Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about websites and web development. (For a warts-and-all walk down my site’s memory lane, click here.)
In the process, I’ve learned a few things about choosing a developer. I have picked great ones, average ones, and even one truly terrible one. What’s more, I’ve been on the other side of the aisle before getting out. In this post, I’ll provide a few tips for choosing a web developer.
View Existing Portfolios
Any developer worth his or her salt will post previous sites for all the world to see. Show me, don’t tell me.
With a few clicks, you should be able to get a feel for your prospective developer’s style and sense of design. Also, see if those sites load quickly and look good on mobile devices, two increasingly key attributes today.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Responsinator are great tools for these purposes, respectively. Note, however, that sometimes developers’ portfolios aren’t comprehensive for several reasons. First, some clients will insist that their developer remain anonymous. Beyond that, some people fail to maintain their sites after the initial launch, making them eyesores that don’t necessarily reflect the developer’s original vision. Who can fault a developer from omitting something like this from a portfolio page?
Brass tacks: If you find a single site in a developer’s portfolio ugly, then you shouldn’t necessarily blame the developer. If all sites are slow, grotesque, overly busy, and/or dated, though, then you should probably keep looking.
Have They Worked With Your CMS Before?
No developer knows everything about web development. There’s always a learning curve. The question is: How steep is it? A Drupal or Joomla specialist may be able to pick up WordPress fairly quickly, but expect the process to require more development time and money if you go that route. Remember that major differences exist among mainstream content management systems, and even the best WordPress specialists need time to learn the nuances of different themes.
This one is a no-brainer. Once you have narrowed down your choices, keep doing your due diligence. People invent references more frequently than you think. If Walt’s effusive praise of Developer X seems too good to be true, then see if Walt even exists on LinkedIn or other social networks. Find out and try to talk to him for five minutes. One major red flag: Although no one bats 1.000, I’d stay away from an ostensibly skilled and experienced developer who lacks any proper references.
New developers are a different story, though.
Look For Social Proof
If all sites are grotesque and dated, then keep looking.
About a year ago, I moved to Divi, a premium WordPress theme from Elegant Themes. A few weeks later, I joined its remarkable Facebook Group. In that time, I realized that several developers routinely posted tutorials, answered questions, and provided general tips.
When it was time for an upgrade and my previous developer was busy, I hired Geno Quiroz of Monterey Premier with an insanely high degree of confidence. Why? Two reasons. First, he had already proven his development and design chops many times to others in the group. Second, I had already kicked his tires, meaning I hired him to perform a relatively small task for my site and he did very well.
Ultimately, there’s no surefire way to pick the “right” or “perfect” developer. What’s more, as I know all too well, sometimes knowledgeable, honest, and talented people just don’t click with each other. Still, heed the advice in this post to reduce the odds that you’re disappointed.
Share your thoughts in the comments below!