Choosing a web developer isn’t easy, whether you’re just starting out and need a website to begin marketing your business online, or you’ve been through the ringer before and the thought of muddling through again, even in the name of a much-needed redesign, is enough to make you wish the internet had never been invented.
Before you give up on the idea of a new site or jump into hiring the cheapest/easiest/first option, take a side trip through our “What to ask before you hire a developer” series for advice on separating the weeds from the winners.
We’ve got some very direct questions that you can ask any potential developer and the answers that mean you’ve found a lily among dandelions.
Today’s Question: Who Will You Be Working With?
Don’t assume it’s the person you just met with! From salespeople to presidents to project managers to office assistants, different companies will send different people to handle the meet-and-greet.
Perhaps you’ve met with a principal of the company you’re considering hiring. You had a great conversation over lunch and he’s intelligent, witty, and totally knows his stuff.
He’s put you at ease about the process, used all the magic words and has you thinking, “This is the one!” Or you may have met with a salesperson, the “face” of the company who has just convinced you that shelling out your life savings for the Brooklyn Bridge is the most fantastic idea you’ve ever heard.
Either way, you’re about to hand over your hard earned dollars to this company to build your website, market your business and otherwise represent you online.
Before you jump at the chance to work with a company that seems to have so many ducks in a row, find out who you’ll really be working with.
Not who you met with. Not who signs the Christmas cards. Not who does the billing, but who you’ll be sitting down with on a day-to-day basis hashing through your business ideas and goals, getting to the bottom of your online branding, SEO strategies and social media needs.
It’s great to meet a company principal, but does that person then go away and leave you in the hands of low level designers who have only a passing acquaintance with the difference between a pixel and a point? Or programmers who speak Java better than they do Human?
As for salespeople, be doubly cautious here. The job of a salesperson is to sell, not necessarily to be up front about concerns, limitations and other issues you may run into along the way. A salesperson can promise you all sorts of juicy things that may be impractical or completely out of your budget range. It will sound great at first, until you’re six weeks, sixteen programmers and sixty martinis into a project that’s turning out to be more like an overpass on the parkway than an iconic suspension bridge.
A client of mine once hired a designer based on his impressive portfolio and an inspiring commitment to all things bright and beautiful. This client expected a pretty darn good website based on the work he’d seen.
Alas, what the client didn’t understand was that his budget didn’t buy anything bright or beautiful but rather a week with an intern who was merely learning the ropes under the designer’s guidance. You can imagine the client’s confusion and disappointment, the arguments that ensued, and ultimately the lack of website as the project – and relationship – ended.
Before you end up in a bad situation, find out who you’ll be working with. First, find out if you’ll be dealing directly with the person you just met with. If the answer is no, then find out who that person is.
There’s a project manager, consultant or lead developer somewhere who will be point person on your project. Make sure it’s someone you understand, get good trust-vibes from and can see yourself working with for weeks, months or even years to come.
Then, find out what sort of skill level your budget buys and make sure it’s what you expect. Are you hiring the designer whose work you were thrilled by or an assistant who just learned how to use lens-flare in Photoshop? Of course, most projects can’t be (and shouldn’t be) done by a single person, so chances are you’ll have a team working on different pieces at different times.
Even if you can’t meet and vet them all, you should have a reasonable guarantee that the quality of the work performed will be up to the standard set when you hired the company.
Your best bet is to be direct with these questions, and make sure you get answers that you want to hear. A good development company won’t mind being challenged, because they’ll already be working by the right answers.
Tune in next time, when we take this one step further into questions of accountability.
Want To Read The Whole Series? Check It Out Here:
- Want To Hire A Web Developer? Find Out Who You’ll (Really) Be Working With First.
- Want To Hire A Web Developer? Find Out Who Answers The Phones.
- Want To Hire A Web Developer? Find Out Who’s Responsible When Things Go Wrong.
- Want To Hire A Web Developer? Find Out If They Proactively Offer Advice.
- 5 (More) Things To Ask Before You Hire A Web Developer: The Wrapup Edition