cool tech graphics

Shopping for a Web Developer is like Shopping for an Auto Mechanic

Filed under:

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:

  1. You could do the work yourself
  2. There's no shortage of vendors to choose from
  3. Trust is important
  4. The risks are real
  5. 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.

Date posted: June 14, 2010


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.

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.

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.

This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here keep up the good work

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • You can enable syntax highlighting of source code with the following tags: <code>, <blockcode>, <cpp>, <java>, <php>. The supported tag styles are: <foo>, [foo].
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Metal Toad is an Advanced AWS Consulting Partner. Learn more about our AWS Managed Services

About the Author

Joaquin Lippincott, CEO

Joaquin is a 20+ year technology veteran helping to lead businesses in the move to the Cloud. He frequently speaks on panels about the future of tech ranging from IoT and Machine Learning to the latest innovation in the entertainment industry.  He has helped to modernize software for industry leaders like Sony, Daimler, Intel, the Golden Globes, Siemens Wind Power, ABC, NBC, DC Comics, Warner Brothers & the Linux Foundation.

As the CEO and Founder of Metal Toad, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, his primary job is to "get the right people in the room".  This one responsibility is cross-functional and includes both external business development functions as well as internal delegation and leadership development.

A UCLA alumni, he also serves in the community as a Board Member for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, and Stand for Children Oregon - a public education political advocacy group. As an outspoken advocate for entry-level job creation in tech he helped found the non-profit, P4TH, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of entry-level jobs in the tech industry, and is in the process of organizing an Advisory Board for the Bixel Exchange, a Los Angeles non-profit that provides almost 200 tech internships every year.


Schedule a Free Consultation

Speak with our team to understand how Metal Toad can help you drive innovation, growth, and success.