When you are considering hiring a web developer, it is important to understand if they are a good fit for your project, your expectations, and just as importantly, for you.
We have put together this list of essential questions to ask a potential developer so you can make a better informed decision and so you can hire them with confidence.
1, Are you a web developer?
At first sight, this may appear to be a bit of a stupid question, but you may be surprised just how many people assume to be developers in an industry that is unregulated.
In its simplest form, most modern websites can be put together with what is known as a ‘page builder’, a drag-and-drop interface that allows you to layout all of the different elements on a page. However, there is also a lot more to it than that. A good developer will know what other bits of software the website will require, and how this software will interact with everything else going on within the site and can work around potential conflicts and issues, as well as having a good grip on HTML, JS, CSS, PHP and other languages.
There is a big difference between a web developer and someone who simply knows how to use a page builder. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking they are the same thing.
We are speaking from our client’s experience here, where we have seen an influx of customers coming to us for assistance on their existing websites which have lots of ongoing issues; often, it is elements not working and in a couple of cases, pages not even loading at all.
When we ask our clients what their original developers say about the issues, we almost always hear the same response, that being, “they have no idea” or they “have given up on it”.
Beware of those that advertise websites as a part of a package, for example, branding experts (who are not an agency) that will also create you a website.
2, Do you complete the work yourself?
The second question that shouldn’t really need to be asked is whether they actually create the website themselves. Do they send their work to subcontractors or overseas? Although this is more usual practice for straightforward brochure websites, it is not unheard of that larger more complicated websites are built this way also.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this practise, it is better that you know this is happening, as the person in the company who you will be liaising with (and there may be a lot of liaising), then has to forward your ideas, suggestions, edits and feedback to somebody else which can lead to confusion.
Ideally, it is always better to deal with the actual person who is building your website directly, or at least someone from that particular agency.
3, Do You Have a Portfolio?
Always ask to see a portfolio of the developers work and go to the live sites and check them out yourself. Feel free to ask questions about their past work; for example, what led them to make particular design choices or functionality.
Within web development, asking to see the portfolio can be more important than asking about experience as you can get a good feel of the developers work first-hand.
Ask where they get the majority of their work from? Is it from advertising or is it from recommendations, word of mouth or repeat clients? How booked up are they? Do they have a waiting list or can they fit you in immediately? It is questions like these that will give you a sense of how they have performed in the past, no matter how flash their own website may be.
4, Have you worked on projects like my own?
Website functionality can range massively between different projects. Ask your web developer if they have experience with projects similar to your own. Some developers will have a go at building anything, while others expertise themselves with particular types of websites. It may be one thing creating a simple brochure website to showcase your business, but quite another thing to build the intricacies of a multi online course website or a platform that syncs with your salon booking system, as examples.
Like any collaboration, good communication is the key. Ask probing questions to get a feel if the developer ‘gets’ you. Do they understand your business aims, your values, what it is you are aiming to achieve etc. Having a web developer who you feel can actually partner with you and is invested in your project can have a massive difference in the ongoing working relationship as they will be more open to coming up with ideas through their own experience and/or suggest better ways to make things happen.
5, What will you be supplying?
Be clear what it is that you require and what exactly you will be receiving from the developer. In some cases you may not know what this is exactly and it is your developers job to guide you. In your initial conversations try to get a feel as to how open they seem to this. Are they just taking your instructions literally, or are they also offering advice and other possibilities?
Ask what is it they are supplying? The Design and user flow? How many pages? What interactive elements will there be? Are they making the website SEO optimised? If so, will they be editing the copy or is that left to you?
We have seen an existing website from a client which was completely missing the all-important mobile version – don’t get caught out like this.
Make sure all of your requirements are stipulated.
6, What if I need expertise in other areas that you do not cover?
Websites need content of different types; branding, copy, images, colours, fonts etc. This content will either be supplied by yourself, the developer or an outside expert in that particular field altogether.
Make sure you understand what the developers process is for areas that they do not cover. For example, do you have to find your own copywriter or is this something that they offer themselves, or if not, can they suggest one? Do they have a working relationship with a graphic artist? Are you left alone to find your own experts and bring all of the content together yourself or will the developer project manage for you and liaise with them on your behalf?
7, How will we communicate throughout the process?
Make sure that you are comfortable and happy with the way that the developer will communicate with you, and how you can approach them when the project is underway.
Is all of the communication simply done via email, or phone, or is team management software utilised such as Trello or Asana? If so, is this simply between just you and them, or can you invite others too, such as a copywriter or somebody else involved in the project?
8, How many revisions are you willing to make?
It is imperative that you find out before hiring a developer how many times they are willing to revise the finalised design. Also, ask what a ‘revision’ entails and the price structure of more substantial changes should these not be enough and you may require something larger.
If you don’t find this out before you hire a developer, chances are that you will discover them after, as revisions are commonplace and every developer has their criteria listed inside their contracts that you will sign.
9, Will I be able to make edits on my own?
If it is important to you that you need to be able to make edits and additions to the website once you have taken ownership of it that you are able to do this.
Sadly, it appears to be a common practise of more unscrupulous developers to ‘lock’ the site, leaving you at their mercy (and charges) when you inevitability need to make some changes later on.
A good developer will not only leave the site completely open and free for you to make changes yourself, but will even give you training and/or hand-holding to teach you how to do this yourself.
10, Do you provide hosting, security, and maintenance?
Just like a car, it is important that your website is regularly maintained to keep everything functioning as it should. Check if your developer can offer this service or if they limited to development only.
Do they keep an eye on the security of the website? Also, check what their process is if the worst should happen. Can they jump immediately if required?
Do they supply website hosting? If so, are they available out of hours should a problem arise? The last thing you need is your website to go down on a Friday evening and the developer is not contactable until Monday morning!
If they don’t supply hosting, will they make recommendations and are they willing to set up your server and make all of the necessary adjustments should you require this?
Finding the right developer for you.
Unless you have personal recommendations, choosing a web developer can be stressful and time-consuming endeavour. But asking the right questions can help ease the process and ensure you find the right partner for your project.