So, Tyler apparently had a boring day and nothing creative to blog about, so I was asked to make a guest post. After pondering what to write about, I decided to talk about something that’s been irritating my lately – quality people on the web.
I guess I’ve been in the web industry for the past 6-7 years or so, and I’ve definitely noticed a big fluctuation in the development process. I began my ‘career’ on the web originally as a freelancer, after teaching myself PHP (I actually knew C++ before that, so PHP was easy). Before I began freelancing, I had written many medium sized sites for myself to help build up experience, so once I began I had a decent amount of experience. After freelancing for about a year, I made alot of money as a high school student (averaged $35-$55/hour) and had over 70 10 star feedbacks on scriptlance. I almost never completed assignments late, and was always upfront about any issues or delays I may have, which is why I kept getting repeat work from some fairly large webmasters.
After that first year, I realized I was getting lazy, and felt being a webmaster would be much more enjoyable, as well as much more profitable in the long run, so I decided to make the transition. I began scouring forums such as sitepoint.com namepros.com and dnforum.com to seek as much knowledge as possible. After learning much more about webmastering, I began to develop a few of my own basic sites, and further developed my knowledge and skills by learning about more in-depth topics, such as SEO. From all the time I spent learning and developing websites, I learned one of the most important things with being a webmaster: Patience.
Now, after having a fairly profitable start with a large variety of sites, some I created to resell and some I created to keep for myself, I began college(CS major) and realized I don’t have the time to code my own sites. In about 2 years after I began freelancing, I learned just how much the quality of programmers has decreased. I would have maybe 5-10 projects a week, and for every 1 project that was completed successfully, I probally had 5 that failed.
Why? Because there are definately too many incompetent ‘kiddie’ programmers, low quality Indian programmers, and lazy Eastern European programmers. I’ve since learned to deal with them, but I can’t stress how much of an issue this is currently. If anyone reading this is a programmer, PLEASE be open about progress on a project someone hired you for. If your not going to deliver, tell them so as soon as you know this. If you don’t have the skills to complete the project, tell them! If you don’t have the time for it, tell them! Usually I wouldn’t be mad at programmers that tell me this early on, but there have been countless times that programmers waste weeks of my time on a project that ends up not being completed.
How can people help avoid these issues? Well, after being a webmaster for the past 4 years or so and running 4 dedicated servers with 90+ domains, there are many things I’ve learned. Some may seem basic, but they must always be kept in mind.
1. Know who your hiring. Although you’re hiring someone that may have good feedback, it doesn’t mean they’ll be dedicated to you. Talk to them constantly, find out where they’re located and their age, etc. If they’re young, it doesn’t mean they’re poor programmers, but know to treat them younger, and that you’ll have to put more pressure on them.
Some basic things I’ve learned to keep in mind are: If they’re Eastern European programmers, then usually they’ll give you quality work. BUT the tradeoff is time delays. I almost always get delays from this ‘category’ of programmers, because usually they’re involved in many other projects, and want to ensure they always have work to do, and obviously can’t handle the amount of work they get hired to do. For Indian Programmers, I’ve learned to usually be extremely specific. If you tell them to do x, y, and z, they will ONLY do that. What I’m trying to say is the quality of the code is usually not up to par, and so I have to be very specific by going much more in depth as to how the code should work, to ensure that I get quality code. Obviously I can do this because I am a very competent programmer, which I feel most webmasters need to learn how to code before they begin to hire programmers. Knowing so will help them understand how long things should take to do, incase a programmer is BSing them, and at the same time help them realize what is feasible and what’s not.
2. Get constant updates. constantly. The biggest key to minimize delays is to try to get updates daily if possible. This helps you ensure the programmer is actually working on your project, helps ensure he’s doing things how you invisioned, and finally, helps ensure the progress matches the deadline. This is EXTREMELY important.
3. Have it in writing. Writing out a very specific project specification helps both sides minimize delays, bugs, and costs. Taking the time to write one is worth it, because it always allows you to argue that a certain feature was part of the agreement (if it’s listed of course), and at the same time gives the programmer something to reference, and not have to wait for you so they can get a response. Usually if I write a high quality specification with graphics etc, I very rarely have to spend alot of time repeating to the programmer what needs to be done, and end up with a project that gets completed within the agreed time frame, and I do much less explaining.
4. Pay them what its worth. If you have an important project that is large scale, it’s worth paying the programmer a bit more than you’d like. Don’t tell them you’ll give them extra money from the beginning, but wait till it’s your turn to make a payment for some of the work, and toss in a little extra $$ and tell them ‘this is for the good work so far’. This leaves them hoping you’ll do it again, and will keep them eager to complete the work professionally.
5. Patience. Yes, this is very important as a webmaster. The ‘new trend’ lately on the boards is people that know very little about webmastering go get a site developed, post it for sale, and base their pricing on 2 or 3 months of income. You really need to keep sites for longer, to help ensure you learn how a site begins to mature, and at the same time get you more for your money in the long run. Seeing these type of sites for sale has definitely become my pet-peeve, because they bloat the forums with very low quality immature sites. Usually once I see someone selling these type of websites, I try to avoid them in the future, because there’s a high chance most of their sites follow the same trend, and usually have very inflated statistics.
Now, after looking at what I’ve written, it’s alot more than I had originally planned to write. Hopefully after people read what I’ve said, it will help reduce all the pollution online with weak programmers as well as webmasters. When I originally started, there were much fewer webmasters, but at the same time much higher quality ones. Now, it’s become the exact opposite, due to all of the hype the internet has gotten over the past few years as turning anyone into a ‘millionaire’.