Where to begin?

What happens when a client decides to pull away their custom built Wordpress site from its original creators before the original handoff date and you get put on the project with no documentation and no idea how anything works. Read below to find out more.

Now to start this off I in no way blame the other digital agency for how things were documented, it was all about halfway there and I knew for a fact that they were not allowed to finish. This all may just turn out to be a guide on how their specific site works or maybe just a few considerations to make when you are a small company and jumping into a completely custom built site.

How it was working

First we had to figure out all the moving parts, this was something the client didn’t have a full understanding of and since we couldn’t ping the creators, we dove deep into an exploratory to figure out all the moving pieces.

We took a look at the full tech stack that was running on the site and got a hold of all the individual plugins, modules, add-ons and what not.

As you can see above ACF (Advance custom fields) is the powerhouse behind this particular theme so most of the work below will be in relation to that.

When you looked at most pages they were constructed one of two ways, with a drag and drop section builder template that can be seen below or with a predefined page template with say, a more strict content enforcement policy, (only the content sections already defined could go on each of those pages).

Other pages were just straight static php files. So from a client perspective (marketing team, with no internal web team) This was a giant clusterfuck to begin with.

The Cons of Controlling everything

There is a fundamental desire to control things, to be unique, to not be told no by your agencies and to get things done quickly and efficiently. Well I am sad to say this project is not an example of those things, this is an example of a moderate improvement and hopefully some lessons learned along the way.

When you go fully custom with a website build there seems to be somewhat of a disconnect as to what that means for your control of it. While yes it does mean that you are starting with a blank slate it also means that you are starting with a blank slate. Want to control a sections background color? Let me add that it. Want to swap content sides? Let me add that in. Want this button to be different that the others? Let me add that in.

You can see where I am going with this can’t you?


**As a side note this is a thought about sites that only serve specific visual purposes, and wholeheartedly can be thrown out the window when it comes to a desired functionality**

What we have accomplished so far

To not make this an entirely depressing case study Id like to showcase how things have progressed for them as a company (in relation to their site) and from my perspective as a web developer attempting a gracious exit.

Their homepage has been redesigned to focus on their platform as a whole, we integrated a new half page slider to showcase new content/products/features/etc. and most importantly we moved the page over to the modular template (as well as added a few new modules) so adding things to their homepage has gotten a lot easier.

Then once a bit more of the internal rebuild of the ACF pages were up we went out to do a bit of training, so that everyone in their marketing team had an idea of how the site worked and could update things through the CMS. We followed that up with a bit more in-depth training with their in house designer so simple modifications could de made in house.


Control is everything, when you go out for something custom built that resides in the hands of others you will need them with you every step of the way and for every minor update. So spend the time to maintain things in house, because at least in this example it will cost alot less in the long run.

Ethically as a web developer it is probably a good thing to work yourself out of a job (again specific to a project and client like this), there will always be work to be done so I don’t believe there is need to restrict page access or make any updating process so obfuscated that it is difficult for the client to do on their own.

Just remember there are a million and one ways to develop a project and someone will always be there to tell you that it’s wrong.