WordPress is easy to use. As a result, lots of people build basic websites using this robust and flexible tool.  But not everyone can do it well. It’s like driving: Most people can drive a car, but that doesn’t mean they are ready for a spin around the track at Daytona.

As a web design firm specializing in WordPress, we see a lot of these amateur sites. The conversation always starts the same way: “I have a website built with WordPress. It just needs a little updating.”

Sometimes it really is just a few simple changes. The site was built by a competent designer using a good theme. We can hop in, make the changes and even train the client to make the updates. Everyone wins.

But most of the time, it just isn’t that easy. Why? Not all themes are created equal. There are some great themes out there filled with smart well-written code. We like working with StudioPress and Elegant Themes because they offer good support forums and regular updates to the code. Unfortunately, there are also  many themes which look good on the outside, but are full of bugs or have simply been abandoned by their developer and are not completely compatible with the latest version of WordPress. One of the big risks in not upgrading to the latest version of WordPress is not having the best security and anti-hacking patches in place.

Then there are the custom sites. Again, we have inherited several which were built by really good developers. The code is clean and logical, and small changes fit neatly into the overall site. And then there are the ones which  seem to work like the wiring in the house owned by Tom Hanks and Shelly Long in The Money Pit. To create a particular effect, the developer has done a work around on a core piece of WordPress code. Even small changes on these sites create unexpected failures elsewhere and can cause the entire site to crash unexpectedly.

We have learned the hard way to tell a prospective client we need to see the code before we decide if we can work on their website. Sometimes, we have to tell them the best thing they can do is blow up the theme and start over. It might be time consuming and more expensive, but they will have a sturdier site in the long run, and avoid the dangers of a money pit.