How to Hire a Web Developer [pt. 1] by Ken Howard

small business website, website design tips, website tipsHaving a website is one of the first things you need to consider when starting a business. Whether it’s simply to present your products or services to potential customers, or to provide an ecommerce solution to sell said products or services you simply need a website. Here’s a straight-forward guide for hiring a web developer.

First, let’s look at what a web developer does, because you can’t hire the first one that crosses your path without knowing their capabilities. Here are the various types of ‘web developers’:

  • Front-End Web Developer
    A Front-End Web Developer takes a design comp from a Web Designer and converts it into HTML, CSS & JavaScript.
  • Back-End Web Developer
    A Back-End Web Developer creates the infrastructure for the site. This person will write code in PHP, Ruby (Ruby on Rails), PERL, ASP, ColdFusion or other server-side scripting languages. They should also work with databases such as MySQL, PosgreSQL, Oracle or similar.

Notice in the two types of developers that they are not web designers. Web Designers and Web Developers need to play well together. If you’ve already hired a Web Designer be sure to include them in the interview process.

Anyone looking to hire a web developer needs to know what that person will be doing once hired. If you have a website running WordPress then you should be looking for a Web Developer specializing in WordPress. Other popular content management systems (CMS) are Joomla and Drupal.  This may not matter too much if you don’t already have a website.

Every business wants to be at the top of the list of Google and Bing searches. Hiring a Web Developer that understands the basics of Search Engine Optimization is extremely important. Having seen first-hand the lack of SEO knowledge from a web development stand-point, I know it’s better to get it right the first time than to re-write the complete site after years of little to no SEO love.

What’s a Web Developer Worth?

You really can’t put a figure to a job title without knowing what you require. Hiring a junior level web developer can be more cost-effective but could harm your long-term goals if they lack key knowledge in areas such as SEO. A quick glance at reveals that the median base salary for a web developer is between $61,000 and $83,000. Hiring an experienced web developer may cost more, but could prevent a catastrophe.

If you are looking for a project-based freelance web developer, expect rates anywhere from $75/hr to $300/hr. Also, some freelance web developers may quote project prices rather than an hourly rate.

The Interview

Interviewing a web developer can be tricky; especially if you don’t have much experience with their profession. Remember that you are trying to find a partner that understands your business needs and goals. You also want to know that this person can do the job and do it well.

Before the interview, ask the candidate for a list of references and sites they have worked on. Make sure they explained what problem they solved for those sites. Do your homework and call the references. Ask the references direct questions about the candidate’s abilities, work ethic and ability to work with a team.

In the interview be sure to ask specific questions regarding their experience. If they listed they are experience in Search Engine Optimization, ask them how they have use Google Analytics in the past. Google Analytics is known throughout the SEO community as the go-to for managing traffic referrals from search engines and social networks.

Hiring for a new position is never easy. Hiring for a new web development position is no different. Do your research and fine-tune your list of requirements. Hiring the web developer with a long list of qualifications might mean they know a lot, but in most cases it can mean they know very little about each. Do your research.

Ken Howard is the Interactive Manager at Turtledove Clemens, an Integrated Marketing Communications firm in Portland, Oregon. He is passionate about Social Media, Search Engine Optimization and intuitive, user-friendly web design. You can follow him on Twitter @kenhowardpdx.

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  1. Brittany on July 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Excellent advice Ken, thank you for sharing. I appreciate that you included the difference between front-end and back-end development which is easy for those outside of the industry to confuse. Great read!

    • Ken Howard on July 9, 2012 at 11:11 am

      Thanks Brittany.