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WordPress developer skills matrix

Here at Angry Creative, we’ve had a pretty crazy year. The size of the business has tripled, three of us have had three babies and we’ve moved into our own offices. It’s been mind-blowing: things are really different as a ten-person business and we’ve made huge leaps in terms of systems, processes and tools. In this post we want to share something we’ve put together.

But, the most important part of our business is people. And being a WordPress developer is to my mind, a difficult and complicated job, so hiring and nurturing good developers is a double difficult job. How do you know what level your current team are at? How do you help them to level up both within and between roles? How do you delineate roles and responsibilities? How do you know what roles need to be filled?

Well, here’s our starter for ten as a business: a WordPress developer skills matrix. Hopefully it makes sense.

Code/techHTML/CSS/LESS/SASSSolid understanding of CSS properties, selectors, and manipulating HTML elementsUnderstands differences between versions, comfortable with LESS/SASS once set up, familiar with frameworks like Bootstrap.Expert, comfortable with setting up LESS/SASS including 3rd party frameworks
 JavaScript/AJAXBasic understanding of what JS is and how it can interact with HTML/CSS. Basic comprehension of what an AJAX call is and does.Comfortable with basic jQuery and native JavaScript, writing simple code and including/invoking 3rd party libraries and jQuery extensions.Able to write and debug more advanced JS and AJAX, ideally comfortable with Angular.js and other JS libraries included in WordPress core.
 PHPEnough comprehension of syntax and structure to be able to use common WordPress template functions, focussed on the loop.Able to debug PHP, comfortable with actions, hooks, filters, variables and a wide range of codex functionsExpert
 SQLUnderstand the concept of MySQL, basic understanding of PHPMyAdmin, the WordPress database structure.Able to backup/restore tables and databases, amend cells and run basic select/update/delete scripts safely. Experience of basic $wpdb usage.Advanced MySQL admin and use, including advanced $wpdb and extending native WordPress functionality.
 GitBasic push/pull to branchesBranch management, push to deployGit strategy and integrations
 Code validityMust be able to write and self-validate syntax for all languages and markups, be able to follow WordPress coding standardsAble to peer-review codeFlawless
 XML, JSON and 3rd party APIsUnderstanding of what XML is and basic principles of interacting with 3rd party APIs.Able to perform basic 3rd party API integrations, or to debug, fix more complicated onesExpert at working with APIs
 Cross-platform and cross-browserAble to perform browser testing including mobileAble to resolve advanced cross browser/platform inconsistenciesFully understands progressive enhancement, able to predict features or designs that will cause problems
 Server configBasic creation of a WordPress install on WordPress Engine or cPanelSSL install on WPEngine or similar managed hosting, error log debugging. Basic understanding of key stack components.Advanced server debugging, advanced stack understanding. Understand issues surrounding analysis, tuning, scalability, high availability and concurrency of the WordPress platform and hosting infrastructure and work alongside the wider operations team towards these goals.
 ResponsiveFamiliar with responsive site development and media queriesConfident with responsive techniquesFlawless responsive markup implementation
 Development environmentAble to use once set up – local server, FTP, text editor, command lineAble to set up and maintain basic environment, be able to use JavaScript task runnersAt the forefront, testing new software/integrations, feeding back into the business strategy, able to create and manage JavaScript task runners
 PhotoShop/IllustratorAble to extract images and measurements from PSDsConfident using Photoshop and Illustrator to extract web slices and undertake basic image editing/manipulatingStrong PS/Illustrator skills
 Web standards and accessibilityUnderstands importance of and key considerations of web standards and accessibilityFamiliar with web standards and accessibility. Able to integrate reasonable accessibility best practice into development.Able to audit and train on web standards and accessibility
 Code testingUnderstand the concept of code testing, how it fits into our workflowsRun unit tests, automated front end testsCreate and manage code and front end tests
WordPress specificAPI/codex knowledgeSolid but requires frequent reference to codexStrong, can recall common functions and filters without referenceAdvanced knowledge of codex and WordPress core.
 Custom post typesCreation of basic custom post types using generatorsAdvanced custom post type generationExpert
 Custom post metaAble to add a basic custom post meta field using codexAbility to integrate 3rd party custom post meta libraries or plugins to achieve template customisationExpert
 ShortcodesAble to create a simple shortcodeAble to create shortcodes with simple argumentsExpert
 TemplatingAble to modify existing templates or overwrite templates in a child themeAble to create new templates from scratchThorough understanding of template hierarchy and implications
 ThemesAble to edit an existing theme, create a simple child theme to implement designs as provided and implement basic functionality. Confident with basic use of loops and retrieving, displaying custom post meta and other core post fields.Able to create advanced child themes or from-scratch themes that match designs to pixel perfectionExpert
 PluginsRecognition of, and basic configuration of standard plugins. Can produce a very basic plugin.Advanced configuration of standard plugins, basic debugging, familiarity with basic configuration of more advanced plugins. Can produce complicated plugins.Advanced configuration, debugging and creation of all levels of plugins.
 Coding standardsShould be largely compliant with WordPress coding standards, be able to write valid code/markupShould be able to articulate the importance of coding standards, able to write coding standard-compliant code without reference to standards.Expert, able to refactor code to be standards-compliant
 MultilingualAble to use in CMSAble to install and configureExpert
 WooCommerceAble to use in CMSAble to install and configureExpert
 MultisiteAble to use in CMSAble to install and configureExpert
 Updates & maintenanceAble to run updates with guidanceAble to run updates independentlyAble to lead and refine update process
 CMSUsageAdvanced usageCustomisation and theming
 SecurityMakes use of hosting tools, understands key vulnerabilities of WordPress and general principlesCapable of implementing strong security on non-WordPress specialist hosting, understands basic secure coding practices and when to ask for help.Advanced hardening of hosting, able to review code for security
Client-facingTrainingBasic CMS training direct to clientsFull pre go-live training on nearly all WordPress theme and plugin issuesAdvanced, in-person training if required
 Project managementWorks with project manager to plan and complete work to scheduleAble to manage roles within multiple projects at a time. Expected to be able to take a basic project through from estimate to completion.Able to lead on multiple projects at a time
 Red teaming. Red teaming is when a team member becomes client advocate in testing work before it goes out to the client. That person should have been involved with the brief at the start, then loop back to make sure the work is as expected, to quality and understandable.Understands the importance of red teaming and is able to work with our red team processAble to fully red team a project of reasonable complexityAble to red team any project and to improve the red team process
 Account managementN/AN/AExpected
 SupportBasic – answering questions about how to use CMS functionalityIntermediate – assessing simple requirements and able to suggest option(s) directly to clientAdvanced – must help solve/manage any support request through to completion. Expected to take responsibility for service desks for clients/accounts.
 Sales supportShould be able to understand a proposalSupports proposal estimatesCan lead on estimating, challenge briefs to suggest alternative approaches, document technical and functional specifications
 Meeting attendanceNot generally expectedExpected if askedExpected to arrange and attend meetings independently
 Advice and consultancyNot generally expectedProvides solid but basic advice to clients on requestProvide technical consultancy services to stakeholders
 Commercial awarenessAware of time constraints, manages own timesheetAble to agree project completion with a client and request invoicingManages invoicing for their clients and projects
 DeploymentNot expected to deploy to live without support. Yeah I know ideally “everyone deploys to production on their first day” and all that other trendy start-up stuff. We find in reality that WordPress changes are rarely a simple automated deployment process though and prefer to spend time making sure everyone has good situational awareness before tampering with live client sites.Expected to deploy seamlessly for themselves and to support junior developersCapable of advising on deployment strategy
PersonalUp to date with trendsYesYesYes
 Contributes to WordPress (there are lots of ways)YesYesYes
 Communication skills in English – written and verbalIntermediateStrongStrong
 Positive attitudeAlwaysAlwaysAlways
 Contributes to Angry Creative blogWelcomeExpectedMandatory
 Years of WordPress experience125
 Time and task managementAble to complete tasks set by project manager to time and quality.Able to self-manage time and task allocations, billable hours. Expected to be responsible for hitting pre-agreed key milestones.Fully capable of leading on projects and achieving project profitability targets
 Cyber securityUnderstands core cyber security, follows security guidelinesAlert to and aware of cyber security issuesAble to audit and suggest improvements to our cyber security
 LegalAble to respect NDAs and maintain confidentialityAble to respect NDAs and maintain confidentialityAble to respect NDAs and maintain confidentiality
 Working hoursWork flexibly, recording hours and reporting abnormal working hours to managerWork flexibly, while ensuring important tasks are finished or outstanding tasks are communicated to other team membersWork flexibly, ensuring all tasks are finished, or outstanding tasks communicated with client
Optional extrasEmail marketingUnderstands principlesCan integrate with WordPressCan integrate directly with EMS APIs and advise on email strategy including transactional emails
 SEOUnderstands principlesAble to provide solid but basic advice for on-site optimisation 
 Licensing & implicationsUnderstands basicsIntermediateIntermediate

What do you think? Is this helpful for you? We know it’s imperfect: it doesn’t account for front-end vs back-end developer specialism (although generally we prefer and try to nurture a well-rounded developer skill set). Neither is it easy to put a numeric scale to the items which might help define salaries.

Let us know what we’ve missed, got wrong or could just write more clearly. Thanks!

PS We’re hiring!