Choosing your Web Developer
With hundreds of people claiming to be a web developer or professional, it can be a daunting task choosing the right person for the job. If you end up getting the wrong person, your project can end up costing you more time and money than you planned.
Therefore, for your project to be a success, your first port of call should be to get the right person. For example, hiring a designer instead of a developer is akin to hiring a decorator instead of a builder. We have grouped the different web professionals into 4 main categories, which are: –
If we go back to the metaphor of home improvement then these guys would be the decorators and would be your first stop if you wanted a completely bespoke website.
Designers will typically, and in our opinion should have, a little knowledge on how to construct a site using HTML and CSS.
All of this means that a designer can help you create the overall look and feel of your website. Site architecture, layout, colors, fonts, design elements and more. Once they have finished the design they will generally pass the work over to have it built.
So, in our metaphor this would be your builder and finding a good one is typically a tall order. The problem is that it’s extremely tricky to work out whether a developer has done or is doing a good job, especially if you don’t have the skills to inspect the code and check their work yourself. This is why it is always good to get a developer on recommendation.
Developers will take designs and turn them into functioning websites and will also build in additional functionality required for the project, such as forms, login areas, displaying data based on certain conditions etc.
Developer can be broken down even further though. There are front end developers and back end developers. Front end developers would concentrate on the areas of a site that users interact with, such as menus, image galleries and complicated page layouts.
A back end developer gets involved in the really techy bits of the website like the underlying code making logins forms work.
You might find someone who claims to be both – which is more than likely – but the above distinction is still important to note.
Developer / Designer Hybrid
This is more common than you would think and can be a great solution if you want a simple website
designed and built. It is often the case that they can be slightly lacking when it comes to very in depth development, so they may have to draft in some outside help when things get tricky, but there are certainly times when this isn’t the case and they can generally cover most bases.
To go back to our already overused metaphor, these guys can be seen as the general contractor. With the rise of high quality themes for CMS platforms such as WordPress they are becoming more common. Despite the fact that site builders are not technically a developer or designer, that doesn’t mean they aren’t a force to be reckoned with.
As the client, this type of professional can actually end up being one of the best professionals to work with. As compared above, and in a similar way to hiring a general contractor to build a home, site builders will have an excellent knowledge of which specific skills are required to complete a certain task. They will also know when you will need help from a developer or designer.
You will find that more often than not they are experienced in other areas of the web such as SEO, email marketing, and social media. The other big plus for the client is that the end product tends to be much cheaper in terms of initial outlay and maintenance.
Although at EngineRoom we do have members of the team that fall into the categories above, as a company we would be classed as site builders.
What to look for
So once you have decided what sort of professional you are looking for you have the unenviable task of choosing someone for the job. Here is a list of a couple of points you should look out for when selecting someone: –
Are they chatty?
A web project can last from a few hours up to a few years so it is vitally important that you get on with them and that they can keep you up to date on the progress of the project without using too much techno babble.
Even if you have the best developer in the world if they do not tell you what they are up to or take instructions well, then it just won’t work.
When it comes to progress updates, expecting 20 throughout the day is counterproductive and isn’t going to do anyone any favours. By the same token it would be unacceptable if you email your professional and it regularly takes them longer than 24 hours to get back to you. Before you start the project agree when and how often you want updates and ensure you hold them to it. What you don’t want is to wait until the end of the deadline and realise your web professional has been heading down the wrong path or has not been working on your project at all.
Do you like them?
If you get a bad feeling from the off then things are only going to go downhill. If you get on however, then you are likely to work more effectively together and end up with a much better result. The last thing you want is for a project to stall or even be cancelled due to irreconcilable differences.
Are they accommodating?
Your web professional should be happy to make small changes to the initial brief and as long as you are not asking them to completely change what they are doing then everyone should be happy. It is always a good idea to have a chat about the changes that they deem acceptable and when you will have a chance to stick your oar in before you get going on a project so that you both know where you stand.
Do you like their past work?
Always ask to see a web professional’s previous work and if possible examples of live projects they have worked on. Even better would be to see some projects of a similar type and size to yours. This is by far the best way to check they have the skills, and in the case of design, style that you require. You could also check out their website too – is it up to date, is it responsive, is it modern, do you like it?
Does anyone else like them?
It’s recommended that you ask for references. You wouldn’t employ someone for a full time job in your workplace without asking for references, so why should hiring a web professional be any different? Always ask for two or three references and if possible take a look through their portfolio and independently call some of their past clients. Again, make sure the references are for projects of a similar type and size.
Do they have the right skills for the job?
You wouldn’t hire a gymnast for a car salesman’s job and when it comes to web professionals someone who specialises in a one type of code or website might have little to no technical knowledge about your requirements. It is always good to specify your project first and ensure the professional feels they have the required skills to complete the job. This can be tricky if you are unsure of what skills you need and some of this will require a degree of goodwill, meaning some of the above points become all the more important.
What do they want?
If the professional you are dealing with start talking about contracts, deposit payments and deadlines, don’t be scared off. This just means they have been around the block and want to protect both of your interests.
However, if a web professional throws you an invoice before you have even discussed the project in detail then it might be time to take stock and reconsider.
What have we learnt?
Finding the right man (or woman) for the job needn’t be a frightening or complicated task if you follow some of the tips above. Use a good measure of common sense and hopefully you’ll soon be completing your web project with a great end product, plus started a valuable relationship that will last.