In part one of this two-part series on How to Hire Your Next Website Developer, I talked about the importance of doing your due diligence and asking a lot of questions upfront of your potential website developer.
To improve the chances of hiring someone who fits your needs. Someone who makes you confident and comfortable with the working relationship.
If you haven’t watched part one yet, go back and do that now, and then join me back here to pick up with the remainder of the questions you should be asking your potential website developer.
Be sure to download a copy of the cheat sheet listed above because that is the list of questions that I am covering in this two-part video series.
As a reminder, the cheat sheet is broken down into four areas of questions:
- Availability & Working Style
- Examples of Work
- Process & Development Approach
We covered Experience and Availability & Working Style in the last video, so let’s move onto Examples of Work and References.
Examples of Work
What platform do you primarily build on?
Talk to your potential developer about their level of expertise on your desired web platform.
If your website is going to be built on WordPress, you want to look specifically for a WordPress developer who works primarily in WordPress.
Or if you want a Squarespace website, then you’re looking for a Squarespace specialist.
You don’t want a jack of all trades.
You want a specialist in the platform your site is being built on.
Can you provide examples of websites you have developed? What involvement did you have in each project?
You’re going to want to see examples of their past work.
This is a big one.
From what I’ve seen in the past, this is an area that most small business owners need to spend more time on when hiring a website professional.
You’re also going to want to know about their role in each portfolio example they send you.
Did they outsource any parts of each website development example, or were they 100% hands-on?
Is each website in your portfolio custom-built? Or is it a customization of a premium theme?
You’ll want to know if the examples are actually custom built and coded by them, or if they are customized premium themes.
As I talked about in a previous video about custom websites versus customized websites, it’s not the same thing.
So, if a potential developer is saying they’ll build you a custom website, you need to clarify if they mean it will be custom developed or if it’s just custom designed.
Too often I have come across a business owner who thought what they were getting was a custom-built website. Later, they find out it was a customized premium theme, which was sold to them as a custom website.
It may have been unique and custom in terms of the design, but the website code itself was most definitely not custom-built.
Make sure to ask for *relevant* website examples.
If you are looking for a custom theme, ask specifically to see custom examples.
If you’re looking for a customized theme, ask for examples of those.
A perfect theme customization will give you no indication of how well they’ll build a custom website if that’s what you’re looking for.
Be sure to review all of their website examples across devices.
You’ll want to review the portfolio examples across mobile and tablet, not just a desktop browser.
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.
Can you provide me with 2-3 client references?
You must ask for references, and then actually talk to your potential developer’s past clients.
It’s amazing how many of my potential clients don’t ask me for references.
I often insist on sending them client references because I know that by talking to clients, it will help to determine whether we’re the right working fit.
That’s just as important to me as it should be to clients.
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 suggest that, if you’re hiring someone new, consider having 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.
Process & Development Approach
How much should I expect my website to cost? What will that price include?
Note that they will need to know the specific scope of your project in order to provide an estimate.
The cost of a website can vary tremendously so it’s impossible for me to advise you on what you should be looking for here.
However, I wanted to mention this one because you certainly want to be asking about price ranges when you’re interviewing prospective developers.
Keep in mind that if the price seems too good to be true…. well, you know how that old saying goes.
What do you do to optimize websites for page speed?
I would expect to see them mention things like:
- a caching plugin, minifying assets, combining assets, or things of that nature
- image optimization/resizing, and
- running tests on Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, Pingdom Tools, GTMetrix and implementing the suggestions from those results.
How do you develop for mobile devices?
I would expect to see them refer to developing for mobile-first or mobile responsiveness.
What browser and device testing and support do you include?
I would expect to see a potential developer indicate that they test the latest versions of all modern browsers and native browsers on mobile devices, suchh as Samsung and Apple.
How much will I be able to update myself? How much will be hard coded and only editable by a developer?
I recall one client who came to us to rebuild her website that she had just finished having been built by another developer. When he delivered the website to her, she couldn’t update huge swaths of the website’s content.
It’s acceptable that portions of your website’s header and footer may not be easily editable without a developer making those changes (though it’s awesome if they are, and while it takes additional development time, we often do this for our clients).
However, in terms of your website’s pages and the content on those pages, I would expect everything should be easily editable by you as the client.
Be sure to get clarification from your potential developer that this will be the case.
Will you be outsourcing any of the work on my website?
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 upfront 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.
If the developer is outsourcing the development, you’ll want to ensure they still have strong development capabilities to do quality assurance testing on their code to be sure it’s still good.
How long will it take to complete my site?
Like pricing, I can’t advise what sort of response to look for here, but again, this is a topic you’ll want to inquire about so you know if your potential website developer is a good fit for your needs.
What does the process of going live look like? Will there be any downtime on my website?
Ideally, they’ll indicate there will be no downtime. They may mention the possibility of it taking time to propagate if DNS changes are needed.
What will you provide in terms of documentation and “how-to” training?
Ideally, they will provide written “how-to” documentation and/or screencast videos to provide you with a reference of how to update the content throughout your website.
What project management tool(s) do you use to manage a website project?
Their answer to this question is less about the specific project management tool they mention, and really more just that they actually do mention a project management tool.
If your potential developer wants to manage the whole website development via email, I can tell you right now that it’s a recipe for confusion.
In the past I’ve had clients who insisted on using just email. Those are the projects that had information get missed or confusion about what decisions had been made.
An online-based project management tool like Asana is going to make organizing and tracking your project progress significantly easier for both you and your developer.
Do you offer ongoing maintenance after my website goes live?
There’s no one right answer here, but you’ll definitely want to know the answer.
Not all developers do maintenance so if you need this, it’s something to clarify in advance. If your website developer does not provide maintenance services you need, you’ll need to line up another developer to support you after the website has been built and launched.
Who is your preferred website hosting provider?
There are a lot of great hosting providers. There are also some that are more problematic.
Wondering who I recommend avoiding? Feel free to send me an email and I’ll let you know who we advise to steer clear of.
On the last page of the Interview Questions Cheat Sheet, you’ll find a breakdown of the recommended capabilities we’d expect to see in an experienced WordPress developer.
CALL OUT: Grab a copy of the free Interview Questions Cheat Sheet!
You’ll also find a supplemental video linked in that cheat sheet that will walk you through those capabilities and why each of those recommended capabilities is important.
If you intend to work with a WordPress developer to build your website, they should be able to check off all of these recommended skills and capabilities.
Final Thoughts on Hiring a WordPress Developer
Ultimately, when it comes to selecting your website developer, 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.
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.
At the end of the day, 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.
Use the interview questions checklist we walked through in this video and last week’s video to help you know specifically what questions to ask.
If you start asking these questions, a potential developer will probably be surprised. They’re definitely not used to potential clients knowing the questions to ask.
Personally, if someone came to me with all of those questions, I would be more than happy to provide the answers they need.
If you get a lot of push back, that may tell you what you need to know about the working fit.
You shouldn’t be made to feel bad about trying to do your due diligence to hire the right fit for your needs.
There are a lot of great developers out there.
There are also a lot of, shall we say, “good talkers,” Folks who don’t have the experience or expertise to back up the talk.
Use the questions checklist to reduce the chances of being wooed by the charismatic folks out there who over-promise and under deliver.