In August 2020 I was approached by a long-time friend for some assistance with the Society’s web site. They had paid a “web developer” around $4,000 to design a customer WordPress web site for them. It was beautiful… but mostly static. There was some functionality built into it for updating their routine publications (The Plant Press comes out twice a year — a very nice publication for the “native plant botanist”).

Unfortunately their web developer had become unresponsive to requests for assistance. Helper-type that I am, I said I’d help. I was given admin rights and began a deep-dive review of the web site’s setup. Here’s what I found:

  • The developer had created a custom theme, basing it on a “bare bones theme” caller Starker, which appears to have been abandoned a few years ago. (The domain name for the site now resides in China.)
  • The resultant custom theme is missing some basic WordPress elements, especially those that would be useful in blog posts, like excerpts and the Block Editor.
  • Templates contain a large amount of custom PHP code, much of which implements a plug-in called Advanced Custom Fields Pro (ACF). It’s a slick way to get around writing your own plug-in to implement certain functionality — sort of adds on a separate database of its own, to some extent. But anyone wanting to modify any of this first has to come up to speed on that particular plug-in. Got a day or two to kill? Or just jump in and see if it breaks anything?

There’s more… but I get tired of ragging on the poor developer. I’m sure he does this for a living — create a beautiful site, then move on to another project. This client wanted more, and assumed they could get it without paying another huge sum.

They’re still getting trained, and I’m still working through various issues with the custom template. But they’ve got someone they can rely on, and that will take the time to explain and teach as needed.

Check them out: