We seem to have had a bad run of luck on the WordPress support side, although some of that is due to the peculiar nature of our service needs, in that we need a high level of service from someone seasoned and skilled. That is harder to find than you might think. There are many WordPress people who are more than competent to run less demanding sites, are confident they can handle ours, and then find out (despite our doing our best to clue them in) that they didn’t know what they didn’t know.
By way of background, we use WordPress as our blogging software. It’s a sound choice for many reasons, including that it can be tuned in many ways (for instance, it’s very well adapted to multiple users, with a large range of roles that can be assigned), has a large community developing plugins for further customization, and therefore also has a relatively large pool of professionals who can provide support. Some sites much larger than ours, such as Huffington Post, use WordPress.
The bad news about WordPress, however, is that precisely because it is so feature-heavy, it requires someone who really knows WordPress to do a good job with it. You do not want to hire a generally good code jockey and have them learn WordPress with you as their guinea pig. And the weak point of WordPress is that is scales badly. It is a notorious database hog and is more prone to breakage and funny anomalies than other website software.
Even though NC is a simple site in many respects, because we have a very active comments section that we insist on having on our servers and hence in WordPress, we run the database very hard. We’ve made a number of adjustments and we think we’ve solved that problem as best we can.
However, we have some significant tasks that need to be completed, and we also need to have “routine” support, which in NC’s case may not be exactly routine. For instance, if the site falls over in the middle of the night, our very responsive webhost can usually get it going again, but in the past we’ve had WordPress be the source of site seizures. While we can’t expect an individual or firm to be on deck 24/7, we do want someone who can give us top priority when we can get a hold of them if we do have an emergency.
So essentially, we have three sets of needs:
- Big projects,
- Small site tweaks/tuning, and
- Emergency service
Even though we’d describe our set of needs to our past service providers, and they were confident they could meet them all, we’ve found it does not seem to work that way in practice. For instance, our last service provider is not at all set up to provide emergency support, and also made changes to our live site (!) without testing them on our development site. That practice caused serious problems for us.
It may be that we have yet to find the right person or firm, or it may be that we need to bifurcate somehow, as in use two providers for different needs, which would also give us a bit more redundancy in terms of emergency service. However, having two providers runs the risk of sibling rivalry/sniping between them, which would create more managerial load for Lambert and me. So the mythical one service provider is probably the best solution, with all the caveats above.
Also, well-meaning readers beware: this is NOT a hosting issue! This is strictly a software issue. Services like WP Engine are hosts, which are not what we need (and separately, we had a bad experience with them).
Below is our next big project. Someone who is competent to handle this is almost certainly competent to handle our other support needs:
We need what amounts to a redesign under the hood, or what in the lingo is called a “mobile first” design. We do not want to change the look and feel of the desktop site, but NC does not render correctly on mobile devices. (In essence, the current implementation should have “Let CSS be CSS” by leveraging the CSS cascade. It doesn’t. Rather, we have a “mobile last” implementation that uses style-by-style over-rides for mobile. That’s hard to maintain and doesn’t work very well.)
We’d be open to the idea of someone taking on this project from start to finish and handling the rest of our support needs at the same time on a trial basis.
Please let us know if you have worked with anyone who has the right skills. If you are volunteering yourself or someone you know personally, we will need references, as experience has shown us that we need to verify that you have done this type of design/redesign work previously.
Thanks for your help and interest!