What makes a great developer? To find out, I talked to people who work with devs the most, clients.
So, as long as we’re contemplating how to build the ideal dev, I thought it would be fun to frame this discussion in the world of robotics.
What features would the DEV-BOT 5000 include? What would interactions with it be like?
Let’s see what clients said about their very real, 100% human interactions with developers to gain a better understanding of what this bot’s feature set would look like.
The Perfect Developer Should…
The ideal WordPress developer’s communication module needs to be state-of-the-art, right from the start.
That means being clear in all correspondence, whether written or verbal. It also means having a clear plan of how projects should go and relaying this information to clients upfront through some kind of proposal or contract.
If problems arise in the course of building the site — and hey, any project can have unforeseen issues — then our ideal dev must let the client know immediately, and explain:
- What happened
- What can be done about it
- Any other options open to the client
- A recommendation for the problem
As Randy Brown, a frequent WordPress blog contributor puts it:
“The ideal developer would be able to take my ideas and expand on them if I need them to, but not without my knowledge. If they’ve seen something better than I’m asking for they should show me and get my feedback. They wouldn’t let me make the wrong choice but they should be able to show me why it’s the wrong choice so that I can understand it and be on board with any changes.”
Even robots have an ethical code. Remember Asimov’s Three Laws? The First Law states that “a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”
So what ethical rules should our DEV-BOT operate by?
For one thing, an ideal dev never accepts work she knows is beyond her capabilities, without disclosing that fact to the client up front and having a plan in place to either outsource the parts she can’t do or gain the necessary skills quickly.
And if she makes a mistake, our ideal dev should own up to it promptly: let the client know what happened, apologize, and make it right.
Finally, an ideal dev never, ever steals another dev’s work or passes it off as her own.
Missing deadlines, going weeks without responding to email inquiries, taking months to finish what was promised in weeks — is it any wonder one of biggest sources of client complaints about devs is that they’re not sensitive to time pressures?
Brown says one of the main traits of his ideal dev is promptness, “All deadlines would be met and everything would be properly debugged. They would keep me informed of the progress on a timeline that we agree to.”
Ginger Gillenwater, a web designer, and copywriter, agrees. She does most of her own work, but recalls one project where she was considering hiring a dev. Her leading candidate looked great on paper, “but he was running 4 to 6 months to complete any project and it wasn’t because he was backlogged.”
So our robot dev? He’s always on time, and never promises something he can’t deliver in the specified timeframe.
Sure, we humans have some pretty awesome stuff — emotions, the capacity to experience pleasure, pizza — but one thing robots have over us puny flesh-and-bone types? Instant expertise and knowledge!
DEV-BOT should have an encyclopedic understanding of all relevant coding languages, the WordPress platform — heck, why not all CMS platforms? — and great design, to boot.
But what about our imaginary, all-too-human ideal dev? We’ll settle for having enough knowledge to get the job done.
Our dev needs to be able to translate a client’s brief into actionable steps, based on the most appropriate available technologies. If multiple paths can accomplish a client’s goal or desired site function, then she needs to be able to help the client evaluate the options and make a smart choice.
I had all these notes for this section if I could only find them …
In all seriousness, despite the recent news that science now suggests procrastination and chaos actually increase creativity, web developers simply cannot work in chaos and still keep clients happy — at least, not for very long.
So, our ideal developer must have at least minimally organized systems in place to support a client’s project. That includes:
- A routine way of maintaining and saving all the files for a client’s project (including development files, scripts, copy, images, and video)
- A system for time-tracking, invoicing, and billing
- A way to make, store, find, and retrieve notes and emails for any active project
No matter how stunning a developer’s work might be on the screen, a failure in any of these critical systems can ruin a project and lead to a sharp loss of client confidence.
Offer Frequent Upgrades
No robot worth its servos would be caught dead without the latest upgrade. The same goes for an ideal WordPress developer.
Like any popular web technology, WordPress is evolving. The passionate and hard-working community of users and developers that WordPress has attracted over the years is constantly asking itself “what if?”
That means new functions and features can drop on the web at any time.
So, we’ll program our DEV-BOT 5000 with an automatic upgrade function, to make sure it never misses a crucial bit of news in web development technologies, best practices, and design principles.
Our perfect WordPress developer should also stay on top of another kind of upgrade: the prompt updating of themes, plugins, and core files with new releases.
Otherwise, all those beautiful WP sites might fall victim to nefarious hackers and sometimes-critical errors and functional mishaps.
Our DEV-BOT 5000 is looking pretty spiffy, don’t you think? Over to you – did I leave out any crucial features of our ideal WordPress designer? Share your experiences in the comments below!