I can't tell if I'm being bamboozled by a developer

I’m a novice grade developer of some kind. I’m generally an all-in-one package: graphic designer, UI designer, front-end developer and Wordpress developer. I work at a company where we’re currently working on several websites and so we needed to hire an outside developer to assist us. My supervisor very impulsively hired our first interview and so now I’m getting to know them.

I can’t tell if this person is trying to bamboozle us.

Before I had the opportunity to communicate our needs and projects the developer proposed we use her “custom” made theme with a set of functions we don’t necessarily need. Despite my instruction that I don’t want unnecessary functionality in some projects, this developer refused to follow my instruction. I asked for documentation on how their theme is set up (for my needs and others in the office). The developer said, “What’s that?”.

I then asked the developer to send me the theme so that I can go through the code and understand how it’s structured. I’m not the best at these things but since I’m in-house I need to know the ins and outs of this project because I will likely always be in charge of customizations, fixing things, adding features. She decided not to send anything to me and instead decided that she’ll use an “easier” theme asked me to send her a PSD so that she can create the theme. Mind you, all this happened within two days of working with her.

My question is: is this normal? Am I doing something wrong? Should I not demand the code or documentation of the code from my developer? Or is this person acting fishy?

I should add: During one meeting with this person, she continuously promoted the fact that her “custom” theme contained a pop-up iframe as though I should be impressed? She showed it several times.

I’m not sure I would say you are being bamboozled by this developer, but she certainly does seem to be going on an ego trip. From what you described, she seems like the majority of small time web developers out there who believe they can do no wrong. I used to see it on a regular basis when a developer would insist on using their own custom CMS. These days it’s their own custom WordPress theme. Same idea.

You haven’t really described the environment or the hierarchy of your relationship. If you’re ultimately responsible for this persons work, do you also have the responsibility of managing them? If so, can you step in and rattle her cage a little? Let her know that this is your show and you do things a certain way. You don’t need to be rude about it, but stay firm and make sure she understands that you are responsible for maintaining the code moving forward.

Asking to see documentation, while most developers don’t create their own documentation, isn’t unreasonable. Requesting to see the code is even less unreasonable. You were within your rights and even sensible to request these items. I personally wouldn’t move forward without seeing the code.

Maybe you can meet her half way. Tell her that you would like to start with the default WordPress theme, which is very powerful in its own right, and develop from there. This way you know that the theme is built on a solid foundation and she still has the freedom to extend it as she’s comfortable.

If indeed you are not the manager in this situation, it sounds like you’ll need to get that person on board and very carefully describe the situation along with the risks. Be careful not to bash this developer or put her down in any way, just voice your concern that the code may not be stable or maintainable given that you haven’t had the opportunity to review it. Without this guarantee, you may not be able to maintain the project after this contracter has left.

Stay calm, be objective, but most of all be firm in your expectations. You’re on the right track.

I am responsible for their work and responsible for leading the project. I am their manager in a certain respect and so is my own manager. My own manager unfortunately understands much less than me on the matter of web development. So my manager seems confused and also not interested in dealing with it. My manager made the impulsive decision to hire this person without thoroughly vetting her.

I did try to talk to my manager about the situation. I may not have been terribly careful. I mostly emphasized that this new web developer consultant is not listening to me. My manager simply said, we’re running out of time. “Why don’t you just do what the developer is suggesting.” I do need to stress to my manager that the code may not be maintainable especially if I can’t review it first. I don’t think my manager understood my argument regarding that issue.

I’m at a point where I’ll concede and meet the developer half-way although I’m still shocked at the entire thing. I barely met them and they’ve already pushed against every instruction and request I’ve made. I even asked the developer to explain to me how her theme is set up. I do understand things in principle and would easily grasp most of the details. The developer simply told me (the project lead) that I should just learn it on my own and that “I’m worrying too much.”

Well, if you’re ultimately responsible for the project and you are managing the situation then it sounds like you need to take a tougher stance. Make your requirements clear to this contractor and if she can’t meet them then she may be prepared to lose her contract.

I understand that you need to make a deadline, but making a deadline with a terrible product is worse than missing the deadline to begin with.

I agree with you. There may just be some ambiguity as to who is really in charge. It’s one of those places. Thanks for your advice. I wanted to make sure I’m not out of line.

Well, I think I’m starting to understand this developer we’ve hired. I think she’s the kind who purchases themes and tweaks them… Which is perfectly cool(?) but… not what we were looking for… sigh.

Oye. Well if you manage to find a freelance developer who truly is skilled with WordPress and writes clean code, please PM me contact details. I have gone through a dozen WordPress developers and they manage to get the job done but it’s never been pretty.

Good luck!

Yeah, ****. I think this person is intentionally trying to pull a fast one on us (although my manager hired her too quickly). She probably knows that we’re assuming she has more experience and is not admitting that she just purchased or acquired these themes.

Off Topic:

Excuse me! Maleika is fantastic with WP! she’s a staff member but she’s not American. Do you really find so hard to find good coders that can do WP templates from scratch? I don’t know why. I mean, if I can do it, anyone else can do it :lol:

End of Off Topic

@rpeg: It seems that you got it sorted. Simply, she’s not what you need and therefore she’s out. I’m only sorry that you had to go to this unconformtable situation to find out.

Having said this, most of the WP I bought do come with some documentation. I wouldn’t say that they were of much use to me but they did have something, at least. This doesn’t meant that her template came with any documentation.

You lost me right here. Hiring developers is like speed dating, just keep going until you find the right fit. A developer who works for me can push back, they can resist, they can recommend, they can argue, but they can’t refuse my direction ever.

I had one hell of a time finding someone to build and develop my site. The web is full of people who promise lots to get a check from you but never really listen to what you need. You can’t buy an incredible, amazing, interactive site for $900, so what I learned is not to write the check without a contract. Also, be sure when you pay a developer that you have a contract stating that YOU own the work once the designer/developer is done writing the code. You won’t win in court if it is not crystal clear that you, not the guy you hire, owns the work after it’s done. Crazy but true. I finally hired a lawyer to ensure that I wouldn’t get screwed in the deal. We’ll see how the site turns out…

I understand your point but I believe one issue here is the hierarchy of authority. This developer should follow my instruction but I don’t believe I can fire her. I believe my manager has to make that decision and it’s only been a couple days I’m still trying to assess if this developer really is as awful as it seems.

lol molona, you’re being most kind. :slight_smile:

Anyhow, I think the problem doesn’t so much lie with WP itself (though I admit that I find ExpressonEngine does a better job at allowing 100% control over the front-end code) but with too many, and unfortunately also some very popular plugins that are coded in a very, very horrible manner. More times than not, you have to manually edit these plugins in order to prevent them from spitting out completely inadequate and sloppy HTML/CSS code. That certainly doesn’t make the job easier, but I think that some developers/designers like to bypass that procedure due to its inconvenience and extra hassle, what with the need for WP and its plugins needing to be upgraded every few weeks.

I don’t know what HTML/CSS has to do in 99% of these plugins anyway and why plugin developers can’t separate these layers like any good programmer/developer would and should. It boggles the mind.

There are a few exceptions, but they’re so rare and take ages to dig out amongst the WP plugin jungle.