A profile of the Web Developer

An awesome picture of a web developer balancing all the different tasks a web developer does! Web developers are in high demand these days given the proliferation of people with website ideas or businesses looking to create an online presence.

There is undebiably a lot of competition out there and the fact that you can easily outsource a web development job to countries with lower wages makes it very difficult for most web developers to compete on price. However, there will always be a large demand for web developers who can provide consistently great work. You'll often find that people are willing to pay more and are very happy to refer you to others, so long as you continue to create high quality websites.

Here are some definitions for terms related to website development that might be new to you:

Content Management System (CMS): A framework which allows you to build and manage websites in intuitive ways with little to no actual programming. Some examples would be WordPress and Joomla.

Domain Name: The name of your website, TutorGrams.com is our domain name.

Hosting: Storage space for websites. All the files that make up your website are located on a server (basically just a computer) which is connected to the internet and can be reached by other website users.

Mockups: A rough draft of what a website could look like. It is usually hand drawn or built with a program like Photoshop.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This refers to the practice of trying to get your website to show up as high as possible in search engine listings.

Unique Visitors: How many distinct/individual people came to your site in a given time period.

User Experience: The overall experience of a person using a product such as a website or computer application, esp. in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use.

Web 2.0: A vague term which describes the second generation of websites that were usually built with more functionality and social connectivity.

Web Analytics: The practice of looking at your website's traffic to try and improve your site. For instance, looking at which of your pages gets the most visitors to determine what kind of content your users are interested in.

Meet Cheryl

Cheryl has been a web developer for over 8 years. She started off working for a small web design company and has since moved on to freelancing and working for her own clients directly.

What is a web developer/what do you do?

I just build websites for clients:

  1. Someone tells me they want to build a certain site
  2. I send them a bunch of questions to figure out exactly what they want
  3. I give them a quote for how much it will cost and how long it will take
  4. I build the site
  5. They demand something different and I tear my hair out! (sometimes :) )

How do you get started as a web developer?

For me, I just wanted to build a site and got discouraged by the quality of web developers I was running into so I decided to learn everything myself. I got hooked after that and went from making a website for myself to making websites for friends and family and so on.

How can someone learn the skills necessary to be a web developer?

There are a lot of great resources out there for learning how to code and you certainly don't need to have gone to school or taken a formal course in web development (I didn't). Once you get the basics of CSS, HTML and JavaScript down; you'll be able to build a lot of sites. You'll then need to learn some more advanced programming languages such as PHP, Python etc. if you want to build more complicated sites. Ultimately though the best teacher is experience. Just go build stuff, see what works and what doesn't. Coding is incredible because you can write some text and instantly find out if you made a mistake, if what you did looks nice etc.

What's the typical price you charge to build a website?

Obviously this depends but it usually hovers around the 3-4k mark. I won't go lower than 1k even for the simplest website because there will inevitably be complications and re-designs.

How many sites would you build in a typical month?

I usually have many projects overlapping but I tend to complete about 2 websites a month. Building the sites doesn't usually take that long but communicating with clients and making re-designs takes up a lot of time.

How do you get clients as a web developer?

Almost all of my clients have come from referrals. I reached out to my friends and family and the rest has been word of mouth. I've definitely been lucky in that sense but one thing I've learned is that happy clients are worth much more than the amount you bill them for. For most people, using oDesk, Craigslist, Elance etc. to find work can make a lot of sense.

What are some warning signs that will make you avoid certain clients?

Anyone who is talking to me in vague marketing speak such as: "this site is going to be like Facebook except more streamlined, optimized and awesomer!"" is a big warning sign. Also, anyone who seems like they are going to micro manage every aspect of the project. I could honestly build most sites in half as much time (and for half as much money) if clients simply knew what they were looking for and didn't nitpick every detail. Hopefully this doesn't make it seem like I hate working with clients! I love working with the right ones and it can definitely be inspiring when you hook up with the right client who has a clear idea of where they want to go.

How should someone prepare themselves before hiring a web developer?

Make sure you have a very very detailed list of EXACTLY what you're looking for. It doesn't have to be very technical but it does need to be detailed. It's so easy to think that the way you're imagining a site/feature is the way your web developer will but odds are that's not the case. The only way to be sure your image will be realized is by being very clear with your specifications.

What are some mistakes people make when hiring a web developer?

#1 Hiring for price instead of hiring for quality. I guarantee you can find someone, somewhere to make your site for $200 and I guarantee it will be a nightmare. You'll end up wasting a ton of time and money fixing the mistakes your developer makes.

#2 Having unreasonable expectations. Odds are your site will be more expensive than you would like and odds are your site isn't going to make you millions. Many people seem to think that they can e-mail a paragraph about their site vision to a programmer, get the site built for $500 and then have the site overtake Facebook.

Any tips for working with a web developer once you've found the right one?

Basically, let your web developer do what they do best. You need to look at your web developer's portfolio and any mockups they present you and then trust that you made the right decision in choosing them. It absolutely destroys a web developer's drive when their client demands changes to everything they do.

Also, have very specific requests. Don't ask to re-do a page because it "doesn't feel right". Instead, ask them to change the header color to this specific color, make the logo larger and shinier etc.

Lastly, be aware that adding any kind of features or making large design changes can take a lot of time! You can't simply ask for a completely different site design just to see how it looks unless such changes have been agreed to in the contract.

Any advice for new web developers?

I think you need to love making sites and the rest will follow. I genuinely love coding and making websites. I sit down, put some music on and write lines of text that somehow create a functional, beautiful website (hopefully).

The End

Thank you very much for reading and hopefully you've learned a little bit about what being a web developer entails. Please feel free to e-mail [email protected] if you have any questions or would like to get in touch with someone about learning the skills needed to be a web developer. Lastly, a big thank you to Cheryl for taking the time to answer these questions.

You can find more job profiles and other cool things at TutorGrams' cool things section