Dirty Truth Behind Hiring a Web Developer

It happened again… I got a call from a potential customer telling me their sad story of having a semi finished web project and then their web developer leaving them without a single word.  In other words, “help!”. The web development industries lack of professional accreditation is leaving far too many customers stuck with mediocre webmasters who often find a better gig and split.  Hear me out.

All well established professions have some sort of accreditation, except mine.  Whether you are an electrician, a physician or a CPA, you have gone through education and training, and took a final exam to determine whether you can legally practice your respected trade.  Web Developers (a.k.a. webmasters or web designers) do not have to pass any standardized accreditation.  All you need is a computer, an entry level knowledge of design and HTML, and bingo you’re a webmaster.  During my 15+ years of web development, I’ve met many people who tinker with web site design and development.  They may experience some growth, though often limited.  Eventually they realize that they can’t sustain a comfortable level of income and so they look for another line of work.  What happens to their clients?  Do they take the time to research and find someone who will take over their clients sites?  Most likely not.  Often their clients are abandoned, stuck looking for someone who can get their web presence back to being respectable, and quick.

Those of us who have been in this industry for awhile (I started a little after 2,000) gradually become “salvage men/women”.  I get calls that sound something like this: “I need your help.  I can’t get a hold of my web guy/gal and there is something urgent I have to remove off my site (or) my site is down!”.  This is an all too common and unfortunate occurrence.  Here are a couple of suggestions if you have any online presence.

My piece of advice is to try and find someone who has experience in website design.  Spend the time to talk to them about what they have done, if they are comfortable with what they do and so on.  You want to get a feel that you’re getting someone who is good at what they are doing and will be around next month.  Don’t look for that incredible deal because it might backfire.

I also recommend developing a soft timeline so that you can monitor the progress and make sure that the work is taking place.

Lastly, make sure there is some sort of a work depository where assets the web developer are creating are available to you, should the worst case scenario happen.    Get the login details to the server space your webmaster is using.  Most of the work-in-progress material sits there.

Here are the key things to have access to at any given time:

  • Written and signed contract by both parties that outlines what will be created, delivered and what the payment schedule is.
  • Domain name registry!  If your web developer purchases and sets up the domain name for you then you MUST have 1) domain name registered in your name (or your business name) and 2) must be registered under your email address.  Your domain name is your intellectual property of your business and you must have full ownership of it. Never have your webmaster register it under their name or their company name!
  • Login access to the tool(s) and the master hosting account.  If anything happens you will need access to this!  Better yet, ask if there is a backup facility on the control panel that you can utilize to make and download backups.
  • Written agreement that all assets like stock photography and video are royalty-free and legally acquired by the designer.
  • Upon completion main site and its assets (Photoshop raw files, stock photos, content if written by developer) should all be placed in a depository that you can download.

There is a TON of fantastic developers out there but most people tend to shop by price first increasing their likely hood that something will go wrong.  You get what you pay for…   I hope this helps everyone!

January 30th, 2020 NOTE:  I’ve received numerous emails and calls over the years from people thanking me for this little article and the advice it carries.  Whether you’re hiring a web designer, or a car mechanic, always keep in mind that if something sounds too good to be true…  Also, ask as many questions as you can before you jump into it.  Lastly, you’re welcome to contact me if you’d like to bounce some thoughts and ideas about the whole web designer process.  If you want me to look at the contract, coach you a little, then I am happy to offer my consulting services to help and prepare you for your web projects.  Feel free to check out my portfolio to see what I can do!