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  1. #1
    Addict obliquegeek's Avatar
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    Choosing a programmer after posting an ad...

    Hi all,

    I'm a freelance web designer and I've been thinking about hooking up with a programmer for a while, to do the odd jobs I can't and so I can offer a more comprehensive service.

    I recently posted a local ad and I've been inundated with good replies. How do you go about picking one? I quickly removed the people who didn't seem capable or professional enough, but I'm still left with quite a few. I really don't have the time to meet or phone them all, so how do I narrow it down? They all seem more than competent, have fancy CV's, lot's of work to back everything up etc. But I don't know if the work is good - it's not like design when you can easily see if it's any good. Any pointers?
    "Everything should be as simple as possible,
    but no simpler" - Albert Einstein

  2. #2
    Function Curry'er JimmyP's Avatar
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    I would first take into consideration any other preferences you have such as price, location, language proficiency etc.

    Once you have a reasonable amount I would either take the time and phone each of them for an interview or phone someone else they have worked for in the past...

    Also, look through their CV's once more and focus on the one's which have done projects very similiar to the projects you will be issuing in the future.
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  3. #3
    Addict obliquegeek's Avatar
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    Ok, I've moved on a bit and got two people that I've decided to go with. All's well, we've met, had a chat and everything seems great. Now how do I gauge the quality of their coding?

    For example, if I've two web pages that may look and perform the same, I can have a look at the code and understand which is built properly i.e. clean, well-structured, accessible etc, but how do I do this when I know nothing about programming? I don't want to be paying and putting my reputation on the line for substandard work.

    Any suggestions?
    "Everything should be as simple as possible,
    but no simpler" - Albert Einstein

  4. #4
    SitePoint Member smkbrown's Avatar
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    I recommend that you ask the developer candidates to provide references for past projects they have worked on that are similar to your own. You might not be able to assess the quality of their code, but talking to former and current clients will give you a sense of the developer's technical competence, professionalism, quality of work and project turnaround times.

    After selecting a developer, start them with a simple, low risk, non-rush project or two during a trial period (be sure to communicate that it is a trial period). Be honest with them regarding your concerns, and definitely establish a dialogue about expectations.

    Good luck!
    Shannon Brown
    Brown Web Project Management
    Bringing the art of project management
    to web design and development

  5. #5
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    How does their work in their portfolio display? Have you checked their references?
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  6. #6
    SitePoint Guru rageh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by obliquegeek View Post
    Ok, I've moved on a bit and got two people that I've decided to go with. All's well, we've met, had a chat and everything seems great. Now how do I gauge the quality of their coding?

    For example, if I've two web pages that may look and perform the same, I can have a look at the code and understand which is built properly i.e. clean, well-structured, accessible etc, but how do I do this when I know nothing about programming? I don't want to be paying and putting my reputation on the line for substandard work.

    Any suggestions?
    The best way to evaluate a programmer's competence is not to check their references or talking to past clients. The best way is simply to ask them to submit a sample code and inspect it. You said you cannot inspect code since you do not program. I would suggest that you ask a programmer(perhaps someone you know, your former colleague ) to inspect the sample code for you. Only then will someone's competence shine through like a sun rising. If you hire a programmer vetted that, you have someone you can truly rely on.

    The problem with talking to past clients is that they have no clues as to someone's coding ability(which is what you are looking for). Clients have no clues with regard to what is good or bad, let's face it. All they can say is that this person delivered that project on time and on budget. That is all. They don't know if the code underneath is rubbish or excellent. The past clients can tell you no more than person's attitude and their working relationship when the project was under way. So don't rely on past clients' feedback since it is the quality of their coding that is you are most concern about.

    Good luck with your endeavor.
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  7. #7
    SitePoint Member smkbrown's Avatar
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    I disagree. Although having another programmer check out the code is ideal, I'm guessing that they don't have that resource because they are posting here seeking help.

    Perfect coding abilities will be useless if the programmer regularly flakes out, not meeting deadlines etc. Talking to former and existing clients of the programmer is key to knowing if he/she has the professionalism it takes to be a good programmer.

    Also, I think the clients deserve a little more credit! If a technology is buggy, inflexible and a pain to work with, they know.
    Shannon Brown
    Brown Web Project Management
    Bringing the art of project management
    to web design and development

  8. #8
    SitePoint Guru rageh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smkbrown View Post
    I disagree. Although having another programmer check out the code is ideal, I'm guessing that they don't have that resource because they are posting here seeking help.

    He can post the sample code here at Sitepoint's coding section. There are experts who know good code a mile away when they see it. This is what the forums are all about; helping designers (and coders for that matters) day in day out in their decision-makings.
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  9. #9
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rageh View Post
    He can post the sample code here at Sitepoint's coding section. There are experts who know good code a mile away when they see it. This is what the forums are all about; helping designers (and coders for that matters) day in day out in their decision-makings.
    I'm not a programmer, but I've been around here long enough to know that any web provider who is willing to do comp work isn't much of a professional. Most professionals are too busy with paid work and don't have the time to work for free.

    Moreover, you don't start a good business relationship with anyone by insulting them and asking for free work is just plain insulting.

    Hiring a programmer is no different than hiring any other service person on or offline.
    If someone is looking for a competent professional, the way to find one is to:

    1. Scrutinize their portfolio.
    2. Check their references.
    3. Make sure you get your questions answered before you make the deal.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  10. #10
    SitePoint Guru rageh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    I'm not a programmer, but I've been around here long enough to know that any web provider who is willing to do comp work isn't much of a professional. Most professionals are too busy with paid work and don't have the time to work for free.

    Moreover, you don't start a good business relationship with anyone by insulting them and asking for free work is just plain insulting.
    You got me wrong. I never said he should ask the programmer to do comp work. I am against working for free for anybody.

    I simply said that he should ask for sample code. Small code from his past projects so that the person who is considering hiring him will see his professionalism or the lack of it.

    I think it is fair to ask for sample code for inspection by anyone trying to employ you. As you know, unlike design work which tends to be visual, programming is behind the scene. And the quality of your code can only be found out if you offer sample of it.
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  11. #11
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rageh View Post
    You got me wrong. I never said he should ask the programmer to do comp work. I am against working for free for anybody.

    I simply said that he should ask for sample code. Small code from his past projects so that the person who is considering hiring him will see his professionalism or the lack of it.

    I think it is fair to ask for sample code for inspection by anyone trying to employ you. As you know, unlike design work which tends to be visual, programming is behind the scene. And the quality of your code can only be found out if you offer sample of it.
    Point taken. However, I think it would be poor business practice to rely on unknown forum members to review sample code. Sure, some people here are experts in their field, but as you can see from nearly any thread here, experts and non-experts often give advice and sometimes that advice isn't top notch. (I'm as guilty as anyone in that respect.)

    You might have to pay a fee to someone you trust to review sample code, but in the end, I think it will be worth the money spent.

    Still, I stand firm on reviewing portfolios of sold work and checking references. It's the first step any employer takes before hiring someone. It should be the first thing people should do on the web as well.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  12. #12
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    One way that I found that works that is slightly more expensive, but effective, is to start working with them but keep the goals small. After some time, you are going to find that some produce really easy to use applications with few bugs, while never seem to quite get it perfect. I have found the best programmers using this method, and have also had a few projects that did not go smoothly. In the end though, I was left with some very good programmers.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Guru rageh's Avatar
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    I found this sitepoint article about "Good and Bad PHP Code".

    It is an interesting read for anyone trying to interview a new programmer. By following it and also using a bit of common sense, one gets a good indication as to the professionalism of the coder one is interviewing. Very insightful.

    I draw the attention of the original poster to that article.
    Last edited by rageh; Mar 30, 2008 at 15:42. Reason: sp
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