An attractively designed and well-coded website will help you convert customers, rank high on Google, and avoid frustrating errors and downtime.
You can build and maintain your website using a website builder or a WordPress theme and plugins. However, working with a developer has lots of advantages, especially for business owners: you will have greater flexibility over your website’s appearance and functionality, you can rest assured that everything will function as it should, and you will also cut down on your own workload.
Whether you are creating a new website, updating it, or simply maintaining it, hiring a developer can save you time and ensure your site runs smoothly.
We’ve previously looked at how to hire a developer for a custom WordPress theme, and today, we’ll take you through how to hire one for any website project. We will look at how to outline your project and identify the type of developer you need, where to find and hire developers, and what your budget should be.
Already know the answers to some of these questions? Use the links below to skip ahead to the information you need:
How to Determine the Scope of Your Project
Outlining the project requirements will help you choose the right web developer and budget appropriately. It will also help you communicate exactly what you need, so you are more likely to have a positive working relationship with the developer.
One of the biggest things to consider is whether the project relates to the website’s design, coding and functionality, or both.
- Design projects: These are normally tied to branding and user experience. Perhaps you want a new homepage layout, a more accessible color scheme, or different fonts.
- Coding and functionality projects: These typically relate to the features your website has and how it functions. Maybe you want a chat box or a less time-consuming way to add new products to your online store.
Sometimes, projects require both design work and coding. Your new homepage layout, for example, might need new code to embed videos or collapse and expand text.
What Kind of Developer Do I Need?
There are many different kinds of website developers, but now that you know the scope of your project, you can work out which one you should work with.
1. Designer vs. Developer
If you just need design work, then a web designer is your best option. However, if it is a functionality-based project, you will need a developer. If the project touches on both, you have a couple options: you can hire both a website designer and developer, or you can work with an agency.
You might wonder if a graphic designer could do the job instead of a web designer. While both graphic designers and web designers create brand imagery such as logos and color schemes, a web designer also uses CSS, HTML, and potentially other programming languages to bring the designs to life on your web page.
Plus, and perhaps even more importantly, they design with user experience in mind. This means they consider accessibility for screen readers, SEO best practices, and what your website will look like on different screens and systems.
We’ve written a guide to hiring a designer to create a custom website, so if you decide a designer is what you’re really looking for, check that out. However, if you need a developer, keep reading.
2. Front-end vs. Back-end Developers
The front end of your website is the visible part the reader interacts with. The back end is the part that you use to upload new content, do security updates, and more. Sometimes, these are also called client side (front end) and server side (back end).
These two parts of your website are built with different programming languages, so many developers specialize in either one or the other. Before you start speaking to developers, you will want to work out if this is a front-end or back-end project — or both.
Bear in mind that some back-end developers describe themselves by the programming languages they specialize in, e.g. PHP developer or Ruby developer. If you’re looking for a back-end developer online and know what language you need, try searching for that instead.
3. Full-Stack Developer
Let’s say that your project involves both the front end and back end of your site. You have two options: you could either work with two developers or hire a full-stack developer.
A full-stack developer can work on both ends of the website. They are proficient in all the main languages and frameworks and tend to be more expensive as a result.
It’s a particularly good idea to work with a full-stack developer when you are designing a completely new website build because they can advise you on the bigger picture.
4. Freelance vs. Full Time
Depending on the complexity and duration of your project, you might find it best to work with a freelancer or hire a full-time web developer. Both options have their pros and cons, but it shouldn’t be too hard to work out what’s best for you and your company.
For one-off projects with no maintenance required, a freelance website developer will likely suit your needs best. Similarly, if minimal maintenance is required, an agency or freelancer will help you keep your website running smoothly and your costs low.
However, if you think your website will need regular and time-consuming maintenance or updates, then you could find hiring a full-time employee works out better. It can be a pricey investment: Indeed.com calculated that the average website developer salary listed on their website was $72,000 per year. However, it also means you have someone on-hand ready to fix anything that goes wrong. Larger businesses with more complex websites, such as banks and streaming services, often have an in-house development team.
Alternatively, you could bring on an independent contractor full-time for the duration of your project. This works well when your project is particularly large or urgent, but you don’t foresee significant long-term maintenance. You benefit from having a dedicated web developer on the team, but you don’t have to commit to a long-term hire.
Where to Hire a Developer
There are lots of places where you can hire a professional developer or even a web development team online. The best option for you will depend on your priorities and amount of time. Here are some of your options:
DreamHost’s Web Development Services
With our web development services, you’ll have a dedicated project manager and access to a host of professional developers. It doesn’t matter if you need website design work, WordPress development, page speed optimization, or anything else: your project manager will always allocate a specialist to work on your website. Most jobs are completed within 72 hours.
You Dream It, We Code It
Tap into 20+ years of coding expertise when you opt for DreamHost’s Web Development service. Just let us know what you want for your site — we take it from there.
Online platforms and job boards will let you outsource your web design needs to freelance developers. Some of the most popular ones include Upwork, Freelancer.com, PeoplePerHour, Guru, and Stack Overflow.
While the exact process can vary from one site to another, it tends to be pretty similar. You either create a job listing and wait for freelancers to contact you, or you review available freelancers and message them directly.
There are often thousands of freelancers to pick from, so there is always someone with the right skills and experience. However, reviewing all the options and selecting someone can be time-consuming. Public reviews and work samples will help you narrow down your options.
If you are looking for a team of professional developers, then you could try an agency. It’s a particularly good option if you know you’ll need a designer and a developer, for example.
Unlike individual website developers, agencies don’t tend to be on freelance platforms (although there are exceptions). Instead, you have to find them by searching online or by word of mouth.
If you are unsure who to work with, try asking your professional network or friends for recommendations. You’ll not only get a shortlist of developers who impressed people you know, but you will also be able to ask questions about their style and view their previous work.
Budgeting: How Much Does a Web Developer Cost?
You’ve identified what you need, who you should work with, and how to find them. Now it’s time to discuss your needs and negotiate costs.
Freelance web designers normally charge by the project or the hour, although independent contractors may give you a day rate instead. If they charge hourly, they should also be able to give you a loose estimate of the required number of hours before you begin.
The hourly rate of a professional web developer can vary dramatically based on their skills and experience. If you need the project completed urgently, some may also charge rush fees.
According to Upwork, one of the most well-known platforms for hiring freelancers, the average rate of a full-stack developer in the US is $55+ per hour. An intermediate-level front-end developer, meanwhile, charges on average $35 per hour.
However, these numbers can rise significantly if you want experienced developers. Many of Upwork’s freelance web developers charge over $100 per hour, which is in line with our experience, too.
If you need regular web development services, you may find that signing up for a retainer is more cost-effective. This means that you purchase a set number of hours per week or month, and you normally receive them at a discounted rate.
Let’s use DreamHost’s Web Development Services as an example. If you only sporadically need a web developer or designer, you can buy an on-demand bundle for $99–$129 per hour. However, if you purchase a monthly retainer, the per-hour rate falls to $89–$109.
Bear in mind, however, that you may lose any hours you don’t use with retainers. Check the terms and conditions, as they can vary. For example, at DreamHost, unused hours roll over, but you can’t accrue more than double the value of your plan.
How to Evaluate the Quality of a Web Developer
When hiring a web developer, it is worth taking your time to find the right one. You should look for someone who is not only within your budget but also understands your vision for your website and provides quality service.
It can be hard to judge a web developer’s skills, especially if you don’t have a tech background. However, there are some things you should look for.
Simply put, is the developer proficient with all the necessary languages and applications?
You are unlikely to come across a front-end developer who doesn’t meet these minimum technical requirements. However, you should also check that they are familiar with best practices for website accessibility and SEO.
Back-end developers, meanwhile, will be proficient with PHP, Python, Ruby, and more. Depending on your project, you may find it is worth searching for a specialist in a particular programming language.
You might also want to search for a WordPress developer, Shopify developer, app developer, or even a mobile developer.
It’s not just a website developer’s technical skills that matter. Response time is also important, especially if you are bringing them on at the creative planning stage or to fix bugs.
Pay attention to how quickly the developer responds when you first contact them and then negotiate the details. While freelancers generally do not reply as quickly as employees, they should still respond within a reasonable timeframe.
Good communication isn’t only about quick response times. Ask yourself: Are they a clear communicator? Do they seem to understand what you want, and do they clarify and confirm as needed?
When negotiating, are they direct and professional? Do they explain what you can expect, and are they transparent about budgets, timelines, pricing, and any potential complications? Do they let you know what they will need from you to get the work done?
Are they flexible? When you express preferences or uncertainty, do they listen and then either explain or adapt?
You’re hiring a web developer, not a marketing manager, but communication skills are still critical. They will help the project run smoothly and ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises caused by miscommunications.
A more experienced web developer typically has higher rates, although they might work out less expensive than you would think. That’s because they also tend to work more efficiently and produce cleaner, better code than inexperienced developers.
It’s more than just the years or the number of projects that count, however. Pay attention to the type of work the developer has previously taken on, and what kinds of companies they have worked with. Ideally, they will have similar experiences to draw on when working on your website.
Looking at the work they’ve done previously will give you an idea of their skill and — especially for front-end developers — style.
Most professional website developers will have a portfolio on their website, and you can also ask to see samples that are similar to your project. Typically, developers will carefully curate their portfolio to only show their most impressive work. So, if you let them know what you are looking for, you might be surprised by how many extra samples they can show you.
Don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions about their previous projects, but remember that some details may be confidential.
Related: Need an Online Portfolio? Get Yours Up and Running in Just 10 Minutes
Customer Ratings and Testimonials
There is no better way to see what a developer is like to work with than by reading customer ratings and testimonials. Most developers will have some on their website, while platforms like Upwork feature customer reviews by default.
When reading reviews, especially public ones, try to read between the lines. Someone else’s ideal developer might not be a good fit for you. However, paying attention to the things that are praised will give you an idea of their work and communication style.
You’re Cordially Invited
Join DreamHost’s Facebook group to connect with like-minded website owners and get advice from peers and experts alike!
Hiring a Developer: Summed Up
Working with a developer can help you keep your website looking professional and running smoothly. Whether you’re editing the WordPress theme, removing malware, or adding new features such as a shopping cart, a developer can help you achieve your goals quickly and easily — meaning you can focus on your website’s services instead of its code.
Ready to bring a developer onto your team?
Consider DreamHost’s Web Development Service. You’ll instantly gain access to our comprehensive team of professional developers and designers. And the process is simple: Submit your request to our team for an estimate and then we’ll get to work implementing the changes on a staged version of your site. Once you approve, we push the changes live. You dream it, we code it! Check out plans today.