Top 5 Questions to Ask a Developer

Last week, I sat down for a chat with Vari Longmuir of Buttercup Ink. Vari is a sassy designer, originally from Scotland who now calls Melbourne, Australia home. We recorded a short video for her new program about what you need to know when hiring a developer.

Having been a very clueless blogger once-upon-a-time myself, I know how stressful it can be to try and find the right people to work with. Vari and I wanted to make sure the people in her program were equipped with the right information to feel confident to start building their team.

We started with the Top 5 Questions to Ask a Developer. In reality, I could put a long list together for developers, designers, copywriters and more, but I want to start with the 5 questions that I wish my potential clients would ask ME.

1. Do you code from scratch or do you use a pre-made template as a basis?

There’s no right answer here — it’s all about what you need for your business. Many of the websites we developer are coded from scratch, but we have also worked with new business owners that need to get a website up quickly and inexpensively. In those cases, I do recommend using a pre-made theme as a basis, particularly because as a new business owner or entrepreneur, you don’t quite know what you need yet. Your business will grow quickly and your needs will change as you shift from the startup phase to something bigger. If you’re just starting out, start simple.

But for our clients who know what they need and are ready to play at a bigger level, we create custom websites coded from scratch for them with really easy-to-use and intuitive backends. That’s just how we roll.

2. Could you tell me about your process for a project?

This is such an important question! For any business, process will set you apart. We have a very detailed process that includes strategy as well as development, making us not your average website development company. I believe in seeing the bigger picture of the business and website and I love supporting my clients in achieving all their dreams.

3. Do you host the websites you build or do I need my own hosting service?

Different developers like to handle this differently. If you don’t want to worry about your website, you might want your developer to host your site, or sign up for a hosting company (like WPEngine) that manages most of your site backend for you. We like our clients to have their own hosting, so they know they have total ownership of their site.

4. What’s the best way to communicate with you during the development period?

Knowing how people communicate best is key to a smooth workflow. Some designers I work with have 8-10 calls with a client during a project period while others prefer only to correspond via email. Developers are the same way. We use a mix of phone calls and email correspondence, relying heavily on the latter since it does help to have records of requests or questions.

5. What if I need help or website assistance after our work is over? Do you offer any maintenance plans or retainers?

Developers have a range of preference when it comes to long-term support with clients. Some only work on projects and offer no ongoing assistance, while other over detailed support packages. We have both monthly maintenance (for basic support) and retainer packages (for more in-depth support) for our clients, as we do believe in creating amazing ongoing relationships with everyone we work with.

I would love to hear from you now. Leave a comment below, telling me what you do and what 5 questions you wish potential clients would ask you. Let’s learn from each other!

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Michelle Viljoen

(website design) is a graphic designer and brand consultant who specializes in creating and developing brands. Her core focuses are logo development, website design and brand direction.

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.