Choosing a website developer can be tricky. It’s not like choosing a plumber to fix a leak, or an attorney to help you out with an issue. There are not a lot of people you can ask for a reference, so normally, one would go online and choose from the look and feel of the developer’s website, or get a reference from an agency like Thumbtack. How do you know if this developer is going to do the right thing by you? Most of us are not technical enough to know if they did a good job or a bad job, until a problem springs up.
Questions to ask a potential web developer
We put together this list of questions you should ask your web developer. If they hesitate answering any of these questions, you should move on. This is a BASIC list of low expectations you should have for someone who will build your front face to the world.
(Please note: some of these questions pertain to websites built on the WordPress platform. The bold and italicized questions are the most important and have been elaborated on below)
- How long have you been in business?
- How many websites have you developed?
- Can I see examples of your websites?
- Do you have references I can talk to or email?
- Where do the people who will be working on my website physically reside? *
- Will my site be responsive? *
- Will you build a child theme? *
- What do you install for backup by default? *
- Do you write your own themes? What is your philosophy on choosing a theme?
- What is your philosophy on updating plugins, themes, and the WordPress core? *
- After the site is launched and if I need changes or modifications, who does this?
- What is your approach to building a site with good organic SEO? What will you recommend?
- Will you be providing me with all administrative logins?
- How do you bill and what are the payment terms?
Those are the most basic questions you should ask a potential website developer. The items bold, italicized and starred above are pivotal, deal breaker questions. The reasons why are below:
Where do the people who will be working on my website physically reside?
This is an important questions to determine how the web developer runs his/her business. Is this person just a salesperson and sends all work to another country with random developers that is not done in a consistent way? How is the website viewed? As a “project”? Your website is not a project. It will be a living part of your business. You will need to have support going forward for changes, modifications, updates, etc. If the web developer is looking to “get a job done” they are not looking out for your best interests. You should find a developer who will continue to work with you as the years go by, modifying your website to reflect your business in a changing business environment.
Will my site be responsive?
By default, in 2015, ALL WEBSITES SHOULD BE BUILD RESPONSIVELY OUT OF THE BOX. End of story. If the developer is going to charge you an add-on fee, or does not normally build responsive sites, you need to move on immediately. Google cares about responsive websites. Your customers care about responsive websites. So should your web developer and so should you. This is a deal breaker.
Will you build a child theme?
I can’t tell you how many sites we take over which do not have a child theme. A child theme should be standard when building a WordPress Website. You don’t need to know exactly what this is, but what you need to know is that if you make a ton of changes to the design of the original theme, we can never, ever upgrade the theme unless we parse out this information. Well, I guess we could upgrade the theme but all of your design changes will be lost! This should be a routine part of building your site. If the developer does not know what a child theme is or does not build them, this is a deal breaker. Move on.
What do you install for backup by default?
I don’t think that we have taken over one website in 18 years that has backup running. This is a very risky way to live in the world of hacking and spamming. At TechCare, we will not work on a website unless it is being backed up. Don’t rely on your host. They will have yesterday’s backup maybe, but if your site was hacked 2 months and 3 days ago, can they restore to that version? In addition, if you are running a “free” backup, how long will it take for your developer to restore your website if there is an issue? Do they need to do it manually? And realize that with WordPress, you simply cannot copy the files in your hosting account, you also need to back up the database at the same time. At TechCare, we recommend an EXCELLENT backup service, BlogVault, which backs up on a daily basis, has simple migration and restore tools built into the software, and is inexpensive. If a potential website developer does not have a good, solid plan for backup or says, “Well, we can just install a little plugin”, do a little more due diligence. Ask what their plan is for a restore. How long it will take. How reliable is the backup.
What is your philosophy on updating plugins, themes, and the WordPress core?
Updating your software is so important. If you leave your software outdated, you will be open to hacking and security leaks. As WordPress becomes more popular, so does the software as a target. Updating the software needs to be something that is done on a regular basis. We have recently taken over a few websites where the previous agency updating nothing, and we tried and tried to update and the website was basically a house of cards. One of our clients was told specifically by a developer that they should never ever update or the thousands and thousands of dollars they spent on this piece of software would break. If a developer gives you a similar message, move on.
We hope this helps you choose a good website programmer for one of the most important marketing aspects of your business.
If you have any questions, please contact us today! +1-203-664-1207 or firstname.lastname@example.org