Continued…. Read part one here.
What should you expect from a web developer?
You can and should expect web developers to deliver a website based on your brief. If your brief is very detailed and understandable, then expect good work! If it’s not very thorough, if your requirements are ambiguous and can be interpreted in different ways, if research is missing, the designs you like and have analysed are missing, then don’t expect great work.
What should you not expect from a developer?
This is a very important point that I think should be at the top of your priority list when looking for a developer. Be sure to question and identify to what degree each developer can:
- Help you to fully develop your requirements (including maximising the marketing and business potential of your digital presence)
- Adhere to best-practice user-experience rules
- Understand your market and customers
- Deliver beautiful and original graphic design
- Manage the project and communicate with you without hiccups
Working on all these points beforehand will help you to develop a high-quality design brief, and short list a few developers with the right set of skills and knowledge.
Look at their previous work
Viewing a developer’s previous finished projects is an important step. Ask questions about their projects.
Did they complete whole projects by themselves? Or did other developers contribute?
Examine parts of their previous projects and note down parts you do or don’t like. This will help you when approaching the developer as you can tell them your preferences and ask them why they created these elements in that particular way.
- Development Languages: What languages can the freelancer code in? Are they a specialist in one language (e.g. python). Or are they a jack of all trades and know a little of multiple languages? There are benefits to each kind of developer. A specialist in 1 – 2 languages can usually work quickly and efficiently, while a freelance with knowledge of multiple languages can provide more experience and better suggestions on how to move forward with the project.
- Documentation of their work: freelance work is temporary, and this means that in the future you’re likely to hire other people to do more work on your website. Due to this, you’ll want the freelancer’s code to be easy to pick up and understand. The code needs to be ‘clean’, contain notes and adhere to best-practice. This is definitely something to ask them when carefully vetting your freelance developers.
Find Out About Their Whole Skillset
Software and coding languages change at a very quick pace. If you hire a developer who is still using old technology and practices from 15 years ago, this will have an impact on your web project in terms of speed, features, and the ability to upgrade and maintain your site with ease in the future.
It’s best to ask your potential developer:
– How they learn new languages/practices
– What they learnt most recently
– How learning this has helped their skills
– What they are looking to learn next
Again, as a small business owner who hasn’t had much experience (if any) in programming/development, you can still get a feel for how good the developer might be.
Will Your Developer Communicate Well?
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, communication is vital! This is relevant in all facets of business, not just web development.
Poor communication can ruin a project, costing both time and money. Great communication can result in the project being completed on time, with all parties satisfied with the work.
It is important to make sure that any developer you decide to hire will be able to communicate efficiently and in a way that works for you. Perhaps you’d like to hear from them once a week by having a phone conversation with them. Or weekly email reports on what work they’ve completed.
It may even be ideal to work with them using a project management system, like Asana or Trello, which helps you to keep track of the tasks they’re completing. It’s best to suggest these tools before you start working with them, just to make sure they are happy to use these system.
You should ask the developer how they like to communicate and how often you might expect to hear from them. If they only like to send an email once a milestone is complete, then you may struggle as you won’t have a firm grip on the project. We recommend a minimum of once a week to avoid any misunderstanding before they escalate into big problems. During short development sprints of 2-4 weeks, daily communication is best.
It helps if your developer genuinely seems interested in working with you on the project – they will bring more energy and enthusiasm to the project, making it more likely to succeed.
We always insist on talking to developers either face-to-face or on the phone or Skype, never just through email correspondence alone. It’s an important ingredient in establishing rapport and building trust, as well as the best indicator of how clearly they communicate. If the developer avoids speaking with us directly during the selection stage – forget it!
We have created strong and lasting relationships with developers over the years, using these simple communication guidelines.
Take Your Time When Choosing A Developer
When choosing your web developer, recommendations can be a good start. However, you still need to be cautious and carefully vet them. Websites like guru.com and elance.com are helpful. Local business networks and even social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are good places to start.
Put your brief out there: begin by telling people what you need and let people come to you. With Twitter, you can add hashtags like #webdesign at the end of your tweet to help reach a slightly more targeted audience.
Here at Digital Heart, we’ve created a helpful comparison spreadsheet. Add a column for each developer in your short-list. You could event add a row with a score based on how much you rate them.
|Example Websites URLs|
|What I Like About Their Work|
|Do They Appear To Communicate Well?|
|Was Their Response To The Brief Satisfactory?|
|Can I Work With Them? Will We Get On?||.|
Creating a brand new website takes time and money. The best way to considerably increase the chances of your new site turning out the way you want it to is by focussing heavily on the early stages, the ‘Discovery’ stage which should result in a thorough and clear design brief.
Having a great brief doesn’t mean that finding a developer is no longer a challenge, but at least whoever you choose will have access to your detailed design brief. This will make life easier for both yourself and the developer!