Do you have an existing website that you need help with? Are you looking to hire a web developer but have no idea what to ask for or what to expect?

If you answered yes to the above, you’re not alone! A lot of people struggle with asking for help with their website or even knowing where to begin. In this blog post, I’ll breakdown some of the key factors to consider to hopefully make this process less daunting. I’ll cover questions and topics including technical skills, communication, cost and deliverables.

So, when might you need to hire a web developer?

One of the first things you might have done as a business owner is to set yourself up online. Hooray- you have successfully created an online presence where people can find you.

This could be as simple as a Facebook page or Instagram profile, or something more advanced with Wix or Squarespace.

However, there’s only so far these templates can take you. You might be at the stage where you want something a bit more unique, or specific changes made to increase engagement.

This is the where a web developer could help you achieve what you need.

What does a web developer do?

Generally speaking, a web developer is responsible for creating and maintaining websites. The majority of web developers are technical meaning they can write code and help with hosting. They may also be involved in the design process.

Another quick thing to mention is the term “freelance” – this is just another way of saying self-employed.

What is involved in creating a website?

A website can be as simple or as complicated as you need but generally consist of the following:

  • Domain name – e.g. www.mybusinesswebsite.co.uk
  • The website design – Fonts, colours, layout
  • The website files – The actual code that powers the website
  • The website content – images, text, videos etc
  • Hosting – Where the website files will be located online
  • Maintenance – Any ongoing maintenance to keep things running smoothly

Where to find a web developer?

Online presence

When looking for any kind of service it makes sense to go and see what their online presence is. Look for information about who they are, previous projects and how to contact them when you have questions.

Recommendations

Recommendations via word of mouth are a great way of finding good people. You could ask people you know or local businesses. If you have a LinkedIn profile, use that to search within your network.

A number of my website projects have come about as a result of networking. This is reciprocal as I’m always willing to recommend other professionals.

Google

There are many talented developers spread across the UK and beyond, so geography may not be a factor. Sometimes though, it may be helpful to have someone who understands your business from a physical/location point of view. This could also be useful if you require any in-person meetings.

Where not to find a web developer?

I would advise you to avoid using sites like Upwork and Fivverr. These are online marketplaces but are designed in a way that developers try to outbid each other for potential work. This could mean quality work and clear communication is not a priority and your website could suffer as a result.

How much does a web developer cost?

You might have heard the age old (but mostly unhelpful) phrase “How long is a piece of string” to answer those “how much does it cost” questions. More helpfully, “it depends” – based on what you need and how complex. As web development work is a service, it is often tailored to your need. An experienced developer may have an expensive hourly rate but be able to solve your problem quickly. They rely on their experience in estimating and solving similar problems for others. See the Budgets, estimates and requirements section below for more about this.

I’ve found a developer I want to hire, now what?

Great – you’ve now found someone and are starting to think about what you might ask them.

Depending on your preferred method (contact form, email or phone call), outline the work that you want help with. Include any timescales and your budget if you have one.

This will allow the developer to understand the scale of the project and whether their skills match your requirements.

If they’re a good match, a meeting at this stage (online/in-person) will allow for a more in-depth discussion. This will help the developer to provide a more accurate estimate.

What to expect from your developer

Good communication

First and foremost good communication is key in any business relationship, especially virtually. I really believe that assumptions can cause breakdowns in communication. Being clear and always asking questions (no matter how basic) will improve confidence and set expectations on both sides.

Communication preferences

Your developer will always have preferences on how they communicate, e.g. using email instead of phone calls or a video call instead of lengthy emails. However, they should have a range of methods and be adaptable to your preferences so it’s important to decide what works for you both.

Be comfortable contacting them either about new features or with a problem you need help with. The cost of each bit of work or extension to existing work should always be agreed by both side before going ahead.

Technical Skills

Hopefully the developer’s about page should give you a good idea of their skills and areas of interest, but feel free to ask a developer to give an example of a past project that is relevant to you. As mentioned before, developers should be able code and may have additional expertise such as knowledge of hosting.

It’s worth mentioning at this stage that it’s really common for developers not to be web designers. 

Web design involves colour theory, choosing fonts, creating layouts and visual harmony. Your web developer will be able to bring the design to life with code once those decisions have been made. Ideally, they will also have the ability to modify an existing template or design for your project.

I absolutely believe that hiring a designer is money well spent when you want something more bespoke.

Project timescales

Whether the work you need doing is project based (a fixed number of consecutive days) or hourly maintenance you want to know the timeframes. This is so that you can know when to see results or changes and helps you keep on track with the budget.

Reliability and honesty

Your developer should be able to provide you with a service that is reliable- one that is not going to disappear anytime soon. The ability to be honest and accountable if things go wrong is essential for a positive client/developer relationship. 

Rates

A developer will likely have an hourly rate, day rate (or project rate) that they can switch between depending on a project’s length or complexity. A developer might also offer concessions for charities or pass on any charity discounts.

Budgets, estimates and requirements

Working out a budget

As with anything else a budget will adapt to the complexity or value of the outcome. A brand new website with lots of features is probably going to cost more than a simple one-off fix. Use the meeting with your developer as an opportunity to talk through every relevant part of you business and project. This will help them to put together a realistic project cost.

A quote/estimate for the work

Depending on the meeting and type of project you might receive a quote or estimate for the work. This could be an hourly rate for a limited number of hours or ongoing work. It could also be a lump sum for the overall cost of a project, like a new build or new feature. Sometimes your developer might need to charge for a few hours upfront in order to make a more detailed quote. This is known as R&D time (research and development).

Your developer might need to charge everything upfront, at specific milestones (e.g. when a part is finished), or at the end. Make sure you know what these terms are.

Requirements and deliverables

Your developer might need to get some files and logins from you in order to start work, such as:

  • Hosting login (if you already have a website). This is to get a copy of the files to work with.
  • Domain login (if you already have a domain name)
  • Any other logins

They should have a data handling or privacy policy.

Contracts or project proposals

Contracts are not a requirement but they are a legally-binding way of protecting both parties and clearly setting expectations. A project contract could be a formally written document outlining terms and legalities or, a more informal summary via email. In both cases, there should be a clearly defined list of responsibilities and deliverables within an agreed time period. This will outline the cost and any additional or optional costs.

In summary

A skilled web developer can help you build a website that not only looks great but also functions smoothly and provides a positive user experience. Keeping these factors in mind will help you make an informed decision when looking for the right developer for you and your website goals.

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