Top 10 Things to Look for in a Web Developer

Mike Harrison March 4, 2017

So you’re in the market for a new website or need a web developer for a new project. There are lots of things you should consider and plenty of articles on the web that will tell you the typical: pay attention to price, do they pay attention to detail, what have they done in the past, what is their style…etc.

All of these are important but are all too easy to answer and should not be the only things you think about. In fact some of what I will outline here are a precedent to the basics and still most people don’t even think about them.

I’ve outlined my top 10 things to look for, in no particular order, but keep all of them in mind the next time you are looking for a developer(s) for your next project.

1. Are they a good communicator?

Communication is an extremely important aspect of your relationship with the web developer or agency. For the project to go smoothly there needs to be great quality communication on both ends (that means you too).

This goes beyond how long it takes for them to answer your messages.

Ask yourself, do they take time to explain things in an easy to understand manner? Are they actually listening as I explain things to them? Are they asking for my input on things that pertain to my business?

2. Do they understand your business?

Your first impression of an agency or developer may not include a good understanding of your business. If they understand it before you meet, great. But just because they have no experience in your industry does not mean they won’t be able to do a fantastic job.

The things you need to look for are: are they trying to learn about how my business works? Are they asking me about my competitors and what they are doing? Are they trying to find ways to gain traction in my specific market?

3. Do they understand your customers?

You know your customers very well. But does your developer?

If you are going with an agency, more than likely they have dealt with businesses in your industry before. If you are on a budget and can only afford a freelancer, you need to gauge his/her understanding of your customers.

It is your job to explain to them your customer behavior; it is their job to use that as a tool to bring value to the project.

4. Do they ask the right questions?

Asking the right questions can make or break a project.

Goals need to be established up front before any planning begins. This way everyone is on the same page and expectations are clear.

There are many aspects of development that are steered by what the goals of the project are. This also includes why the project is necessary in the first place.

Be sure YOU know why you want to start a project and what the highest and lowest priorities are.

5. What is their internal process for new clients?

There is no right or wrong or better or worse here. The main thing to take away is do I know what to expect when I am going to work with this new team or developer?

Having too high of expectations will not be good for anyone, so you need to be clear what your expectations are up front, as well as understand what the typical process looks like when working with the developer or team.

6. Whose best interests are taken into consideration?

This should be obvious but sometimes it is hard to pinpoint in the moment. When someone has your best interests in mind they are asking questions about your budget, your goals, and your business. If their best interests are in mind, they tell you about their budget (or costs), their goals for your project, and how you should run your business to make it easier for them (not to be confused with them helping you find ways to run your business smoother or more efficiently!).

7. Does their personality mesh with yours?

This is usually something you can’t tell right at the beginning but you usually have a gut feeling. It is up to you whether or not it is going to be a deal breaker or not.

Just remember, it is a relationship you need to build with your web developer or agency, not just a one and done.

8. Are they concentrated on providing value?

A developer who is more focused on what cool things they can build than what value they can bring to your business through the cool things they can build is a bad sign.

You want someone who is value focused. There will be a subtle change in the way they do things on a daily level, but focusing on value will vastly change the outcome of the project.

Value means making you money, but it also means saving you money where possible.

Building cool features into your website if it is not valuable is not a good thing.

9. Are resources in place to meet needs outside of their expertise?

There may be times when the developer or team is not able to accomplish a certain task that is required by you and your goals. In contrast, they may be able to accomplish a task, but not efficiently.

Ask the developer or the contact at the agency if they have resources other than themselves at their disposal. This also gives you a good idea of whether or not they like to work with other businesses in the community which is always a good sign.

For example, if you have to cut exotic wood, do they have a horizontal bandsaw for cutting exotic wood or are they using a regular handsaw? It might get done but the job will not be pretty when it’s over…

10. Do they think user-first?

The end user is going to be the user of the application or website. (Duh…)

So you would think most developers keep this in top-of-mind when designing an application or website and make it as easy as possible on the end user, right? FALSE.

I run into situations every day where a client wants me to update their site to make it more “user friendly.” The old developer came up with about 15 different variations on their designs or structure and it still didn’t “feel” easy to use.

This is usually because they are not thinking of user first.

“How will the user see this button and click it?”
“How will the user know they have to go through these steps before they can access the file?”
These are things that a good developer asks him/herself before designing a workflow.

You should ask your developer what their process is for designing workflows and listen for key phrases like “do more on the backend, so the user doesn’t have to” or “will just automatically appear”. These are signs of a user-focused developer.

These are just 10 of the things you should look for in your hunt for a good developer or development team.

Don’t be afraid to meet multiple times before deciding on a deal. You both need to feel good about one another because it is a relationship that will last a long time if you choose the right person.

Just know the more important you are to someone before you are their client, you will be that much more important to them once you are their client.

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About Mike Harrison

I love business and learning about what it means to be human. I'm always looking for ways to improve myself and everything around me. I am also a hard core EDM and uplifting music fan. If you catch me without music playing, I'm probably a doctor. Oh yea and I eat sleep and breathe code.