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Red Flags: 4 Signs of an Inept Web Developer

Updated on June 18, 2019
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Papdan is a comprehensive web design, web development and SEO digital agency based in Australia

It has been an open secret for quite a long time now that the biggest downfall of being a competent person is to be saddled with the incompetence of others. If you feel like this doesn't apply to you then it is certainly possible that's because you belong with the latter group, I know this for a fact because I've actually been in your position. I've managed to breeze through school largely in part because I leech off of all the people around me and it wasn't until I've fully entered the professional realm that I know what it feels like to have to put up with incompetence.

This incompetence could manifest in your coworkers or in your superiors but more pertinent to the case at hand, it manifests in the form of an inept web developer. Given the increasing importance of having a digital presence in the 21st century, it's not enough for a business to simply have an official social media account, websites are indispensable for lending your business with certain legitimacy. While it is possible to design a website of your own, a large of number of small businesses simply have not enough manpower to do so, hence the need to employ the service of a web development company, which can also be problematic.

Spotting the mark of incompetence

When I first started working, I was assigned on a team working with something that I didn't have a lot of familiarity with so it was impossible for me to gauge the competence of my other, more experienced coworkers. It took me about a year to finally figure out which team members haven't been pulling their weight but luckily, it never became too much of a problem because the job wasn't that difficult to begin with. The business of developing a website however is trickier and I'm being perfectly honest when I tell you that there's an ocean separating a good website and a bad website.

The problem with this is that for a web development project, business owners don't have a full year to properly vet the company they're about to work with. For business owners that have little familiarity with the world of web development, this could be a problem since they might not understand what constitutes a good web development company in the first place. You know that saying about how it takes one to know one? This is also true in this case as you can't tell apart the good web developer from the rest without being one in the first place, which kind of defeats the entire purpose of this piece.

However, recognizing an inept web developer is an entirely different matter and certainly within the realm of capability for almost everyone as long as you know what to look for. Look at it this way, people's idea of a good film tend to be different but we're usually united in our understanding of what constitutes as a trainwreck, as can be seen in our almost universal disdain for the 'Game of Thrones' finale. In a similar vein, an inept web developer sticks out like a sore thumb, which you can easily spot based on the following 4 signs.

They have no portfolio to speak of

In the creative industry, which web design is certainly a part of, no one is really without experience. Even before I began writing professionally, I've already written tens of thousands of words on a personal basis. So even when I didn't have a portfolio of published works, I still have dozens of writing examples that I could use to showcase exactly what I'm capable of. What I'm trying to say here is that even if you're talking with a web development firm that is lacking in professional experience, they should still have examples of their unpublished work.

I would still advise you on going with someone with actual experience but a lack of professional experience isn't always a sign of ineptitude. If you are interested in working with a relatively new name, probably because they're usually cheaper, ask them to show you some examples. They should at the very least have their own website and if they're like me, they should already have several examples they could show you. At the very least, ask them to do a rough mock-up of what you'd like your website to be like as a competency test.

They aren't being very detailed in their questions

The execution of a project, any kind of project, largely depends on the preparation. Without a clearly defined set of goals, an equally clear scope for the project and a set timeline, a project would have no chance of succeeding. I mean, think about it, how could a project succeed when the barometer for success was never defined in the first place? Web development is no different; if during the planning phase you're seeing that the company you've partnered with aren't constantly probing you with questions on how you'd like your website to be like, that's a sign telling you that they don't really care that much in the first place.

They're bad at communicating the more technical aspects of web development

Blockchain is one of those terms that I've been hearing a lot lately but I never knew exactly how it worked until an in-law (the brother of my brother's wife) who's working for IBM explained the concept to me using an analogy of the collaborative features of Google Docs, Slides and Sheets. Just like blockchain, the world of web development can be very technical and could seem very alien to the general public. A good way of measuring the quality of a web developer is by asking them to explain these concepts so they could be understood by anyone.

My in-law's explanation of blockchain was very simplified but it managed to cover the basic function of blockchain technology and this is made possible because he fully understands how the technology works so finding an analogy using everyday example was easy for him. By this same token, if the web developer you've been working is able to essentially dumb down the more esoteric aspects of web development to you, that's a pretty telling sign that they actually know what they're talking about.

They're willing to work without a contract

This red flag is so obvious that it holds true for pretty much anything, not just in the world of web development. A contract is like an insurance or safety net. It's what your business could simply point to when the result you're presented isn't in line with what you were looking for. It's like the difference between dating and being in a marriage. In the former, either party could simply leave without repercussion while in the latter; neither party could walk away without the government being involved. Refusing to work with a contract means that they have no interest in holding up their end of the bargain.


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