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Choosing A Web Developer - Five Steps To Traversing A Minefield

  • Author: Matthew Jackson
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Don’t get caught out by unscrupulous web developers. Scout about for an agency that knows what they are doing to avoid disappointment.

Every so often I receive a frantic phone call from a prospective client asking if we can take over a floundering web development project. Unfortunately, that’s just not what we do. It opens the gate to a world of development issues that we’d rather avoid. After all, sorting out somebody else’s mess is never fun.

The important question to ask yourself is: “Why are so many projects running into difficulties in South Africa?” Well, in most instances that I encounter, it’s a result of development companies over-promising or trading unscrupulously. Armed with the right information, clients can avoid the pitfalls associated with dealing with the con-artists of the web development industry.

Here are my top four tips for choosing a developer that’s right for you:

1. Keep it simple

When you first contact a developer have a chat to them about the technical scope of the project. What you’d like to achieve and what sort of functionality you would like implemented. Once the company has come back to you, ask them to explain anything you don’t understand in detail. If you walk away more confused than when you started, you should start to get wary. If the company can’t explain their services and products to you, there’s a good chance that they don’t completely understand them either. Bamboozlement is also a very real possibility here. Think mechanics with computers. A good development agency should be able to explain their services and products without reverting to a smokescreen of techno-babble.

2. Walk the walk?

Once you have found out if your developer can talk the talk, it’s time to establish whether they can walk the walk. For instance, if a company says it develops standards compliant websites. Make sure they actually do. Validate their company site using an online site Validate. If the company is offering original content as part of the package, make sure they actually develop un-plagarised content using a service like copyscape. When it comes to design, you don’t need an online service - just browse through their portfolio and make sure that you like what you see. It might be a good idea to make sure that the designer who put the portfolio together still works for the company.

3. Do you get along?

I know that personal relationships with the people you work with are not always a major requirement, but in web development it’s a highly important factor. You don’t need to be buddies, but you do need to be able to work together. Make sure that you developers understand your vision for the website and will be able to work with you closely in achieving a solid result.

4. What do their clients have to say?

Don’t take the developer’s word on their services. Give a couple of their previous clients a call and find out what they thought of working with the developer.

5. Long term relationships

Finally, you need to establish if your developers are willing to develop a long term relationship with you. Are they capable of running monthly maintenance on the site, or are they more interested in getting the job done and allowing the site to languish.

Right, so those are my five tips for choosing a developer. Try implementing them. They’ll save you a lot of time, heartache and disappointment.

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