Once you have a preliminary plan for your website project, it is time to start looking for a developer who can take your project through the rest of the planning and production. Even people with technical backgrounds can hire the wrong developer; so, for those without web technical experience, the risks are even higher. However, you are more likely to find a good developer, if you take the time to do your homework.
Many businesses hire the most convenient person for the job. This person might be "the kid down the street" or the "great package" on a website. Without checking further, you may be buying yourself a nightmare. So, take a good look under the hood before buying.
The developer can make or break a project for many reasons, including:
- Quality of communication between you and the developer.
- Amount of time the developer has available for your project.
- Hiring a developer with the right skill set for your project.
- The developers work habits - what good does it do to get a great site, if it's impossible to maintain later
- Matching your style with the developer's style
Finding Web Developers to Interview
- Make a list of ten sites that you like. Find 5 sites in your industry and 5 sites that have features you need on your site, which aren't in your industry. Record the addresses of those sites with a comment about why you chose that site.
- Ask your business acquaintances for web developer recommendations. Ask them why they recommended that person or company. Ask them about costs and communications.
- Ask your business acquaintances for web development horror stories. Find out specifically why it was a bad experience. Your situation may be entirely different, but the information will help you understand what can go wrong.
- Based on these recommendations (and other services you may find out about,) call at least 5 developers and ask about their availability. It doesn't matter how good they are, if they can't fit you in, they can't fit you in.
- Set up meetings with the developers to discuss your project. You may need to pay for their time because, if they are any good, they will be giving you some expert advice as part of the discussion. Everything you learn now, will make the project cheaper later.
- If a developer tells you that more planning needs to be done, you are probably speaking to a good developer.
Check off list for your Conversations with Potential Developers
Here are some of the things that should be included in your conversations: These aren't black and white questions. They are designed to help you get a well-rounded picture of each potential developer. There probably isn't a developer out there who will be perfect for you in each item. For example, in projects that require high quality graphics, I recommend that prospective clients hire a graphic designer for that part of a website, because I don't have graphic design training and abilities.
- Explain your project to the potential developer. As part of the process, show the developer the sites you chose from the previous section and your thoughts.
- Ask the developer how he would go about building such a site with that information.
- Did the developer give you plain English explanations to support the suggestions?
- Did the developer spend a lot of time asking you about your needs, listening carefully and making suggestions?
- Make a list of the skills and experience the developer has, including what software packages she would use to develop your site.
- Is there a match between the skills of the developer and your website needs?
- Find out whether your developer is available for a long term business relationship.
- Will it be easy to find someone else who knows those software packages, should that developer become unavailable later on (you will have to verify this by asking others?)
- What pricing system does the developer use?
- Do the sites the developer has previously created match your style and needs?
- What types of responses did you receive from the developer's references?
If you are new to these topics, be extra careful. Each of these topics is a potential breaking point for your project. Look for a developer who will take the time to help you understand the topic.