Finding a Web Developer


A recommendation from someone you trust is the best way to find a web developer. If you like the website the developer built and the person recommending the developer has good things to say, you’re in luck. Always be willing to spend a little more for someone who has a good reputation that you can verify.

Things to Watch Out For

I’ve never looked for a web developer, so I am coming at it from a different perspective, but I have dealt with my fair share of clients and salespeople. And I do know what my clients like and what they did not like about some developers they’ve had in the past.

If it was me, here’s what I’d be leery of if you’re talking to developers you know nothing about:

  • Outlandish Promises
    If someone is telling you they’ll have you on the first page of Google in no time, that your business is going to increase by leaps and bounds because of the website they build…I’d move on. You want someone who’s going to tell you the truth, someone with a more measured approach. “Hey, I can definitely help you. There are some issues on your current site that we can improve and I can give you some good SEO tips and we can see what happens.” It’s not glamorous, but far more realistic.
  • Someone Who Can’t Code
    There are a lot of developers out there who cannot code and who very successfully build WordPress websites for clients using drag and drop type features and lots of settings in the backend. I do know this works well for them. I just don’t think it’s ideal for you, the client. The problem is problems. Your website will have problems. It just will. Do you have someone who can fix the issues when they happen? For WordPress you want someone proficient in PHP, Javascript, HTML and CSS. Plus someone who can code can add features to your site that someone who can’t, can’t. Not being able to code limits what you can do with WordPress.
  • “Well, you can’t really do that.” Look, there are some things you can’t do on a website or in WordPress. But for the most part, good developers can do just about anything you need. I always tell my clients, “I can basically do anything, it’s just a matter of time and money.” You will have to pay for “anything”, so be prepared for that.
  • Very High Prices
    What is that exactly? Depending on your site and what you need, $10,000 could be high or could be very low. I can build a site in a couple of hours if I have to and I’ve worked on several projects that were 300+ hours each and a lot of maintenance after that. So there is a wide range. And of course web developer fees vary. Here are some tips and things to think about. Sorry, there’s no real definitive answer here.

    • Purchased WordPress Theme: This is by far the least expensive way to go. A developer can take a purchased theme, make the changes you need and you’re good to go.  I always tell my clients who go this route to spend some time looking (at least an hour or two) and find a theme that is as close to what they want as possible. The less changes the developer has to make, the less money you’ll be spending. Personally, I would stay away from those themes that allow you to do anything and everything. They tend to have more code and more plugins than are necessary and all that can slow your site down. And stay away from bells and whistles (sliding, moving, jumping, fading, etc). The web is moving (pun intended) away from this and with good reason.
    • Custom Theme Design: If you want a custom design for your site, this is going to add a considerable amount of cost. Depending on the designer, $2,000 and on up. If you’re proficient at Photoshop or some other image editor you can always design your own site and good developer can create a WordPress theme from that.
    • Implementing WordPress Custom Themes: As a developer this is far more time-consuming than using a purchased theme. My prices for implementing custom design into a WordPress theme start around $2,000 and go up from there. This mainly depends on how many unique page designs there are and what custom programming may be necessary. A developer who asks a lot of specific questions before giving you something “ballpark” is not stalling for time. The range can be wildly different and they really do need to know a lot about your site before giving you any prices.
    • Troubleshooting, Additions, Edits and More: For stuff like this, just make sure to get an estimate and be very clear that if the developer thinks it will go over the estimate that they must contact you immediately, preferably before it goes over their estimate.
    • And please, as a side note here, don’t ever say to a developer:
      “This shouldn’t take you very long.”
      Don’t say it.
      Just don’t.

If You Can…Meet Face-to-Face

This isn’t always feasible. Most of my clients I’ve never met except via email and the phone. But if you can, it’s a better way to get a feel for the person you’ll be working with. Plus, you get to go out and have some coffee!

Once You Decide on Someone

Maybe start with something small if you can and evaluate. What are you looking for? Try these:

  • Are they responsive? If you email them, do they email you back in a timely manner? If you call them, do they answer or do they call you back in a timely manner?
  • Are they reliable? If they tell you they’re going to do something do they do it? If they can’t do it when they said they were going to, do they let you know? Can you get in contact with them in a timely manner? If they go on vacation, do they let you know?
  • Are they honest? If they screw up, will they admit it? If you over pay them do they let you know (I’ve had many clients over pay me and they’re always very appreciative when I issue them a refund or give them a credit).
  • Do you have a good feeling about them? Kind of nebulous I know, but talking to someone will often give you an impression about them. If it doesn’t feel right or you feel hesitant, probably best to move on.
  • Can you communicate? Someone said, “The sole problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” It can be very hard sometimes to convey what you want with your website. I ask a lot of questions and probably annoy my clients to some degree, but over the years I’ve had the experience of thinking I understood what the client wanted and it wasn’t even close. Both of you should be asking lots of questions. They should also speak in terms you understand not with a bunch developer lingo that doesn’t mean anything to you.
  • Do they like building websites? Someone who likes their job is going to be better to work with than someone who doesn’t.
  • Do they do it full-time? I would go with someone who is a full-time developer. It takes a long time to learn what you need to to be a good developer. There is so much to learn. Part of it is just knowing how to figure out what you don’t know when you need it. Experience is hard to beat.
  • Do they keep up with trends? The web is changing. Used to be developers were just worried about IE 6 (an early browser). We were just coding for desktops. We used Flash. Then Flash disappeared. Javascript became (and still is) an important part of the equation. I used to code my own Content Management Systems, now I solely use WordPress. Then responsive design hit the scene almost overnight. Think phones and mobile devices. Tablets and iPads. Coding changed to accommodate all this. How about Content Delivery Networks? Caching systems? Schema? HTML5 tags? Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)? Now ADA (American’s with Disability Act) is coming into play and will get more and more important and probably eventually become law for the web. How about SEO trends? Used to be you just put a bunch links on your site to other sites or maybe listed 45 towns near where you are. Not good to do that anymore. Unique content is king. It just goes on and on. Your web developer should be keeping up with all this.

Hope this helps.


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