You’ve decided to hire a web developer and have your business website professionally built. Congratulations!
How do you go about finding and hiring a quality web developer who will bring your desired website to life?
The fact is, without due diligence up front, you could end up being my next horror story.
I’m not trying to scare you, but I have heard from so many business owners who shared with me their awful website experiences – some of them just annoying, some of them complete nightmares.
Often, it came out that the business owner did very little (if any) due diligence in terms of properly evaluating their website professional before hiring them.
I want to help you avoid making that mistake in the future.
Like all big decisions, you need to do your due diligence when hiring your website professional – and that involves asking your potential developer questions about their experience and process *and* talking to their past clients.
There is a lot you can find out about what your working relationship with a potential developer might be like based on their answers to the right questions.
Here is a sampling of some of the key questions I would recommend you ask when you’re interviewing a web developer.
1. Work History
How long have they been a web developer? Ask them to provide a brief history of how they got into the field. You’ll be able to get a good idea of their passion and commitment to their work by their inspiration for getting into, and experience working within web development.
Do they outsource any of their work or will they be your dedicated developer? This can often be a good indicator of the level of quality you’ll receive.
Aside from not being able to go right to the source should you have an issue, if they are outsourcing, there is an added layer of accountability they have, to check the work before passing it back to you.
The developer you hire might not be the one building your site. You’ll want to know up front who the person actually building your site is, to ensure that you’re not paying good money for a less experienced developer, thinking you’re getting the experience of a more senior developer.
Know who and what you’re paying for.
3. Turnaround Times
How long does it typically take them to build a website? What sort of responsiveness can you expect when working with them? It’s really important to have a good understanding about what the process will look like so that you’re on the same page and have the same expectations.
4. Work Process
What is their process for developing a website, from kickoff to completion? What project management tool(s) do they use to ensure a well-organized development process and how much of that process will you be privy to as your website gets built?
Also, what is the developer’s current workload and availability like? For example, is the developer booking months out? Do they only work select days?
Depending on your needs for a developer you may be more flexible and this might not be a concern, but if you have particular needs or expectations, it’s important to be transparent at the outset.
In addition to ensuring you find someone who is highly experienced and competent, your personality fit and working fit are just as important. You’ll want to set expectations early and discuss theirs.
All the skill in the land won’t matter if it feels like they’re impossible to approach or discuss concerns with.
6. Platform Expertise
Talk to them about their level of expertise on your desired web platform. For example, if your website is going to be built on WordPress, look specifically for a WordPress developer who works primarily in WordPress.
You don’t want a jack of all trades. You want a specialist in the platform your site is being built on.
7. Design Experience
Do they have design experience? This is not necessarily a prerequisite but it’s a ‘great to have.’ It can be very advantageous to have a developer with a strong design sense for making aesthetic decisions.
For example, to make content styling decisions on pages where completed design artwork may not be available. It’s important to realize that some developers lack this skill entirely.
8. Complementary Skills
Ask them what other complementary skills they bring to the table. For example, they may also be good at design, SEO, marketing, etc.
While it’s important to hire people who specialize in specific areas (e.g., an SEO firm, a designer, a marketing agency), having a development firm that understands the needs of those other project components is going to enable them to work with your other team members more effectively.
For example, a developer who understands email marketing will be better able to support and integrate those initiatives from a web development perspective.
Ask to see portfolio pieces. This is a big one and could have a blog article unto itself but, here are some of the specific things you should ask for.
Their role in each, particular portfolio piece they sent you.
It is best to know if they outsource parts of a website site development or if they are 100% hands on.
Was it custom developed or from a pre-developed theme?
Did they actually custom build it and code it themselves, or did they just customize a premium theme (e.g. like Avada or Divi or similar)?
When you build custom and it’s coded WELL, there is no bloated coding on the backend that often comes with using a pre-developed premium theme (which has an impact on page speed).
Custom development also ensures your ability to more easily keep your website updated in the future, without worrying about getting backed into a corner where desired changes can’t easily be made to your website, or without worrying about having a theme that gets retired and no longer has support updates (which can make your theme become more vulnerable to being hacked or infected).
Review everything across devices – mobile, tablet and desktop.
If the website loads quickly, looks good and navigates well on multiple types of devices, you’ll have a good idea of their overall quality of work.
If you are looking for a custom theme, ask specifically to see custom examples. If you’re looking for a theme re-skin, ask for examples of those.
A perfect theme re-skin will give you no indication of how well they’ll build a custom website, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Finally, definitely ask for references, check out their online reviews, and then actually TALK to their past clients (it’s amazing to me how many of my potential clients don’t ask me for references).
Or, if you have a referral to a developer from someone you trust, that’s even better. Actually, that’s ideal and the way I’d personally recommend hiring a developer, if at all possible.
I often like to recommend that, if you’re hiring someone new, have them start with a small project or task to get a feel for how you work together and the quality of the work they deliver. If it goes well, then try them on something larger.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is hiring someone based solely on cost. The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ most certainly applies to hiring a web developer.
Believe me, I’ve seen the budget jobs. You can tell they’re budget jobs. That’s why I see them. Their owners bring them to me to fix!
That said, also be careful that you don’t fall prey to the idea that expensive means high quality, because it most certainly doesn’t always.
Ultimately, the only way to improve your likelihood of hiring someone who can do the job is by asking the right questions before you sign over your logins and your hard earned cash.