Interviewing Your Prospective Web Developer
Effective techniques in interviewing a web developer can make the difference between success and disaster for your website project.
If possible, interviews should be performed on a face-to-face basis. In my case, most of my current clients were referred to me and I have met only a few of them face-to-face because they are spread all over the US and Canada. I have, however, participated in several face-to-face interviews and much prefer them to telephone or Skype interviews. All the individuals who will be involved with the project should participate during the interview, both to add their perspective to the hiring process and to evaluate the quality of communication between the web developer and the project members.
Working with a web developer covers a broad range of communication issues. Design concepts and ideas, copy concepts, SEO keywords and phrases… all are areas which require effective communication to produce the desired result. A common complaint among those who have hired web developers is that they never hear from their developer. Be specific in stating your expectations and preferences in the level of detail, means of communication and frequency of status updates. This is an essential aspect of the RFP, but it must be addressed during the interview as well.
Discuss the developers’ level of experience with the specific requirements of the project and their ability to accomplish the project within the timeframe specified in the RFP. Determine whether they work alone or as a team. With whom do they work and what kind of relations do they have with their associates? What associates or groups do they belong to?
Discuss their primary tools, languages or technologies. Ask them to discuss how that particular technology is suited to the project at hand.
Discuss their working standards. Do they observe the W3C standards? Are they familiar with them? How do they comment and/or document their work? If they get hit by a bus, is someone else going to be able to pick up the project and continue on, based on their documentation and comments?
Discuss methods they use to reduce the load time of a web page. If you are not familiar with these methods, please read our blog post on Optimizing Web Pages. Also discuss their techniques for cross-browser testing to ensure that your browser is properly presented regardless of what browser your audience may be using.
Ask about post-development support. What hours are they available for support. What communication processes do they provide for addressing updates and other issues. If your website goes down for some reason, how quickly can they respond?
After the interview, discuss the interview with your team and ask each team member for their thoughts and feelings about the prospective developer. Score the prospective developer. As a starting point, utilize the Basis for Award of Contract portion in the RFP. We recommend using a spreadsheet laid out so that you can compare the prospective web developers side by side on each point.
Finally, Contact the owners of the websites that are in the web developer’s portfolio for their thoughts about the developer and whether they have continued their relationship with that developer. Ask about the topics discussed above and how effective the developer has been in each case. Update the spreadsheet with their feedback.
After all the prospective web developers have been interviewed, assemble the team for a detailed discussion of the relative merits and demerits of each developer. If one of them appears to meet the requirements for the project, hire that developer. If you are still not comfortable with the developers you have interviewed, do not hire anyone. Invite more developers to participate and continue the process until you find someone in whom you have confidence.