5 Skills to Look For When Hiring a Web Developer

5 Skills to Look For When Hiring a Web Developer

Over the past ten years, I’ve been on both sides of the “code fence” — hiring web developers and working as one.

This is to say, I know how hard it can be to rely on someone for a job that’s not in your area of expertise. I procrastinate taking my car to the garage for this very reason.

Thankfully, I don’t need to know how a carburetor works to find a good mechanic, and you don’t need to know CSS or Javascript to hire a good developer.

If you arm yourself with a solid set of criteria, it will make the process much easier. Let’s dive in!

#1 — Curiosity

Wait… really? The reason I put curiosity at #1 is that it can benefit your project at every level. A curious developer will ask questions that help them thoroughly understand your goals and challenges.

This can keep you both on the same page and prevent an early miscommunication from derailing your project two weeks down the road. Not to mention, because they understand your unique needs, a curious developer will regularly come back to you with new ideas or useful technologies that could grow your business.

Things to look for:

  • Interested in your goals, asking insightful questions
  • Acts like Columbo (i.e. always has “One more thing” to add — new ideas, questions, etc)
  • Mentions personal improvements (learning new skills, streamlining a process, etc)

#2 — Communication

Have you ever talked with a web developer for an hour, then hung up the phone more confused than before you called?

That’s not ok. If you can’t understand what a developer’s telling you, then chances are, your users will have a hard time interacting with whatever it is they’re building, as well.

After all, code is just another language. Like a good translator, web developers should be able to communicate clearly without relying on jargon that’s confusing to people who aren’t code-savvy.

Things to look for:

  • Ability to speak in plain English
  • Doesn’t overwhelm you with non-essential technical info
  • Double checks that they understand your requests

#3 — Focus

I don’t care how many programming languages a web developer knows, and neither should you. For most projects, what you should look for is a developer who is proficient in one “stack” — meaning the specific set of tools and platforms they use.

For example, my “stack” includes PHP (prepares content to go on a site), CSS (controls how the site looks), Javascript (makes interaction possible), and WordPress (for managing content). These are the core tools I use to build websites, so I work quickly and effectively with them.

By contrast, a developer who divides their time between multiple similar tools may be slower and less knowledgable about each of them. Unless you absolutely need someone who knows multiple specific technologies, focus on finding a developer you trust, and let them recommend the tools for the job.

Things to look for:

  • Expertise in one specific set of technologies
  • A portfolio with relevant work using those technologies

#4 — Pushback

This one’s going to sound a little strange. But a web developer who knows when to say “no” will be an absolute lifesaver. When I was just starting out, my biggest mistakes involved taking on work or doing things that I should have said “no” to.

There are two main reasons this happens. For one, a project might simply be too difficult, but the developer is afraid to turn it down or they don’t realize they’re out of their depth.

The second reason is that clients can be wrong. Sometimes you will ask for things that really aren’t advisable. You want a developer who will say “no” and lay out clear evidence for why this is the case. A “yes man” web developer is often a recipe for disaster.

Things to look for:

  • Provides clear explanations and evidence for disagreement
  • Lays out possible alternatives before making major decisions

#5 — Organization

This one is obvious, but not to be overlooked. More than just punctuality and preparedness, I think a good web developer needs to know how to set and meet expectations. This means being able to help a client easily understand what will be happening and when.

You don’t want to be a two days away from launch and suddenly have your developer ask, “Oh, I forgot to ask… do you have any photography we can use for the Team page?”

Things to look for:

  • Creates project plans that are simple to understand
  • Sets clear goals and milestones
  • Regular checks in with on progress

Wrapping Up

While there’s more to hiring a developer than just these 5 points, they’ve been helpful to me, and should make the whole process a bit simpler.

Happy Hiring!