5 things to keep in mind when hiring a web developer

Businesses hire web developers because they need someone who knows how to get their name out there on the web. They hire us because we have technical knowledge that they don’t have available in-house, because they’re not comfortable taking on the task of building a website on their own, or because they simply don’t know where to start.

But there are some things to know before you hire a developer or designer, some things you should avoid doing to save yourself a headache later on, and some things that should just be common sense in any business arrangement.

1) Make sure everything is in YOUR name.

There are two main things you need in order to start up a website: a domain, and a hosting account. Many beginners make a huge mistake at the very beginning by letting the developer they hire sign up for them rather than doing it themselves. DO NOT DO THIS.

If the domain is registered in your developer’s name, they as good as own it. If your relationship with them goes south for whatever reason, it’s not unheard of for a developer to hold the domain hostage. The same goes for the hosting account. If your account is in your developer’s name, they have ownership of all of your database content, files, and potentially your email as well.

You can prevent this all-too-common pitfall simply by registering for your domain and hosting yourself rather than letting someone do it for you. In fact many web hosts will handle domain registration for free when you sign up for a hosting account, so you can kill two birds with one stone.

On a side note, do not give your developer the main administrator login for your account if you don’t have to. Many hosts will let you have authorized users on your account that can access everything that is needed to build your site without handing over access to more sensitive items. Site5.com, for example, is excellent at this.

2) Ask to see sample of the developer’s recent work.

Any good designer or developer these days has a portfolio site. There’s absolutely no reason for them not to… domains are cheap, hosting is cheap, and putting together a site is easy if that’s what you do professionally. If they can’t direct you somewhere that lists projects they’ve worked on, you might want to reconsider hiring them.

Even if they’re just starting out and have no clients to speak of yet, you can get some idea of their abilities and style just from their personal site.

3) Have an idea of what you want ahead of time.

You don’t need to have the entire site planned out from the splash page to the about us page… but having a general idea of what you want out of your site will save both you AND your developer time. The more information you can give your developer or designer at the beginning of a project, the more quickly the project will be completed to your liking.

4) Ask what platform the developer builds their sites on.

Does your developer build every site they make from scratch? Do they have their own content management system that they use? Do they build on existing software (and is it proprietary)?

Bear in mind that you may not be with this person forever. You may find a developer you like better, or one closer to home, or the developer may decide to change professions. At some point, it’s likely that you will want or need someone else to take over maintaining your site. Custom code is more difficult for another developer to take over and maintain than something that uses a pre-existing core software like WordPress (which I myself am partial to).

The most popular content managment systems at the moment are WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. If your developer is using any one of those, your odds of being able to find someone else who could take over if necessary are extremely good.

5) Be aware that our time is valuable, and we have no qualms with billing you for any and all requests.

It could be a major addition to the site, or it could be posting a news article. If you want us to do it for you, you’re going to get billed for it… and most of us charge a 1 hour minimum, even if it only takes us a few minutes.

So it’s in your best interest to group requests together and make them all at once. If you’re going to be making regular content updates (like news and announcements) the best thing you can do is have your own staff handle it rather than contacting your developer every time. We’re perfectly willing to show you how (and we try to make it as easy as possible).

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Nikki Blight – Web/PHP Developer