Picking someone to build a website for you is not an easy task. Even if you are not building the next Gmail, you should be doing things right the first time. But picking a good Web developer is not a simple task, especially if you don’t know much about creating websites yourself. If you can’t really tell PHP apart from CSS, how should you know if the person in front of you (or on the other side of the email) really knows their business?
Do You Need a Designer, a Developer, or Both?
First things first. Web designers and Web developers are two entirely different categories. The best designers are true artists. They work with Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or (my favorite) CorelDRAW. They may not know much about code, but they know what’s beautiful. Above you can see Dribbble, a community for designers. Some of the people on Dribbble are also coders, but if you want to get a sense for what designers do, Dribbble is a good place to check.
Developers, on the other hand, are engineers. They might not have much artistic taste, but given a design, they will be able to implement it using standard Web technologies. So now that we made this distinction clear, you should know that this post is about developers. There are different ways to find designers, although some of this advice also applies to them. This post assumes you already know what you’re trying to create, and that you have a detailed mockup showing what the final website should look like. This is very important for the next few steps.
Look At Their Previous Work
This is the most important factor, which is why it’s the first I’ve listed. What has your developer done so far?
Good developers usually contribute to open-source projects in various ways. Your developer should have a Github profile page showing their work, making it easy to see what project they contributed to.
Price Is An Indicator
If you are looking to build a beautiful-looking website for yourself or your company, don’t expect to pay someone $10 an hour and have them create a masterpiece. Websites like VWorker.com are excellent for finding quality workers, but they are also full of coders and designers who would happily work for $5 an hour. Now, just because someone is cheap or expensive doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad or good – but price is an indicator. As word on a developer’s good work spreads, their rates will rise. If you want to go with an experienced developer, expect to pay the price.
I won’t go into specific rates here because these change over time, but like in many other fields, if the rate you are offered feels too good to be true, it probably is.
Do You Get Along?
Another important factor too often neglected – do you get along with this person? All too often, high-quality programmers feel that being excellent in their craft means they don’t necessarily have to be team players, or nice people. Worse still, developers may judge their clients (and other people in general) on the basis of technical expertise – so if you are clueless, they might think you’re unintelligent, too.
So, is your developer actually nice? I don’t mean in the chit-chat sort of way, but do you feel you can communicate as equals?
Ask About Their Opinions
Good developers think long and hard about their choice of tools, and end up having solid opinions and preferences. Here are a few questions you can ask your developer:
- What is your text editor of choice? Vim, TextMate, Notepad++, something else? Why that editor, and not another?
- What is your language of choice? PHP, Ruby, Python? Something else? Why that language and not another?
- Do you use a Web development framework, such as Rails or Django? Why?
- Will you use such a framework for my project? (make sure to describe your project, of course). Why?
Even if the names above don’t mean much to you, your developer should know them, and should be able to explain what their preference is, and why. This is also a great way to test the previous recommendation – do you get along? Is your developer able to explain his technical choices without condescending or making you feel dumb?
Have a Clear, Detailed Vision
We’ve made a full circle, going back to the first piece of advice. Don’t expect your developer to be a designer. If you don’t know what your website should look like, go with a designer first. Your developer should not be the one to come up with the look-and-feel. They should be the one to make it happen in real life. Your developer should make sure your website is fast and future-proof, and easy for you to update given your level of skill.
For your developer to be able to quote you a fair price and then do a good job, they must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. So when you come with a detailed project brief and mockups, this makes it far easier for you to find someone to realize your vision.
Share Your Tips Below
Do you have horror stories to share about finding programmers and developers to create your projects? Did I miss an important tip above? Do you want a similar post, about designers? Let me know in the comments!