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  • Writer's pictureMichael Marshall

10 Questions to ask a developer before you hire them

I am going to assume you are a startup business owner who is about to embark on the exciting albeit scary journey of building a web based technology/ service.

A business owner interviewing a developer
Putting effort into the interviewing process can be the difference between success and failure

As a startup business owner with no experience in software development or coding languages , it's important to ask potential developers the right questions to ensure that they are a good fit for your company. You need a developer who will prioritise your bottom line as well as your customers experience with your product. Of course this primarily your job as the CEO of your startup, but having a developer who has these priorities in mind is critical to your early success.

So, here are some questions you should consider asking the developer on your first meeting:

  1. What experience do you have working with startups or small companies? A startup is very different to a big corporate or even an established small business. The startup has different goals, like creating a minimum viable product in order to get to market quickly or to display to investors. A developer who has been a part of startups is more likely to understand these nuances of a startup business.

  2. Can you provide examples of similar projects that you have worked on? I do not believe it is essential for a developer to have worked on similar projects in order to build yours, but if they have it is a good way to see if they can deliver. The most important thing to ascertain is whether or not the developer understands your vision and what you are trying to build.

  3. What is your approach to building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)? This is a crucial question and the answer should be along the lines of: I seek to build the MVP in the shortest, fastest and most efficient way while prioritising the key features of the app and the budget to make those features. Basically, the MVP does not need to be flashy or polished. The MVP is allowed to make use of pre-existing products and should always where possible take shortcuts in order to deliver the product as quickly as possible.

  4. How do you prioritize features and functionality for a startup product? This is a tie-in with the question above and the answer should be somewhat similar. The developer should prioritise features by determining what the absolute core of the product is. You can tell what they core is by simply asking yourself, "If I remove this feature can users still use my product?". If the answer is no, then it was an essential feature. If the answer was yes then it was not an essential feature. For example consider the following features of an online shop: product display page, search bar, shopping cart feature, payment gateway. Of these four features only two are absolutely mission critical. The other two will definitely make the shop more user friendly but they are not mission critical. So do not prioritise the the shopping cart feature and search bar over the product page and the payment gateway.

  5. How do you handle changes in requirements or scope during the development process? This is a tough one for developers to answer and in fairness they should answer by telling you that every change in requirements or scope will need to be assessed individually in order to determine if an extra cost should be applied. A developer who tells you that are happy to make any changes you want is either desperarate or lying. Look for developers with open policies that address these tough moments.

  6. How do you communicate progress and updates to clients? Communication is essential during the building of your product. Look for a developer who matches your communication style. If you like receiving updates over Whatsapp, look for a developer who is willing to send you the whatsapps. If daily emails are your thing look for a developer who willing to meet that standard. Over communication can exhaust both you and the developer. I recommend opting for bi-weekly check-ins via email that outline the progress with video call for every milestone of the development.

  7. Can you provide references from other startups or small businesses you have worked with? Getting references or viewing reviews is important, though it is not always easy for the developer to provide these. Ask the question and be discerning with the answer.

  8. How do you manage timelines and budgets for development projects? You do not want a developer who will just charge you an hourly rate until the project is done. This is the worst type of agreement. Of course there are many ways to agree upon a fee for this type of work but my belief is that the developer should tell you how many hours they believe it will take to complete the work and then calculate a set price for the job based on the number of hours. It is then up to the developer to complete the job quoted on for that price within the given timeframe.

  9. Are you comfortable working remotely? Most of the time you will want the developer to work remotely. When people work remotely it is important that they have access to solid internet and the right equipment. Make sure your developer is online when you are and is not troubled by intermittent access to the internet or a slow computer.

  10. How do you ensure that your work is scalable and can grow with the company? This is a difficult question to answer. Ultimately, if you are building an app from the ground up it is important that the developer writes code that is easy to ready and provides documentation on how to work with the code that they have written. What I always recommend is that you use pre-existing technologies like Wix or App templates like these, or by using SaaS and PaaS products. Using these technologies gives some sort of safeguard that your app is scalable and using a code base that will be easily worked on by other developers and easily integrated into other systems.

By asking these questions, you can gain a better understanding of the developer's experience and approach to working with startups, as well as their ability to communicate effectively and manage development projects. If you feel you are ready to begin, take a look at this article about how to find the right developer for you or this article about the best online gig platforms to hire a developer.

This list of questions will not guarantee you a stress free and easy experience. Ultimately working with a developer can be difficult if you do not have a technical background. If you can afford it, it is definitely better to work through a project manager who can manage the developers and report back to you.

Building a product or service on the internet can be rewarding but it can also be daunting. Do you due diligence and take your time in selecting the right partner for you.

I'd recommend checking out this article I wrote about business advice for technology investments and maybe some of these articles below that talk about hiring people online.

You can also book a call with us at Marshall Arts and we can have a chat about your business and where you are at.


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