Nearly a year ago I wrote a great post titled The Rarest Commodity: The Web Designer where I shared my views on how I feel that quality web designers are a dying and rare breed, and how the lack of talent available hurts my work. I’d like to now voice my opinion on another dying breed: the programmer.
There is certainly no shortage of programmers. In fact, most publishers these days have a working knowledge of PHP, at least enough to let them do basic modifications and such. So, I wouldn’t argue that there has actually been an increase in programmers. This would, I’d guess, be largely due to easier programming languages coming out as well as more documentation. PHP is a hell of a lot easier than Perl, for example.
But I’m not just talking about people who have a “working knowledge” of PHP. I’m talking about talented, quality, reliable programmers that are worth hiring. These guys are definitely rare these days. Don’t you think? For the past 5-6 years or so I’ve basically only used one programmer. He’s an extremely talented and knowledgable programmer, which is why I continually give him new projects all the time. He’s the guy who did PublisherSpot.com. However, he has one unfortunate trait: he’s always late. Very late. We’re talking 3-6 months late here.
And while he’s never being even close to on time, I keep hiring him again and again because he knows what he’s doing, and I can always expect concrete programming, and programming that is well commented, structured, with insane security, and awesome W3C, multiple browser compatibility, and SEO elements in mind. I also have a lot of trust invested into him.
I’m looking for another programmer (or programmers) for two reasons. For one, while my guy knows his way around PHP, his specialty is definitely Perl. The second reason is obvious – I want/need somebody who can deliver on time.
I’ve been searching for a good PHP programmer for several years, and haven’t found anyone who can come close. These are the traits I’m looking for:
This is the first and most important trait I look for, and yet the trait that most programmers lack. Look, if I’m hiring somebody, I want somebody that knows what they’re doing. Oh sure, programmers will rant and rave about their skills, only to show me less-than-thrilling portfolios or sloppy coding.
I basically want an expert. Somebody who knows PHP in and out, and can basically do absolutely anything, and do it very well. Sure, my standards are high, but it goes hand-in-hand with my perfectionist personna. I want a programmer who isn’t afraid of complex and intricate programming, or very…. involved and massive projects.
People usually seem to have either reliability and competency, but rarely both.
Reliability to me is somebody who can consistently deliver on their promise, and on time. Even if something comes up or they simply need more time for the project, as long as they notify me of this and complete it soon thereafter, I don’t take off too many points for reliablity.
I also expect decent access to the programmer, receiving fast replies (within a day at the most) if e-mailed or contacted, and basically having them available in case I need a modification done. Somebody who isn’t afraid to talk to me over the phone would be nice too. I’m also a major sucker for progress reports/updates. In fact, those score major points in my book.
But basically being reliable means delivering on what is promised, and on time.
The last of the traits I look for is quality programming. Some examples of quality are: clean code, security-concious code, SEO, cross browser/resolution/etc. compatibility, well-commented code. It also means well structured code so future modifications are painless and easy, editing is easy, etc.
Other examples of quality are the little things. A programmer who is working on a project, and part of the project is to make a sign-up form, to integrate a CAPTCHA or other spambot protection or have built-in e-mail verification for instance.
And, if the form had required fields marked, I’d expect the form to return with all the pre-filled content still in place, with an error in red displayed, instructing the user what they had missed or improperly filled out, possibly even highlighting the specified form area(s) with red as well. This is my idea of quality. Somebody who simply makes a basic sign-up form is not.
So… those are the three things I look for and want. Am I asking for a lot? Sure… I understand I am. But that still wouldn’t explain why I can’t find anyone… I don’t mean that I can’t find a few… I can’t find any! I’m sure these guys are out there… oh, I know they are. But they’re hiding. Part of the reason I wrote this post was so that I could finally find somebody.
Anybody who refers me to an outsourcing site like Elance.com or Guru.com, doesn’t understand what I want. I’ve used those services countless times, and have been extremely strict, only looking for the top and most expensive freelancers/companies, and… well… let’s just say that you’ll never see me looking there ever again.
Now, regarding price. I know programmers can be expensive, I understand that. I’m not expecting to only pay $10 an hour or $100 for a project, but if I’m going to spend more money, I’m going to need the 3 above traits met. Perhaps I really am not paying enough though. I’m open to the possibility. I won’t pay per-hour as I think that’s a horrible way of pricing things, and completely unfair to the buyer, and thus prefer to pay on a per-project basis. I don’t mind paying a portion up front, but if the programmer wants money up front (which I can certainly understand), then they’ll have to provide a lot of proof that they are capable of providing what I want.
For my revamp I have planned for Movie-Vault.com, for example, I’m willing to pay $2,000. Now, it is a complete and utter revamp, so I can see how $2,000 may seem low, but then again it would be wise for the programmer to keep in mind the benefits of having me as a customer as I can give consistent and ongoing work. Depending on the reliablity I could also share his name around and give him more work.
I think one reason why so many programmer have disappeared is because they either got snatched up by a good company and work in-house, or else have discovered the recent “web 2.0” resurgence of the net and are developing only for themselves now, becoming rich with the next YouTube or Facebook.
Anyhow, if you’re a programmer or you know a programmer who you think could meet my high expectations, please refer them to me! I’d really appreciate it! I have countless projects that need doing, and I consider myself a good client. I always pay immediately with no problems, can give repeated work for life, and can possibly spread their name around and give them new clients. Remember my logo designer? Back when I used him I sent him around 20-30 paying clients within a few months timespan.