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How to Hire a Better Web Developer

November 2, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s hard to be a small business owner. You’re literally responsible for everything.  When we hire outside help, we’re looking for someone to solve a problem, not become a new one.  As is often the case, when shopping for a professional, it’s often what you don’t know that can hurt you.

Often times when we get into these relationships for the first time, we don’t know what to look for. So we end up with sub-par results and think it’s par for the course.

But what if you knew going into the initial meeting the most important factors to consider when hiring a web developer? That would practically guarantee that you’d have a better relationship with your developer, would be better served by that developer, and they would turn out a better product.

So what are they?

We’ve compiled 5 of the most important questions to consider when looking to hire a new web developer.

Is This A One Night Stand Or Are We Making This A Relationship?


The first thing you need to decide is what you’re looking for. Are you looking for a new website? To refresh an old website? For somebody to manage your Internet presence?

Are you looking for a partner or are you looking for a specific product?

To put it another way, if you were looking to hire a mechanic, would he be changing your oil or would be become your go-to guy for your car’s maintenance?

This is an easy one: you either need something specific or you’re looking for someone to look out for your larger Internet interests.  Decide what you want and make sure they want that back.  A long-term relationship is asking them to become a stakeholder in your business, at least as far as the website is concerned, and as such, is no trivial thing.  This is different that using the same guy for a number of years when you need website updates.  A real long-term relationship is based on a Internet marketing plan.

Do You Masturbate?

I don’t mean to be blunt, but seriously… do you?

I once had a boss who fired that question off to a new marketer who had just joined our team.  The guy stammered back “uh.. yea…yeah”.  And my boss said, “Good! Now I know you’re honest. Now we can do business together!”  Admittedly, tossing around questions like that is a good way to attract a harassment lawsuit but I never forgot the lesson: you need to trust the members on your team.

If you’re in for a long term relationship with a web developer, you need to know that you’re getting good, honest communication from them.

What do you do, exactly?


You’d be surprised how many web developers (or web designers) forget what their job is.  They think it’s about designing websites. It’s not. It’s about making you more money. If they don’t know that, then you can bet that the website they build for you will not be very good at doing that.

Does the web developer have any strategies in place to identify and fix underwhelming, broken, or under-performing parts of your website?

How do you develop and maintain my Internet presence?

On today’s Internet, a company website is the beginning of how you interact with your customers online, not the sum total.  The whole thing – website, Facebook, YouTube, etc. – is your ‘Internet Presence’ and somebody has to manage it.  Sure, the web developer can set up a Facebook page for your business, but can they effectively weave all of the social tools along with your website into more than the sum of its parts?

If not, then I would seriously consider if I wanted to be in a long-term relationship with this developer.  We all need short-term work done from time to time and not everybody has to be able to see the 35,000 foot view.  But those that do will provide you a better product.

When it goes wrong, who’s wrong?

Invariably, at some point something’s going to go wrong. Whether it’s not enough traffic to the website, a website that doesn’t convert at a high enough rate, or the whole endeavor seems like its turned into a money pit, you want to know who’s wrong.  The best way to make people accountable for their mistakes (whether it’s you, the client, or them, the developer) is to set goals, set a time for accomplishing those goals, and then to measure the activity undertaken to reach those goals.  Regular goal setting and assessment, along with a period of testing and improvement should be part of every website strategy. If your web developer doesn’t talk about those things, they’re not going to take responsibility for how your site works.

These five questions will go a long way towards making sure that you get the right web developer for the job.