in the end, and you can be ripped off by giving too much trust too early on.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Note that we really appreciate feedback about what we’ve written as well as what topics you’d like us to discuss in future posts so please do let us know.