Point, Click, Check Out My Website

So it is actually possible now days to ‘build’, launch and update a Website without actually knowing any code. Systems like WordPress allow you to handle everything from content to forms to even design with a point and click interface. You don’t even have to have knowledge of hosting environments since many hosts now provide one click installations of popular CMS’s and migration services. Many great Web developers today started by launching a point and click Website and met the challenge of customizing it by opening up the hood, examining the code and… breaking it. Of course the good ones go on to figure out how to fix it and then do something even more complex and something larger and before they know it… They are a coder. In fact this is how most of us learn, this is how most of us became Web people.

Point and Click is Not Development

I actually have no problem with folks who use the available tools to get a job done. However I can tell you from experience that I have picked up projects from distressed clients because they hired someone they thought could build them a Website. ‘Build’ being defined as not only setup a framework but customize it beyond the point and click level (though the client might not actually realized this). It might have not even been false advertising on the part of the  service provider (I build Websites, I need a Website… hired). Questions may not have been asked, in fact many clients wont even think to ask for information regarding skill. The said ability to build Websites already sounds technical enough and there is often a false impression that any one with computer savvy, must be a programmer. So the project progresses until a challenge arises that can’t be resolved with a plugin. This usually results in the service provider loading up the site with more and more plugin’s trying to figure how to meet the challenge and the client becoming more and more frustrated as the challenge goes unanswered. Then it occurs to the client… This person doesn’t know what they are doing.

Assessing the Skills of Your Web Developer

When hiring a Web developer you are going to want to make sure they are actually a developer. They understand code (there are varying degrees of this skill of course), they understand databases and other high level infrastructure concepts. Ensure that they can open up the source code, understand it, modify it and write it – not just install plugins, modules and themes with a click of a mouse. To do this, ask your candidates about the work they have done in the past. Ask them specifically about how they handled a challenge in the past that couldn’t be solved with a simple plugin. Ask them for specific examples of customization that involved true development. Ask them how they would rate their skills as a PHP developer not just as a WordPress Webmaster, for example. Obviously if you are not a technical person or even a developer its hard to judge every answer on its technical merits but listen for competence and experience.