How to Hire a Web Developer

Business Owners

how to hire a web developer - Kim Joy FoxSo you’ve decided you need a website (who doesn’t?) and you’ve decided not to wade into HTML and PHP yourself (good decision), which means you’ll need to hire someone to create the website for you.

To choose a Website Developer, you’ll need to ask the right questions. As a web designer and programmer, here are a few questions I would ask.

What is a realistic time frame for the website?

This is a really important answer to listen to. Here’s some guidelines: If your website is more then 5 to 6 pages, or if it has any custom design, it will take more then a week.

I recently had a client who wanted an entire website with extensive coding created. They were told by another web developer that it could be finished in a week. This website included over 80 hours of work according to my estimation. I don’t know any web developer who works 80 hours a week – especially not on one project!

Now some websites can be done in a week, some even in a day, and I’ve created those too. But realistically, with the back-and-forth communication on design and finishing touches on the website, you’re most likely looking at a 2-3 week time frame for most small business websites.

If the developer says it will be launched in a day or two and they’re doing “custom” design, beware! The developer is most likely giving you unrealistic expectations which always ends badly.

What are some previous websites you’ve created?

They need a portfolio. If they don’t have a portfolio online, don’t go with them. I know some developers say that they are so busy they don’t have time to create a portfolio, but if they’re that busy, can they really devote time to your project? And what about devoting time to staying up-to-date with the current technologies?

Their skills with time management come into play here, and if they aren’t good at time management it’s going to be a pain to work with them.

How much do you charge and how?

Most web developers charge 25% to 50% of the estimated cost of the website up front. The rest is usually due when the website is finished.

Additionally, make sure you know whether the cost is an estimate or a set amount. I always charge using estimates because sometimes clients are super easy (they love the design or only have minor alterations) and I don’t want to charge them for more of my time then they use. But some clients change their mind 10 times and email constantly with every question in the book.

It’s not that I mind the second type of client; after all, they just want the best for their business. But my time is valuable, so while I can definitely be the “web person” for a business, I do charge for it hourly.

How do you communicate with your clients?

Most web developers I know like emailing clients best. It helps solidify exactly what needs to be done and what’s going on. Also, it’s easy to look back and keep track of communication.

It’s important to ask this of web developers because you’ll want to communicate with them in the way that they communicate. So if they are phone people, you’ll get the best from them when you call them. If they’re email people but you are a phone person, make sure you let them know so that they can know how to communicate best with you, as well.

And don’t forget about texts. I have no problem with clients texting me, but some web developers may not offer that.

For example, one of my previous clients was best in-person or on the phone. In emails they just couldn’t communicate well, and most left me confused as to what they actually wanted. Once I realized this, even though we did use emails sometimes to communicate, I focused most of the communication through phone calls and meet-ups.

Most importantly, pay attention to how fast they respond to you before you hire them. If they respond quickly, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll respond quickly later, but if they don’t respond quickly they definitely won’t later!

What is your time frame for responding to questions?

All web developers have a time frame for responding to questions. I respond immediately if at all possible, but within 24 hours is my max.

If you’re an immediate-response type of person, or you really want lots of communication from your developer (which I’ve found is usually because they’ve been burned in the past), make sure you communicate that to the developer. If they aren’t interested in that, or they don’t respond quickly to their clients, then you’ll probably want to go with someone else.

Can you do/have you done websites like this?

Their portfolio can usually answer this question, but you’ll want to ask them anyway. I’d say the most important thing here is not that they’ve done every single little thing before, but that they are confident that they can do it all. I may have never created an entire site with user updates done completely in AJAX (without re-loading the page), but I’ve used AJAX before and I’m confident that I can do it… and I did.

The thing you should be looking for here is that they can problem-solve. You don’t want a developer saying that a full-pic background on your website is impossible just because they’ve never done it before. You want them to be confident that even if they’ve never done it, if someone has, they can figure it out.

What CMS (content management service) do you use to create websites?

Content Management Service is a self-important phrase that tells you basically that you’ll be able to edit the site. It is a framework that the site is built off of. WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are all CMSes.

Sometimes the web developer will say they use a proprietary CMS, which means they created it. That’s not a huge problem. Before content management services became ubiquitous, I used to create a “back end” of the website where the client could log in and update information. And, in fact, with one of my large clients now I’m creating a separate back-end system. However, you should find out if this will tie you forever to the developer. My back-end systems can be taken over by anyone who knows programming, but most management systems cannot. You buy their system and pay monthly and that’s it. If you want to change developers, they have to start from scratch. So ask this question – it’s important.

The CMS systems I mentioned – WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla – are all open-source, so they can be edited by any web developer.

After you create the website, can I still reach you with questions and/or updates?

I hear this all the time from clients who had their website created and then “lost” the developer. They never responded to any form of communication – like they had dropped off the face of the planet. Obviously, this is a problem. Your developer should be in contact with at least some old clients, either with updates or answering questions they might have.

Keep in mind, this isn’t free. Their time is valuable and you should be billed, but a web developer pulling a disappearing act after the website is finished can be a real pain.

Do you create content?

Some web developers offer this, others do not. I recently got connected to a great SEO writer who can create content for clients. If you want someone to write your content (which I highly recommend for Search Engine Optimization), this is important to ask.

What is included in the website?

Different developers include different things: sometimes social media page create (facebook, google+, etc) is included, sometimes they’ll only link to it. Content is usually not included in a quote. Everyone will have a different response to this, so make sure you ask and confirm that the most important items to you are included in the quote.