CEO Sundays: How To Work With A Developer

By September 2, 2012

Many years ago, I received a tidbit of advice that has stuck with me ever since: “Never settle.”

Although most would apply that mantra to romantic pursuits, I apply it to my business practices. More specifically, “never settle” rings through my head when I negotiate with a new developer.

How to find “the one”

 Finding the right developer can be just as difficult as finding an exemplary employee (or a perfect new date). Just like someone can hide behind a computer screen on sites like and mislead with his or her profile, a potential developer can do the same.

My best remedy to prevent being misled by a new developer is to request proof of the developer’s claims. For instance, if a developer says he creates innovative and well-designed sites, make him prove it. Call past clients; ask for examples, as well as whether or not they were satisfied. Past clients provide the most brutally honest feedback you can get. Demand evidence – if a developer makes a promise, he should have the portfolio to back it up.

Other methods I’ve found to test potential developers include:

Deadlines-  Give the developer a small project that’ll only take a day or two; see how fast he completes the task, and how well it was executed.

Questions Test your developers on their knowledge of programs they claim to be masters at. Find out their level of experience with Adobe programs, like Photoshop and Illustrator. See if they are familiar with, and use, the latest HTML, CSS, and PHP programs

Know what you want

 It is imperative that you avoid getting into a business relationship with a new developer if you don’t know exactly what you want. As an entrepreneur, it is assumed that you have poured an immeasurable amount of blood, sweat, and tears into your business. It is only natural that you want your website to reflect this fact.

Because of this, your biggest goal as an entrepreneur should be to articulate exactly what you want your website to accomplish. Tell your developer everything you want, down to the feel and tone of the website. Otherwise, developers oftentimes design sites that might not reflect the image the client has in mind.

Remember that this isn’t always a negative – good developers have SEO knowledge in mind and can create a site based on tactics that will reach your intended audience. It can be difficult when developers and entrepreneurs butt heads on the final product, but a good developer will work with the client to find a happy medium.

Let me also suggest listening to marketing professionals. Many have studied marketing for years and, as a result, have taken their clients to higher levels of profitability. They may consider some elements you’ve overlooked.

Put in the effort

To get the most out of any relationship, it is crucial that both parties put in an impressive amount of effort and communication. Developers have expectations for you as a client as well. Expectations need to be met on both ends of a business deal for it to work properly.

Organization on your part will help your developer complete the project more efficiently and quickly, and it will result in a better end product. Provide an outline of the site to show the developer – include objectives, text samples, pictures, and deadlines. You may completely rework the layout and design, but having those essential pieces to move around makes the process much more efficient.

Also remember that your relationship with your developer is not exclusive. Both of you have different clients and business ventures, and for that reason, you must ensure that you both have enough time to dedicate to the project at hand. Agree upon a time to meet weekly or bi-weekly to discuss your progress. If the developer doesn’t have the time to meet, consider it a sign that he might have too much on his plate.

Make it worth your while

 In summary, there are three things to keep in mind when dealing with a developer:

There will always be a difference in opinion at some point. Once that is acknowledged and communicated, both parties can attempt to keep an open mind. People are professionals for a reason.

Organization is key. Your job is to express, clearly and concisely, what you expect from your developer. Give him an outline. If you want your project done in a timely matter, keep yourself available to talk through the process with your developer. Communication will make the process infinitely smoother.

Don’t settle. Be selective with outsider developers. You want someone who will fit in with the atmosphere of your company – someone who shares your vision and is excited to bring it to life. Treat your business like you would one of your friends. If it appears to be “settling” with a developer, then force your business to expect more.

It can be scary to put your business in the hands of a third-party developer who doesn’t have the same attachment to your brand that you do. However, if you talk openly and often about your goals for your design project, you should be able to find a middle ground that leaves you both happy. And if you aren’t able to, remember to never settle – there’s a developer out there who can help you get where you want to go.

Benjamin Klein is the owner and CEO of Next Level Internet Management, a digital marketing agency specializing in maximizing exposure for corporations to startups. Visit the Next Level Blog here to receive several valuable free resources to help you take your Internet marketing to the next level.