UPWORD Consulting - Week 4

How to Vet Developers


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Everyone welcome to week four in module four, and in this module, we're going to be diving into the world of vetting offshore developers,

It can be quite a bit of work to properly vet a software development firm or agency and can really take a lot of time, but at the end of the day, you want to be sure that you fully trust your development partner because they represent your brand to your clients. Oftentimes, difficulties in outsourcing come up because startups and small businesses aren't properly vetting the developers they choose to work with either because of time or just lack of technical expertise.

So, in this module, we're going to look at the five step process for vetting offshore agencies that will allow you to hire a team that you can feel confident working with. Okay, so step one is really kind of simple and straightforward, and this is my go to.

It is analyzing the UI and the UX of the agencies or the developers website. This really is kind of the first and quickest way to that an agency or firm is looking at how they represent themselves, you can get an initial sense of quality by just literally looking at the homepage of their website and doing kind of just a quick analysis, how does it look how does it make you feel really this is comes down to how they represent themselves. And also, When it comes to developers and development agencies, I don't hold them necessarily to my design standard, but I need to make sure that they get pride in how they represent themselves so just some questions that I recommend asking yourself when you're going through this process is first,

how does this design look, how does it make you feel when you look at it. Have they put in care to make sure that the information is clear. Obviously, there can be some language barrier stuff but

can you feel that they are paying attention to details right and that's critical for your projects, and your clients is you need a developer that pays attention to the details are there typos on their website, that's usually a gigantic red flag. Now if there's one or two of course Mistakes happen happens to me, but if you see patterns there that's something that is a red flag.

And does the site feel trustworthy. Does it feel trustworthy. It's really what it comes back to is, again, it's trust, and I was trying to think of something creative, but it really comes down to. Does it feel trustworthy,

and then is it something that you'd be proud of, is it something that you'd be proud of showing your clients and referring people to, because the reality is, if they can't be bothered to make their own website more than just good enough. You can't expect them to give your site and your client site, the attention it deserves. Step one is analyzing the firm's website, and kind of going through this pretty straightforward.

So step two now is reviewing their portfolio of work. And this essentially is an expansion of step one. You've seen that your chosen development partner can represent themselves well on their own website. But how does their work hold up in the real world and really seeing a portfolio work will help you understand the scope and depth of the work that this agency or individual is capable of. It is important that you receive what I call a true portfolio of work, and

not just a vague description of a few projects with a list of technologies that the agency claims to be proficient in that the agency claims to be proficient in. I've made that mistake before where it sounds Good, it feels good from what they're saying, but I didn't actually look at their real world work, and it sounds funny and silly but when I was new to this. I was a little bit too trusting on what developer said and if it was if it sounded right to me then I just move forward on it, and that was a big mistake because that I just didn't take the time to vet developers properly.

Also, don't trust a portfolio of work that doesn't mention a single company name or uses very generic looking screenshots, it's pretty common for newer and inexperienced agencies or freelancers to create mock ups and pretend that it was a real product they delivered or to use a previous side project and act like it was for a paying client. When you're vetting agencies or freelancers

don't accept anything that does not include at least five projects from different clients, and work that is relevant to the scope of your requirements, and when it comes to WordPress,

I immediately look at the the site's a built for page load speed errors, and how does it look how does it function. Obviously there's room with that but you want to see like how quickly does the site load all the basic stuff that you're going to need. So the big takeaway here

is to be exact, don't feel as though this agency is the only one out there for you.

I promise you there is no shortage of web developers in the world, I think there's over a million, the amount of agencies and talent that's out there. Don't settle for less than what you actually need. If you're not impressed with the work you see, stop, move on to another option. The ultimate goal here is to find a developer that perfectly meets your needs, your client's needs, and not one that just barely gets by.

And so, Step three is gathering US-based references. Now, obviously if you're not based in the US, you'll want to get references that are either in your country or near, or something that you can get a gauge on of how well they fit in terms of your standards, your culture and working with clients and businesses within your world, and whatever that looks like for you, but since I'm based in the US. I'm going to be using this for step three, so you've seen the agencies work with the Freelancers work.

Now it's time to understand how do they treat their clients, just because they're good at software development does not mean they'll be a good developer for US base client, or wherever you're located.

I recommend requesting at least three US base references at this step. If they can't provide more than three, and they might not be experienced enough in the market, and will still have kinks in their process, or gaps in their competency for which really you'll end up becoming a guinea pig, by speaking to us base references, you'll be able to gauge a few different things,

how well do they meet deadlines,

how fair is their pricing, their understanding of US business culture or wherever you're located your culture,

and an idea of their general responsiveness and work ethic. A lot of times I found myself in positions where I got stuck where I couldn't get a hold of the developer, after the project was paid, they just kind of disappeared, and it was just kind of a nightmare so you really want to get some references, and that are relevant to you, and really websites can make all sorts of claims about transparency quality of work but at the end of the day, a website is a marketing tool for their firm, right. So, unless they are truly committed to transparency, there's little chance that they'll include their shortcomings to the website, obviously. And so by speaking to past clients, you can get a more unbiased views of the agencies, or the Freelancers capabilities.

So now let's talk about. Step four, which is performing a code review. So performing a code review is critical to determining the quality of your chosen agency but this obviously takes time,

and if you aren't technical like me, it's obviously going to be an additional cost, but it can be worth the investment because you can have a local for me US based developer that I trust that you trust to review their code, and can really give you an unbiased insight into the quality of their code because when you request it, they're obviously going to send you the best code that power that they think they have, and you really need someone if you're not technical, you really need someone to review it, and it's kind of like having a comic taking in. If you had a buddy or someone you could trust to take a look at the work or the scope of work that the mechanic is saying, right, you get the idea. I actually still do this with my agency, even, especially when it comes to larger projects that have bigger budgets, it's just higher end. I use local developers, I'll hire them, I pay them considerable higher hourly rates, and their job is just to translate, tell me what's going on, and also be that quality control in the kitchen, if you will, so I make sure before anything goes to the client, that even the partners that I offshore partners that I do work with that I trust I still bring them on on to give me that extra layer of protection. And really that's only needed in my opinion, when you're starting to do really robust WordPress development projects or stuff that's super custom, for the most part pretty straightforward. WordPress stuff. It's great to have someone look at the code, especially when you're just starting out with someone, but this is definitely more on the bigger projects but at the end of the day you really want to know, even with WordPress code, are they providing solid code right, and really a code review to get into it is just the process of checking someone else's code,

make sure it's well written, it's easily understood by future developers and easily maintain some of the checklists that I use for this is

the purpose of each variable is clear

does code follow a consistent style

organization is critical. Just because it's, again, was paying attention to details,

does the code work run without fatal errors.

Are there comments explaining complex logic. This is a big one if someone is willing to take that few extra minutes to write comments on it, you know, they're most likely going to be a solid developer.

Are there any unit tests, does the chosen architecture makes sense for the project,

and are there any API, are there are all API calls, well documented. So, if you know how to code and have access to someone who can evaluate architecture, then you're off to the races. Just ask the agency refer samples of their code for you to review. Again, this is really up to you of where you'll find this necessary in the beginning, when you're working with a new agency. I definitely recommend doing this and have someone just review it just to make sure that you have someone that you can trust, right out of the gate and grow with.

And if you aren't technical, you really got two options here.

Either you find someone who can do this for you and pay them for their time, or you can hire a third party agency to do this critical evaluation, as I mentioned before, you definitely want to make sure that this agency or third party is unbiased and they're not attached to the agency that's submitting code. Just want to make sure that they're in your corner and they're protecting you. Again, this is something that I still do to this day, on certain projects where I just need to have an extra layer of confidence, and just have someone that is way smarter than I am way more experienced than I am just making sure that before anything gets to the client that the quality meets our standards, right. And the truth is, you can write code to accomplish the same task in an infinite number of ways. But if you want a product that is scalable, can easily be built upon to evolve with you, and won't break when users or a bunch of users start playing with it and interacting with it, and you need to make sure that the code is properly written and follows best practices, and a lot of this too is when it comes to WordPress is,

how do you structure a theme, what theme are you using, and

how do you structure the editor, right. So that's a lot of what I look in, is how to how to WordPress developers that I'm thinking about using.

How easy do they make it for non technical clients to be able to edit, because we want to empower our clients to be able to make edits to their sites without having us to deal with every detail now. Obviously we have maintenance package which we'll get into in a future module, but we want the client to feel like they have some sort of control over their site and it's really easy to work with, and that reflects much better on you, even if they still ask you for edits, as long as they know that this is easy to use, they will feel way more comfortable.

So, step five is now conducting interview. So, interviews, this is the final step to vet your agency or freelancers, on the intangibles and their ability to maintain a relationship so here are some of the factors that we recommend paying attention to when conducting your interview.

So, first and foremost is English speaking skills. This is obviously critical. If you're an English speaking business, if you're not in whatever language it is that geek. You'll be communicating with your developers on critical business components, And you need to make sure that you can understand each other. You'll need to have meaningful clear and well agreed upon requirements and feedback. This is critical that before you get started on anything that the scope of work is defined which we will get into but that you both are on the same page, even if there is a slight language barrier there English speaking for us is critical. This is step one and the most important.

And number two is communication skills, what you're looking for here is comprehension and clarity of message. Right, so when speaking to developers and architects, engineers freelancers, are they able to convey concepts in a succinct and clear manner and clear manner, or do you have to ask for clarification every, I've worked with freelancers and developers where everything has to be clarified, over and over and over, and it gets really frustrating because it's very simple things and you run, you literally run out of ways to describe very simple things. This is important, even if their English is great. This is a critical component of making sure that they understand what you're trying to communicate, especially on a technical level.

And number three is responsiveness, how long does it take for your development team to respond. Do you have a service level agreement, and do they adhere to that agreement tone in response to normal questions, all these things again are coming back down to communication, you obviously need quick responses, especially when your clients need updates, you need to make sure that you have a team that can provide that with you. Obviously within reasonable amount of time, and given the possible timezone situation, just making sure that you're on the same page with that, ultimately, your development teams should be incredibly responsive during the initial engagement. That is a good sign that is what you want. And if the developers aren't responsive, from the start that imagine what the relationship is going to be like when you hit any sort of bump in the road which I promise will happen with every single project you're dealing with, so you want to make sure that you can get ahold of someone that there's just a mutual respect for what's on the line, and what's involved with them representing your agency, even those behind the scenes, but this is critical.

Number four is listening skills, if you're talking to your developers about a complex topic, you may have to resolve to ensure understanding this is true whether working on to our offshore developers. However, for day to day things in simple requests, you don't want to have to repeat yourself over and over and over kind of what we mentioned and number three is, this can get it does for me it gets extremely frustrating and you just not something that you want to deal with. It may not feel like a big deal off the bat, if you repeat yourself a few times here or there, but when you factor in time zones and availability into the mix, you really want to have full attention of yours in those key overlapping working hours. This is crucial. You want to make sure you can get a hold of them. You want to make sure that you are on the same page with any project, any web design development project Digital Marketing Project, whatever it might be, there's always so many moving pieces, even when it seems like his thought, and you need someone that's on top of their stuff as much as you are.

Number five is critical thinking, when you're hiring a development team. We want to hire them for their skills and their feedback. If a developer expresses Critical Thinking by asking questions about your score, and comes prepared with suggestions and alternatives, then you're moving in the right direction. If you get one word responses or flat rejections, or ideas, it's not a good sign. Obviously, however if agency provides genuine reasoning, and shows true interest in ensuring your product achieves the best look feel functionality, then you found a potential development partner. I always appreciate when a team that I'm working with, gives me feedback, give me different ideas, shows me hey if we do it like this, you need to be thinking about this, is gigantic green flag in all the right ways. You may find that your chosen development partner fits three or four or five of these things, and you may be tempted to ignore their shortcomings and pursue the relationship. I promise you,

it can be tempting to compromise on your criteria or standards for interviews, almost always, he will create issues later on in the relationship. The truth is that seemingly insignificant shortcomings in interpersonal skills in your development partner can lead to much bigger problems later. Trust me on this one, I've made this mistake in the past, and it has bitten me every single time. A minor misunderstanding in the early stages of a project can lead to delivering a finished project that is completely different from what you want, especially if there isn't a lot of transparency and communication in the development process.

The great news is, in addition to these five factors that we just talked about, Aloa partner agency who we're going to be bringing on, and this also adds in another factor and does all the vetting for you on your behalf. And so you don't have to worry about this. So if you decide to work with outsourcing, with them for outsourcing your team, you're more confident that you're going to end up with a developer and a team that you can trust and communicate clearly with. So really what it comes down to is by standing firmly by your standards, when you're picking a development partner. Do not compromise on any of your standards, especially when it comes to outsource. I know how frustrating it can be to decide not to go with a agency After sinking a lot of time into vetting them but ultimately you want to put as much thought into choosing your development partner, as you would into choosing a co founder,

So that is how you vet developers on the next module we're going to be discussing how to scope a project properly. I'll see you there.