The Levels of WordPress Development

Devon Crosby

Devon Crosby Tech Strategy Lead

With 43% of all websites running on WordPress, it’s a widespread, capable, and robust platform. But not all WordPress sites are created equal.

Before you settle on a solution, read on to learn what’s involved, common pitfalls, and benefits of different approaches. Or, contact us for our expertise on what best suits your needs today, tomorrow, and for years to come.

WordPress Implementation

The entry-level method for a WordPress-powered site. Utilizing pre-built themes and plugins available online, a WordPress site can be set up and customized with a minimal amount of effort.

Drawbacks and Pitfalls

This process is not without numerous drawbacks. Most worthwhile plugins will have a subscription-based payment structure. Plugins and themes also fall into a development trap of constantly adding new features to stay relevant in an ever changing market. While you might not care for the new feature your security updates will be hidden within these. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get only the security updates without the new features and those changes can break your site.



of WordPress vulnerabilities are from plugins and themes [source].

Third Party Limits

When dealing with third-party code, you’ll often find yourself in situations where it accomplishes almost what you want. Maybe you need a payment system with specialized rates for different user levels, or the integration of a data source that is unique to your business. Depending on the severity of the gap between your needs and what is covered by plugins, you may need to accept the deficiencies as they are or take extra steps to work around it, causing extra work for yourself or staff instead of reducing effort and increasing automation. In extreme cases, you may even need to adjust how your business operates to match the functionality offered.

As there’s no custom-coding for these sites, this work is performed by WordPress Implementers, not WordPress Developers. Implementers are restricted to what is available from the existing theme whereas Developers build solutions specific to your business.


The next level for WordPress relies heavily on pre-built themes and plugins while also mixing in custom code in the form of a Child Theme or a custom plugin.

The Best and also the Worst

As this approach relies on the themes and plugins mentioned above, it inherits both the benefits and the drawbacks. You’re still locked into a subscription-based model for the plugins and themes that require it. You still have the increased risk of vulnerabilities that come with poorly maintained plugins and themes. And there’s still the potential for an update to break your site.


Where you do win out is the extra customization. A good WordPress development team will be able to use hooks to extend plugin features to more closely match your needs, breaking down the Third Party Limits barriers. This system is great, flexible, and full of possibilities, but also greatly depends on the quality of the plugins being extended. And some requirements can’t be forced into a pre-built system no matter the skill of the team.

Tailored WordPress Design + Development

Where themes and plugins try to accommodate for every possible option, a tailor-made approach starts with a bare bones framework and builds a site based on a specific set of requirements.

This approach leverages the flexibility and power of WordPress, while still working within the confines of a well-established ecosystem. Any developer familiar with WordPress standards will be able to update it with a minimum of trouble.

WaterWerks sites follow WordPress coding standards and employ multiple checks to ensure code consistency.

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

A tailor-made site is thoroughly optimized for your business. Need to merge multiple databases into a unified business directory? Display bespoke data for shareholders? User-friendly data visualization? Thoroughly integrate your brand? All possible. Tailored WordPress sites span the breadth from small to complex. And without the inherit bloat that comes with an all-in-one theme; your site will be faster, easier to manage, and better for your users.

Staying Power

A skilled development team following standard practices paired with solid hosting can build a site that will continue to run as good as the day it was launched — with minimal maintenance — for years. Without the risk of breaking changes from plugins and themes, your site will be more stable and secure.

Which is right for you?

The answer is, it depends on a lot of factors. From the goals of the site, to budget, and even long-term plans for your business — give us a call and we can determine the best approach based on your needs.

We’re here
for you

WaterWerks has a long history of building long term relationships, both internally and externally.

From team members that have been with us for over a decade to clients that have trusted WaterWerks for even longer, we’re proud of the work we’ve all accomplished together.

Ready to work with an Agency that cares about you as much as they do the project?

We’re excited to see what we can build for you.

WaterWerks Agency96 LeMarchant RoadSt. John'sNLA1C 2H2 Canada