The deliverables you offer clients directly impact project success and profitability. Skipping critical deliverables leads to poor-performing websites, unmet stakeholder needs, scope creep, and unnecessary time. Simply put, if your plan is off target at the beginning, the rest of the project will suffer.
I’ve been doing custom WordPress development projects for over fifteen years and have identified the most critical deliverables for a successful WordPress development project. They are:
- Design / Theme
- 3rd Party Plugins
- Custom functionality
- Content Integration
- Quality assurance
- Launch / Hosting
Let’s dive in!
Discovery is the most important and often skipped deliverable for WordPress projects. Going into a project, you likely have some idea of project requirements, but I can assure you it’s not enough. Many developers jump straight into theme selection or building a website. As a result, they miss critical project requirements and build a solution that doesn’t fully support stakeholders or end users.
You need dedicated time to learn more about the project goals, the stakeholders, what success looks like, how you will measure success, and who will use the site or web application.
Expect to spend 10 – 40 hours on discovery alone. This includes researching competitors, meeting with stakeholders, creating personas, and documenting project goals.
Strategy is the second most important deliverable. Now that you have a deep understanding of the project requirements and context, how are you going to approach the project to ensure it’s successful? Strategy deliverables are focused on documenting your recommended approach based on what you’ve learned.
They take the shape of sitemaps, requirements, goals, key performance indicators, content inventories, and requirement documents (hosting, functionality, design/theme, browser support, etc…)
Think of it this way, before strategy, you have a high-level understanding of what the project will entail, e.g. “We’re going to build you a 10-page marketing website using a premium theme.” After the strategy, you have a detailed understanding of which ten pages, what the website needs to accomplish, and what type of premium theme is needed for success.
Design / Theme
WordPress websites need a theme, and as an expert, it’s your job to recommend and implement the one that best meets the project requirements. Your recommendation will be shaped by the strategy and needs of the stakeholders. If the stakeholders need a lot of flexibility and control, you might use a Pagebuilder or Full Site Editing theme. If you need maximum flexibility and customization, you might build one custom. You might pick a simple, relatively locked-in theme if it’s a simple site.
The design and theme deliverables will be recommending the theme and/or approach. Recommend how to customize the theme in terms of colors, layout, typography, and imagery, and then implement the recommended changes.
3rd Party Plugins and Integrations
Does the project require any 3rd party plugins or integrations? If so, you’ll have a series of deliverables related to them. First, you’ll need to identify which plugins and integrations you recommend and any requirements around what they need to do (so it’s clear how you’ll be configuring them.)
Once agreed upon, your deliverable will be to source, install, and configure them.
Some common examples include a form solution, Google Analytics integration, an events calendar, connections to a CRM, etc…
Sometimes projects require specific functionality and capabilities that can’t be achieved using existing plugins. In this case, you need to build something custom. Custom functionality requires a higher level of requirements documents and detailed specifications. Existing plugins have built-in limitations, and custom functionality is less so. You must be transparent with your stakeholders or clients about what exactly will be built and what the options or features will be.
Your first set of deliverables will be the requirements and specifications. The final deliverables will be the final custom functionality (typically packaged as part of a theme, child theme, or plugin.)
Websites and web applications need content. This is an often glossed-over deliverable that needs planning and attention to detail. It needs to be clear who will be supplying the content, who’s responsible for adding the content to the site, what content will be added, and any requirements for that content.
There is likely more content than you may realize beyond the text itself you need to consider:
- Photos / illustrations
- ALT text
- Form confirmation messages
- Title and meta tags
Your deliverables are either supporting content integration or integrating the content. In either scenario, at the end of the project, the site should have all the content accounted for and populated into WordPress.
WordPress development has a lot of moving parts. Users will interact with the website or application through dozens of devices and screen sizes. Reviewing the site for quality and addressing any bugs, gaps, and optimizations is essential.
This is your opportunity to review the project requirements and goals and ensure you’ve addressed them. I also recommend reviewing the site for accessibility, performance (Google Pagespeed), search engine friendliness, and target responsive breakpoints.
Once you’ve completed your review, it’s time to get feedback from the stakeholders. This is their opportunity to make any final adjustments or tweaks before launching.
The second to last deliverable is making the site or web application live. Typically this is migrating the development site to production, although if it’s a brand-new site, it might be as simple as removing the password protection.
The launch deliverables typically involve scheduling a launch date, configuring hosting environments, and pre and post-launch testing. Ideally, this should be smooth based on all the deliverables leading up to the launch.
Finally, you need to hand off the site, which means the new owners of the site or application need to know how to manage and use it. Training deliverables can be live training, written documentation, recorded videos, or third-party solutions like WordPress online courses or video training manuals.
Every project will be different. You may find that some WordPress development projects don’t need all of these deliverables, whereas others will have more. These core deliverables have found their way into 80% or more of the 100s of projects I’ve worked on over the past 15 years. If you can nail the early deliverables, the rest of the project becomes smoother and less time intensive.