When is the last time you hired a developer? If it’s been a while, you should know that things have changed. There are more developers out there than previously. All are competing for your business. That makes choosing the right developer a challenge—especially if you’re not a developer yourself.
Many developers will gladly take your money. The question is: Will they deliver results? The only way to tell beforehand, I think, is to first do your homework on development firms. Then meet with them and ask probing questions. This approach isn’t foolproof, but I’ve found it effective. It helps me tell if I’m hiring a good developer.
Below are eight questions I ask any developer I’m thinking of hiring. Some questions are more technically oriented than others. But all can help you choose a firm that fits your needs.
Do you understand my business model?
It’s imperative a developer understands both your target audience AND your business model—especially if the developer is new to your industry. This information can help them tailor what they’re doing to your needs. If a developer refuses to learn those things, that speaks volumes about the developer. Find someone else.
May I contact past clients?
Ask a developer about clients its done work for in your industry. The question provides a more objective, relevant, and independent assessment of a development firm. When talking with past clients, ask them how the developer does with deadlines, pressures, and communications. The answers are good indicators of how it will work with you.
How will you update me on progress?
It’s vital the developer stays in contact during a project so you can exchange feedback. Good developers update clients regularly. It keeps the project on track and helps you complete it on time and budget. Good project management/collaboration tools are Asana, Basecamp, Trello, and Jira. Favor a developer that has an established methodology for updating.
Can I see apps you’ve built before?
There’s no substitute for experience. Or, results. The prospective developer should be more than willing to share its work with you. It’s a great way to tell if you’ll get a good return on your investment. If its portfolio shows stellar results, it’s likely a good choice. If it doesn’t have one to show you or balks at showing it, beware.
What’s your development process?
Ask about the average time it took to finish its last project. What unexpected problems cropped up during the effort? What did it do to solve them? Also, ask if the developer uses agile development on projects. It helps developers finish projects quickly and efficiently, and is a proven approach to producing a minimum viable product.
How do you track bugs? Do you have a bug database?
Bugs are errors in software. They’re also a fact of life in software development. What’s critical is that the developer you choose has a methodology for handling them. Make sure the developer fixes them promptly. You don’t want a small bug to become a huge problem later on.
Do you use version control?
Vrsion control tracks changes in code. Savvy developers use it all the time. Different kinds of versions control software exist, but GitHub is probably the most popular. You simply download all your code to GitHub’s repository daily. You can also use GitHub to review a developer’s commit history. That’s where developers write notes to themselves to track what they did that day.
Do you do user testing?
Good developers have a user testing process. They use it early and often. If they’re testing an app, for example, a developer might bring in 30-60 users to take them through the software and identify problems. Make sure the developer understands and appreciates the value of users testing. Good developers will work with you to make sure that testing happens takes place. If they refuse to do this, keep looking for a developer.
Use these eight questions as the core for any interviewing you do. Feel free to add other questions—technical or business—to the mix. You can also ask for additional questions from teammates. I usually write all the questions down on a piece of paper and use it as a template for all my interviews. I also take notes during the interview.