Shopping for a Good Developer: 10 Things to Consider
Choosing the right developer or web development company to build a business website usually conjures up a migraine. Many entrepreneurs think that the right choice of developer is something akin to magic, a combination of top research skills, social media deep dives, negotiation prowess and pure luck.
Choosing a good developer is actually easy. All you need to do is to ask the right questions and objectively evaluate the answers you receive. Don’t worry, we’ve made a list of things to consider as you shop for the best developer for the job.
1. Experience with Your CMS of Choice
If you’ve already decided on what CMS to use for your website, it stands to reason that you will need the help of a developer with sizeable experience using that CMS. Or does it?
You might find developers who, although not very experienced using your CMS, will have significant general web development experience. That means they will know their HTML, CSS, MYSQL and PHP very well, even if they haven’t built that many websites using your CMS of choice. In this case, you can forego the lengthy CMS-specific experience. If they have at least some experience using your CMS (half a year to one year), they will be able to “figure thing out.”
In case the developer only has experience using your CMS, but no additional web development experience, you will probably want the CMS experience to cover at least one or two years.
Still, when choosing between someone with extensive web development experience, but limited CMS-specific experience and someone with no web development experience, but acceptable CMS-specific experience, you should always go with the first option. The wider the web development experience, the better the chances your chosen developer will think outside the box and properly handle any surprises that may arise.
2. Number of Websites Built Using Your CMS of Choice
This one also goes toward work experience using your CMS. Finding a good developer means not only counting the number of websites they’ve built using the specific CMS, but also looking at the complexity of these websites.
If your future website is going to be relatively complex, choosing a developer that has built many simple websites doesn’t help. They need to show at least some experience with more complex websites.
3. The Matter of Template Customization
Customizing templates is always preferable to just filling in a given template. It shows that you actually care about your clients and it gives you a way to adapt the user experience to your specific needs. And then there is the small matter of the developer being able to properly implement the customizations to your template.
A good developer should be able to customize your website without making it glitchy. This is an important factor in your decision because, if it’s not done right, a customized template can create more problems than the advantages it brings. Just keep in mind is that the more changes you want to apply to a template, the more time and money it will cost.
4. Server Environment Adjustments
Most serious hosting companies offer proper server environment for the needs of various hosted CMSs. But if you are not hosting with such a company and your hosting is not properly configured for the CMS you intend to use, there will be problems. Problems your developer will most likely need to solve in order for your website to function properly.
Again, this will cost you time and money. The simple way to avoid the extra expenses is to look for a hosting company that will offer by default everything your CMS needs in terms of server capabilities. Found them? Go with them.
If, for some reason, you need to keep your current non-CMS-friendly hosting plan, you need to make sure that the developer is able and willing to deal with the server side issues.
5. SEO Experience and Services Offered
By now you probably know that SEO is a must-have for any decent website. Sure, you can hire a developer without knowledge of SEO best practices and then, after the website is done, hire an SEO specialist to do their thing. That is if you have time and money to spare.
Therefore, you may want to factor in previous SEO experience when you go looking for a good developer. They will build your website SEO-compliant from the start and save you a lot of headaches down the road. You’ll get a head start on those search engine rankings, so when you do hire that SEO specialist, they won’t have to start from 0 and charge you a fortune to adapt/redo parts of the website.
6. Marketing Background
The internet today is a far cry from the internet even 5 years ago. No web-related job is so specialized that the professionals need only know their narrow field. The more a web developer knows about additional fields, the better suited they are to do their job properly.
With that thought in mind, if you’ve already found a web developer with SEO knowledge, find out if they also happen to have some broader marketing knowledge. This would complement their SEO work and help you get better positioned in search engine rankings.
7. CSS Mastery
Any good web developer will know CSS well or very well. It gives them a significant edge in customizing things exactly to the client’s needs. They won’t just copy-paste a template, but deliver a smoothly customized template with a clean code that will not lower your Google rank.
It is really important that the developer you choose have advanced or native-level CSS skills. Normally, all good developers already do, but you should remember to check, just in case.
8. The Development Process
When you ask a developer what their process for developing a website is, you’ll get a variety of answers (from no answer at all, to complex answers that you’re having trouble following along), but it is an important aspect to consider.
This is a conversation topic that will give you a glimpse into their work process, the way they think, their personality and value system. And when it comes to client-developer compatibility, it is always worth having such investigative conversations.
9. Other Skills Worth Mentioning
A good developer will know more than just installing templates. They might know some marketing, SEO, project management, graphic design, UI/UX, copywriting, etc. Having such skills is not a must, but it is always worth looking for them. If your developer has more to offer than just writing code, why not use those skills to your advantage?
10. Security Measures
You should always invest in the security of your website. With all the hacking and hijacking in the online world, an interest and proactive attitude towards security is a big plus in selecting the right developer. Not doing everything you can to prevent or delay a hack is simply not a viable option anymore. A good developer will plan for backups, they will be aware of safe coding practices and know how to use a firewall. How do you find out their take on security measures? Ask them.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, here it is: there’s no universal definition for a good developer, but finding one is not an impossible task either. Look for an appropriate skill level for the job and proven experience, ask for other complementary skills and have a conversation about their work process and ethics. After all, you’re looking for compatibility, not rockstar developer status.
The developers at NerdPilots are ready to have a conversation.
And one more thing, price should not be the determining issue when selecting the right developer for the job. As with everything else in life, you get what you pay for. You might save some money by choosing a cheaper developer, but the initial savings disappear when the problems start popping up. It’s better to build properly from the start than patch things up as you go.
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