We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all web developers are created equal… Not!

Not all web developers are created equal.  I am writing this post because not everyone understands that there are several roles in the web industry with several different responsibilities that require pretty specific skillsets.  When you hire a single person to design and build your website, you are more than likely getting a “Jack of all trades, but a master of none”.  To be more accurate, you are more likely to get a master of one or two, but definitely not a master of all.

This is because there are several players in the industry that you should be aware of and the best way to think about this is like a toolbox.  Each tool in the box has a specific purpose.  For example, you wouldn’t use a hammer to cut a piece of wood nor would you use a saw to drive a nail into a wall.  Well, in the interactive world, our toolbox consists of specialty resources that most of the time have just one or two purposes, but are rarely ever used for everything.  For example, your typical agency would be made up of the following resources.

  1. Graphic Designers
  2. Front-End Developers
  3. Back-End Developers
    1. .Net
    2. PHP
  4. SEO & Analytics Specialist
  5. Usability Experts
  6. Copy Writers
  7. PPC/Adwords Campaign Managers
  8. Audio and Video producers
  9. Animation Producers
  10. Brand Strategists
  11. Project Managers
  12. Account Managers

You might be asking, is this really important to know.  Well, I would say yes so that you know what kinds of questions to ask when you start your next web project.  Now, if you are in need of a simple brochure site, you probably won’t need too many of these, but if you are building a website for a large brand that targets several different demographics and has several complex goals, then you probably will want most, if not all of these resources.  If that is the case, then you will likely want to be working with an agency rather than a small 1-3 person shop or freelancers.

So, let’s say you have a small business that caters to your local community.  You might be able to get a single resource that can do most of the work you need.  The keyword there being “most”.  It is important that you know the skillset(s) of anyone that you hire.  In some cases, you might even be hiring an account/project manager that simply outsources all the work to his or her employees/contract resources.   Anytime you are hiring an individual to build you a website, you should ask what their area of expertise is.  The reason I say this is that there are a lot of people that call themselves web developers that rarely, if ever, write a single line of custom code.  Not to say that these people are bad or anything like that.  I am just saying it is important to know what you are paying for.

Here is another example, I wouldn’t expect a graphic designer to help you with SEO, Analytics, or PPC/Adwords.  For that matter, most programmers aren’t going to be great at logo creation, typography, etc.

Also, make sure you understand what you are hiring a professional to do.  Speaking from experience here, it is no fun when you think you have completed your end of the project, but the client thinks otherwise.  As part of my proposal process, I now use a project questionnaire in the discovery/consultation session so that I get a clear understanding of the project requirements and so that I can set clear expectations early about what is included in my bid, including roles and responsibilities.