Find the right web developer by asking these key questions

Digital360 on 13 June 2017

Finding a web developer for your business can be difficult. And if you're not technical, it can be hard to know what to ask when you're assessing the options. To give you a hand, we have put together a step-by-step guide for Australian businesses looking for their new web developer.

Read on to find out the most important questions you should raise to find the right solution to your web development needs.

1. What CMS do you use?

When choosing a web developer, start with the basics – the content management system, or CMS. The CMS you use plays a huge role in how smoothly – or not smoothly – your website runs. Anyone who has worked with an unintuitive or unfriendly CMS knows how it can slow down workflow, frustrate staff and lead to unnecessary errors.

The CMS will also define the complexity of your website. If it lacks certain tools, you may be limited with your content. But remember there is a balance. You also don't want bells and whistles that may complicate your site and make it harder to use.

Once you know what the developer's preferred CMS is, consider whether it strikes the right balance. The idea is to find a CMS that is easy to use, has a friendly and accessible interface and a helpful user community.

2. What programming languages do you use?

The next step is to consider coding languages. Ask your web developer about their expertise and preference in the common languages – such as HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, C++, Python and Ruby. For instance, whether your website uses CSS or Javascript will make a big impact on everything from SEO to how well your site runs on mobile. Consider the pros and cons of their expertise in various languages and make sure they are up to industry standard.

3. What is a recent example of your work?

The best way to know whether a web developer will be right for you is by seeing examples of their work. Ask for a recent example or case study and get them to explain the initial brief. Looking at how well the website fits the brief will give you a good idea of whether they are capable of meeting your objectives. Think about how they interpreted the brief, what creative flourishes they may have added, and the overall usability of the website. This can also help inspire ideas for your website.

4. Do you have the skills I need?

Not every web developer has the same skill set. Some have more expertise in web design and development while others may be better at integrations and app development. Some will work closely with designers while others with SEOs.

Consider your priorities. Do you need CRM to be integrated with your CMS? Do you want a developer to help you launch an app? Ask them to be honest about their capabilities. Remember you don't want to work with a developer who is learning on-the-go.

5. Do you have any accreditation or awards?

Before moving forward, ask your web developer if they have any accreditation – be it as an award recipient from an industry body like Australian Web Industry Association (AWIA), or an official partner to the software they use, such as SilverStripe. While a small consideration, this is a vouch of confidence by the industry and the partners the developer works with.

6. Are you working freelance or with an agency?

Freelance web developers and agency web developers tend to work very differently. A freelancer, for instance, is unlikely to cover aspects like copywriting or design. If this is the case, figure out who will be in charge of those areas and how they will work with your web developer. If managing a group of freelancers seems too complex, think about whether you'd prefer an end-to-end service, rather than a modular approach.

7. Who will own the IP at the end?

Remember to ask whether you or the developer will have rights over the intellectual property (IP). If you plan on making changes in the future, it is important you ensure are not tied down in the long term to your web developer.

How can you know? Find out if they are using open source software. This is important in case a future developer needs to make changes to your website or app. You don't want your business to be locked into an obscure or proprietary system.

8. What is your project management method?

Before deciding on a web developer, make sure you have a good understanding of how they will handle project management. Ask if they work in agile or traditional waterfall method. This will shape the entire web development process, influencing everything from delivery dates to the level of your involvement. Each have method has its pros and cons, and it is up to you to decide what works best for your business.

If you have more questions about how to find the right web developer, contact one of our specialists.