Shopping for a Web Developer is like Shopping for an Auto Mechanic
If you've been tasked with selecting a web developer, you may find the experience a lot like looking for an auto mechanic. Ultimately you want to get a good price, but you also want to be sure the work is good and what you are being told is true. The similarities boil down to a few key things:
- You could do the work yourself
- There's no shortage of vendors to choose from
- Trust is important
- The risks are real
- You want a long term relationship
1. You could do the work yourself
Let's be honest, web development isn't rocket science and neither is working on a car. Because of the abundance of schools, books, dvds and online tutorials either is something that given a few weeks, months or years, you could probably do yourself. The reason that you don't, is often the same reason you pay a mechanic: a professional has spent the time to learn their craft and will do a better job in a shorter period of time.
2. There's no shortage of vendors to choose from
Another parallel to car repair work, is the fact that you can find thousands (if not millions) of people who are willing to take your money and do the web development work you are looking to have done. While on the surface this free market is a great thing, it fundamentally makes your job of selecting a vendor harder. Nobody has time to vet all the people who might be able to complete a job and there's no way to really know how it will turn out until you've had a chance to work with someone. That's why in the web world, like the car world people often go by personal referrals.
3. Trust is important
Have you ever gotten a bid for work on your car, and you just didn't trust what was being said? Of course you have. And unless you are a trained mechanic, you probably have no really good reason why you felt that way. You went with your gut reaction. Shopping for web developers should work essentially the same way. You are depending on the person you are speaking with to tell you the truth and to know what they are talking about.
4. The risks are real
There are very good reasons why the average person doesn't change the brakes or the wheels on their car. It's not particularly complicated, but if you don't know what you are doing, you could find yourself in a very dangerous situation. While bad web development will never (or rarely) put someone in a life threatening situation, you can be faced significant risks: real monetary loss, bad PR and often losing all of your initial investment if things weren't done right from the beginning.
5. You want a long term relationship
Finally, if you're like most people, you don't want to shop for a new mechanic every year. Unless you are a sadist you should look for the same in a web development shop. Are they going to be around for the long haul? Do you like working with them? Is their customer experience a pleasant one?
You can always take your car or your web business to the shop down the street, but it's nice to have people you can count on and enjoy working with.
Very nice read! I don't know if I entirely agree with the example. In my world of development (I won't say just web development, because I do more and more non-browser development with Adobe AIR these days than anything else), there isn't simply a car being servicing. In this example, you're condensing the range of web developments to the range of a typical car that a mechanic can work, and I think, these days, web development shops are doing additional services like Obj C, AIR, etc app programming, so you're looking at a many factors. In the web development world, the price range from great developers to mediocre developers can be staggering, and you wouldn't likely find mechanics vary too greatly on price.
Mon, 06/14/2010 - 23:12
Robert - excellent point! I think the wild variance boils down to the lower barriers in the web development world. In the car business, there's the significant overhead of the shop and the tools - you better know what you are doing before you get started. In the web development world, all you really need is a computer and a little more knowledge than the next guy.
Tue, 10/04/2011 - 00:35
It is equally as important for the employer to be honest about the position. If you list a job for a front end developer you need to be much more specific as to your needs and nut just make a bulleted list of different programming languages like many dev shops do. Time is money so try and not waste yours or the developers. Be honest with them, don't be cryptic.
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Mon, 06/14/2010 - 21:54