I spend a lot of time looking at postings for developers, websites and designers, and the conclusion I’ve reached is that most people have no idea what they’re doing. That’s not entirely surprising – if they did, they probably wouldn’t be looking so hard for a developer. That’s said, compared to other hiring decisions, the postings I see for developers are just seething with frustration. While I’m not sure about every situation individually, I think this is because, unlike other hires in a business, hiring a developer involves evaluating skills completely seperate from what your business does. If you have a retail location, you work in real estate or you have some industrial manufacturing factory, you probably don’t spend much time designing websites, so your knowledge is going to be limited.

What are some of the big mistakes I see?

  1. Being way too unspecific: If you want to attract qualified and competent developers, they’re not going to deal with teasing out basic project requirements – they have plenty of clients that give them requirements exactly as they need them, and they’re not going to want to hassle with you. This goes double with the actual job posting, because they’re not going to any research on a project that doesn’t immediately strike them as being in their sweet spot. No, you don’t need to produce a 25 page requirement doc, but the posting needs to be a lot more than “I need a basic 5 page website”
  2. Being too aggressive: More commonly referred to as being an asshole, we’ve all seen these types. ALL CAPS SENTENCES. Long, detailed posted about how their going to micromanage the developer, they HAVE to work on site, and how they know ‘how all the little games work’. Take a step back and think about it – why would ANYONE, developer or otherwise, want to work for someone so overbearing? And lets not forget, that it’s a seller’s market, plenty of website jobs out there. So those postings become a vicious cycle, as the only developers that will agree to that are way to inexperienced to know any better – which will screw up the project and only reinforce the client’s believe that the developers need even more micro-management.
  3. Pro Tip: You shouldn’t need to micromanage anyone in your business, period. When it comes to developer, there should be a clear and open line of communication, even better if you can have regular in person meetings to stay in sync. A developer working on site can be a great way to accelerate a project because it can shorten the feedback loop to mere seconds, but that doesn’t mean standing over the dev’s shoulder telling him what to do. Don’t confuse ‘on site’ or ‘communicating’ with micromanaging – they aren’t the same.

  4. Having an unrealistic budget: Most developers can write a book on these clients. The fact is, developers are a bit on the pricey side for all but the most amateur class. On top of that, you’re hiring them as contractors, and the developer is doing all their sales and marketing themselves. So while you might think it’s perfectly reasonable to pay a developer $15 or $20 per hour, that really isn’t getting it done. For a full time, salaried dev, you can get someone for that low – but you’re paying them for 40 hours a week, giving them health insurance, time off, 401k, etc. When you’re hiring them for 10 hours, they don’t get any of that. Plus, unless the developer got the business through an easy-to-convert referral, they probably spent 2-5 hours in unpaid pre-sales work – it takes a lot of time to win the Hunger Games process that is the contractor hiring process. So when you offer up a 3 hour project at $25 an hour, most qualified developers aren’t even going to read past the price – $75 is a lot less than what they’re looking for the 6-8 hours it will take to secure your business, perform the task, and take care of the non-billable administrative tasks associated with it. Especially since they’re then going to immediately have to do the whole dance again to get another client after you.

So what can you do to get a good developer? More specifically than “don’t be those guys above”?

  • Be realistic AND upfront with your budget: Most decent developers won’t touch anything for less than $500, if not more, just because the cost of sale is so high. Trying to reassure the developer that it’s a long term gig with more work later isn’t really going to move the needle either – remember, for every bad experience you may have had with a developer, they’ve probably had 10 bad experiences with clients like you, so those assurances ring hollow, no matter your sincerity. You should expect to pay AT LEAST $40/hour for a domestic developer, especially one ‘near the coasts’. Your total project should exceed $500, but you will really start getting more qualified developers at around $2,000. It is really really really hard to hire a good dev to do $100 worth of work, unless you truly ‘speak dev’ – if it’s really critical, you might have to just suck it up and overpay. One thing some developers may let you do is pre-purchase a block of hours which you can use as needed, so you buy (as an example) 10 hours @ $75/hr ($750 total), and then you use it 2-4 hours at a time over a month or 3. Try not to let it linger too long though.
  • Provide details, including your skill level: If you don’t really know what you’re doing, you should communicate that. And don’t play games with who you are and what you need done. If you have a current site, you need to include a link to it. If you’re trying to get a bug fixed, include screen shots, videos or links to the issue. If you need a new site, include links to some designs you like, any branding you have and a basic site map. If you’re posting only a sentence or two, you’re not going to get qualified responses. If you post 3 pages, no one will read it. Shoot for about a half page, and use bullet list liberally.
  • DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS: Seriously, don’t do it. It makes you look like an ass.
  • Don’t include a laundry list of requirements (unless you really know you need them): If your site has some very particular requirement you need a developer experienced in, such as MLS systems for a Real Estate site, you shouldn’t be listing off 40 requirements. First and foremost, unless you’re an actual developer, you probably don’t know what most of the requirements are. All you’re doing is cluttering up the post and adding a bunch of things that will turn off a potential developer. Include the CMS you’re using (WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc), the hosting you use (bonus if you include the type, such as shared, managed, VPS, etc), any 3rd party connections the site uses (mailchimp, constant contact, sendgrid, twitter, google maps, etc) and, if you have any limitations because of it, the versions of the major components (for example, if you were running an old version of WordPress or a plugin to maintain some compatibility, you should let the dev know. If you just haven’t updated a plugin recently, you can probably leave that detail out). Really, all the dev needs is this information plus your project description to make a reasonable assessment on whether the project is a good fit. Writing that JavaScript and AJAX is required is probably doing more harm than good, because you’re dissuading developers. Some of the best WordPress developers I know barely know AJAX, JavaScript or php, and conversely, some of the best programmers in those language that I know are completely worthless in WordPress. All you’re doing when you put in those unnecessary requirements is prescribing solutions, even though you don’t actually know (otherwise, you would just do it yourself!)

Hopefully this helps some of the would-be hirers out there, but if you’re still struggling, feel free to reach out to Glossy Dev for help!