What’s this about?
One of the things that is so attractive about web design and development is the amount of great opportunities that exist for those that are willing to keep up with the latest web goodness, step up and take them. It’s an extraordinary, ever-growing industry, and I love it.
There are also some pretty terrible gigs that are up for grabs, and some pretty sticky situations you can get yourself into. Especially in client work.
I decided to write my thoughts once in a while on situations that I see that could get ugly, have gotten ugly, etc. Hopefully, I can also come up with thoughts on how to avoid and remedy these situations when they come our way. Some entries may have bits of rants in them, we’ll see. First entry below.
Entry # 1
I occasionally get emails from a couple of freelancer websites I signed up with once upon a time, with jobs or projects that match my profile. I’ve been meaning for some time now to login and deactivate the emails, as I almost never consider any of the available projects, but I haven’t gotten around to it. They’re usually not the best projects, and typically offer low pay for the amount of work that the project requires. Seemingly, many of those that post jobs there are looking for mainly overseas web developers and designers so they can keep their costs low. It also seems like those that post jobs have little or no knowledge of what the things they’re asking for actually mean.
I just received an email from one of these freelance sites, and decided to give this one a quick skim. One of the jobs had this description:
Title: Need Person to install WordPress
Budget: Under $250
Description: I have a site that is currently using a Joomla template but want to change it to WordPress. I need someone who can install this template for me. Please let me know your fee.
This sort of project and wording isn’t uncommon on those sites, really. The overly simplistic description, along with the listed budget, tell me that the job poster probably doesn’t understand everything this request entails. To any web designer/developer that has worked with a CMS before, the problems here may already be excruciatingly obvious. The description for the job brings up way more questions than it is informative, but what makes this difficult is these freelancer sites usually don’t have a good way to talk to, or educate, the person posting the job. It’s much more about the freelancer scrambling to get in a proposal as soon as possible, deciding on what the highest bid that the person will actually accept is, and crossing your fingers.
But this request is complicated. Does the job poster realize that it’s not simply a matter of using a Joomla template vs a WordPress template, but that Joomla and WordPress are entirely different Content Management Systems that don’t use the same database table structure? Is moving over the database from the old CMS to the new CMS part of the job? Making sure all posts and pages, images (both uploaded through the CMS and the ones that are part of the template), tags, categories, permalinks, etc are intact? (That can be particularly nightmarish for somebody who works mostly on the front-end and doesn’t work much with databases, like myself.) What version of Joomla is it? That can matter a lot when it comes to this stuff.
And about the template part of the request: You can’t just install WordPress and install a template (or theme, as it is called in the WordPress world) from a different CMS and **boom**, you’re done. Is the job to build a WordPress theme based on the Joomla theme? That would require going through a whole lot of code, pulling out the useful bits and building a new theme using WordPress conventions and making it work the WordPress way. Is any of the functionality of the Joomla site dependent on Joomla Extensions? If so, and the person doing the job can’t find any WordPress Plugins with the same functionality, he/she just might end up rebuilding/retrofitting old, crusty Joomla extensions to create comparable WordPress Plugins, or taking extra development time to build the functionality into the new WordPress theme.
And I could go on and on. There are so many unknowns here.
The kind of backend/database magic required to pull off this CMS switch may be a breeze for a seasoned PHP/MySQL developer. Or the theme work/front-end development involved may not be too difficult for a WordPress-savvy Front-End Dev. But all things considered, I see this project being way more difficult and costly than you are led to believe by the simple budget and description.
I don’t think the freelancer sites that attract these kind of projects are inherently bad; I know there are some designer/developers, especially overseas, that are able to leverage this and make money, support their families, etc, and that is an honest, respectable thing. And of course, you learn a lot when you jump right into the deep end; there’s nothing wrong with that. The sites do seem to be riddled with this kind of half-baked project and mis-informed/non-savvy client, though. These seemingly simple projects can be extremely misleading, and I can see it leading to a bad experience, a short-term relationship with this client, and hours of headache.
I could see some designers/developers, especially those just getting into the industry, or if you’re really strapped for cash, being tempted because it’s seemingly just a simple thing that the client needs. But the amount of time required, the issues and client difficulties that would come from it would most likely outweigh the pay. By a lot.
So the way to avoid a sticky situation with this particular gig, and others just like it? Maybe this is a no-brainer, but run for the hills. #nothankyou