Does your company need a shiny new website? Feeling a little uneasy because you don’t speak the lingo? Heard countless horror stories about flaky web developers taking off? Or are you just looking for some education on the whole web development process? Whichever criteria satisfies your need, you’re bound to find an answer to something here. We may even end up solving where Jimmy Hoffa is. Most importantly, I’d like to protect you from getting screwed by your web developer.
The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. -Ernest Hemingway
Trust is important. It’s the foundation of almost everything in life. Determining who to hire for your next website project shares this foundation. So naturally, the best advantage you have is to hire locally and request an in-person consultation, but I think that goes without saying. Show up at their office, greet them in person, get a general feel for their personality. You’ll be working closely with this person, likely for quite some time.
But, if there aren’t any competent web developers in your neck of the woods, or if you’re just dead-set on hiring some rockstar in another state or country, you probably won’t get that face-to-face meeting. :: sigh :: It’s OK though. There’s no reason that, in 2011, awesome stuff like Skype video conferences shouldn’t be the norm for establishing trust and conducting business. Right? Right. Ask your potential web developer for a Skype Video chat. Hell, if you hear a “no”, at least you’ll have eliminated that potential candidate immediately.
Whatever you do, at least be sure to check their social profiles. You know, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Dribbble, Stack Exchange, Elance, ODesk. Also, check their websites. View their portfolio and make sure it’s clear exactly what work they did on a given project. Check their recommendations on LinkedIn, too. Hell, just Google them. Never know what else you might find!
Make sure you get a well-scoped contract that details everything you expect out of your project. This part is as much your responsibility as it is the website developer’s. The contract should clearly state the developer’s name, address, email address, and website. It should itemize each piece of your project as to form a clear picture of start to finish. Milestones are nice to see, too. And make sure the total cost and payment terms are clear. There’s nothing worse than coming up on the middle of a project with unmet expectations over simple communication problems that could have been solved with a good contract.
A bit more ambitious approach to not getting screwed is to educate yourself in the web development process. This goes both ways – you could quickly snuff out a wanna-be developer, and they’ll likely feel more comfortable with an educated client. Knowing the lingo will go a long way with your would-be hire. Consider it like learning the native language of the country you’re visiting on holiday – it’s a respect thing. I’ll give you some common terms here and explain them.
This is you saying “I’m going to give you some cash for your time because I trust you.” The developer now responds with “Thank you. I trust you well enough to give you my time.” Simple as that. Expect to pay a deposit for any self-respecting developer.
Most development projects require some visuals, like wireframes, schemas, content types, user flows, and other fun stuff. These are generally fleshed out and approved by you before the development work begins. This could even include some graphic designs.
A CMS, Content Management System, allows you to control some content on your website. That being said, it’s important to be clear on what this really means: you’re able to updates words and images, add blog posts, maybe control your contact forms. Anything above and beyond this is possible, but costs extra both short- and long-term.
Your website is likely found by typing in somedomain.com into your browser, right? That .com thing is your domain name. You (or someone you may have talked to at some point) registered that domain name. Tied to domain names are directions for where to send you when you ask the interwebs to show your website. That’s called your DNS. Why the hell is it important that you know this stuff? ‘Cause it’s a confusing pile of mess and, unfortunately, we all have to try to understand how these fundamentals work. ”
Your website files need to be hosted somewhere for them to even show up on the internet. Your host serves these files for you. Your developer might be able to recommend a good host like Candidhost which is the one I use, or may even host the website for you.
This is a super-technical, geeky term. Your host puts your files on these servers. They’re just a bunch of computers, similar to the one you have, all tied together.
Use the aforementioned list as your guideline for finding the right web developer. Make sure you have all your plans, ideas, content, images, business plans, and deposit money together. Take your project as seriously as you would want your web developer to take it. Now that you’re a bit more educated, it’s time to start searching.
You could, of course, just call up Odd Dog (shameless self-promotion) and get started straight away.
Or you can search online. Here are some hot-spots for awesome development talent:
Authentic Jobs – $99
github – $300
Stack Overflow – $350
Forrst – Free
A less traditional approach, many of the developers here are confident enough (read: smart) to post their code socially for critique. This says a lot about the developer, and it generally turns out to be positive.
As you can see, hiring the right web developer is no easy task. It takes some time, patience and education. Establishing trust, meeting in person, and checking credentials go a long way. But with technology, we open ourselves up to new opportunities. With those opportunities come risks of a sneaky developer pulling the wool over your eyes. Hopefully, I’ve pointed you in all the right directions and showed you how to not get screwed by your web developer!