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Your guide to hiring great website developers

website developers

The process of hiring a web developer is fraught with peril. What skills does the developer have (or not have?) Are they trustworthy? Do they understand your requirements? Are they even in the same time zone?

In this article, we’ll delve into what you should look for when hiring a website developer, and how to safeguard the process as much as possible.

What does a web developer do?

Let’s start by examining what a web developer actually is; a web developer is someone who develops web applications using a client-server model.

What’s a client-server model?

A client-server model is simply the relationship between a web browser (the client) and the web server. A request is made from the client (such as loading a web page) and that request is sent to the server. The server then “serves” up the web page to the client and the process is complete.

Of course, there are many more interactions between a client and a server, but this is essentially the process on the most basic level.

Getting back to our explanation of a web developer, web dev is one that needs to be proficient in the various programming languages that exist for both client and server applications.

An example of some client-side code interactions would be in the use of JavaScript and CSS.

JavaScript is mostly used ‘client-side’ i.e.; in the browser to perform a range of functions. One example would be checking the validity of a credit card number. When a customer enters their credit card, some simple JavaScript code can run to check and see if the card number is valid (known as a checksum or check luhn sum). Because this happens in the browser, ahead of being sent to the web server, the process is extremely fast.

If the credit card needed to be validated on the web server, it would need to be sent there, checked, and then a message sent back as to whether the card number was valid or not.

Another example of client-side code is CSS or “cascading style sheets”. CSS code is used to style a web page and define its overall layout.

Some examples of server-side code would be in the use of programming languages such as PHP (used by the likes of Google and Facebook) aspx (Microsoft’s own programming language) and Ruby (Shopify is written in Liquid and Ruby code).

What to look for when hiring a web developer

Hopefully, the above explanation is shedding some light on where you might start in regard to hiring a web developer.

If you need someone to help with some Shopify code, for example, you need to specifically look for someone who has experience in Ruby and/or Liquid, not PHP.

Aside from the skillset the programmer claims to have, some other factors to consider are;

Communication – can the person you’re hiring understand and communicate in English proficiently? Programming tasks can be quite complex and a language barrier is only going to make it harder.

Time Zone – is your project on a deadline? Do you need changes made with a quick turnaround time? If so, it won’t help if your web developer lives in say Italy and only works 9 am – 5 pm their time. Imagine this scenario: you turn up to work at 9 am your local time and see that the web developer has submitted their work. You check it and realise there’s a mistake or some further changes to be made. You send those requirements through. It’s now 9:15 am your time, but the web developer won’t see your email until at least 5 pm tonight just as you’ve finished for the day. The programmer implements those changes, and you don’t see them until 9 am the next day! This type of process will potentially add days and weeks to a project.

Reputation – Hiring a web developer through a job site such as Fiverr or Upwork can be helpful as you can see what previous hirers thought of them. If a web developer has lots of average or negative reviews, walk away. Reputation also comes into play when you hire a web developer through an Agency; it’s their reputation on the line, and any agency that cares about this (and their customers) will work hard to do the best possible job for you.

Trust – Hiring a web developer that you’ve never met can be a daunting process. You’re inviting them in to work on an application that they could potentially break or if they happen to be vindictive for some reason, they could even destroy your code.

Safeguarding your work

To mitigate these nightmare scenarios, you have a couple of options; create a staging environment of your website or web application for the developer to work on. This is the ideal scenario. Option two would be to take a full backup of the website ahead of a web developer going in to perform a task. This isn’t an ideal scenario, but in the real world, it happens quite often. Usually, the client has had something break on their website, or needs something implemented quickly and will invite a web developer into the live environment to perform the work.

If the programmer broke the website or worse, maliciously destroyed it (it does happen!) you can at least revert back to the save you made.

Don’t consider a web developer on price alone

Cheap is not always the best. We all know this, and this also applies to hiring a web developer. Here’s a real-world example; an experienced web developer was once asked to write some checksum code for credit card validation, and what their hourly rate would be. They charged $130 an hour.

The client thought this was too expensive and hired two lesser experienced web developers in his stead. Three days later, the two web developers were still toiling over the checksum code and still didn’t have it working.

The client, with some embarrassment we imagine, went back to the original web developer and accepted his hourly rate of $130 and asked him to write the checksum code. The experienced dev finished the task in just one hour!

In conclusion

We hope this has provided some insight into the considerations of hiring a web developer. The key takeaways are to hire someone who understands your needs clearly, has the experience to execute them, and has the reputation behind them to provide quality work.