How to Vet Your Web Developer’s Suggestions

3 Mins read

Are you working with a website developer who has made suggestions about content or technical features you’re not sure about? For example, your web developer might suggest using retargeting in your PPC ad campaigns, which would require building additional landing pages, which would then increase your project’s budget.

Should you agree to every suggestion? Maybe, but not always. It’s natural to question suggestions made by someone who has a financial interest in your agreement, but sometimes developers really do have your best interests in mind.

Understandably, as a non-developer, it’s hard to tell the difference between an attempt to extend your project and a genuine effort to help. If you’re facing this situation, here are some tips for vetting your developer’s suggestions.

Get a second opinion from another developer

Just like you’d get a second opinion after a serious medical diagnosis, it helps to get a second opinion on extensive, unexpected suggestions from your web developer. Some website developers offer free consultations, so you can tell them about your project and ask for their opinion on the particular feature your developer is suggesting.

You might not get a different opinion, but you might get a better explanation that will help you understand the suggestion a little better. Or, you might get really clear about how much you don’t need that feature.

It also helps to ask a second developer for a quote. The quotes will probably differ, since developers work with different resources, use different frameworks, and build in different programming languages. However, there shouldn’t be a huge discrepancy between your quotes.

Ask your developer plenty of questions

Asking questions is the only way you’ll get enough information to form an opinion regarding your web developer’s suggestions. For example, say they suggest that you transfer your hosting account from one host to another. This type of change would be a huge move and might even be an inconvenience. However, don’t let the possibility of being inconvenienced make your decision. Ask plenty of questions to understand why they’re making this suggestion.

Although it can be an inconvenience, sometimes switching hosts is necessary because not all hosting accounts are adequate. For example, some popular hosting providers don’t offer direct access to databases, limit the size of each database, and make you pay if you want more than one database. This makes it impossible to run a website with three features that each require a separate database.

Post your questions on Quora and Reddit

You’re likely to get some extensive feedback about your situation by posting your questions and concerns on Quora and Reddit. People love to answer questions and help other people with their problems, and on these platforms you’re sure to get plenty of responses from real web developers.

Not everyone will agree, and you might not get the answers you want to hear, but there will always be at least one person who will speak the harsh truth when necessary. If there’s something that doesn’t sound right, someone will tell you.

Ask for examples

When your web developer suggests a feature you’re completely unfamiliar with, you might not even know what to expect. Even if you think you know what they’re suggesting, ask them to show you an example so you can get a better understanding of the situation.

For instance, if your developer wants you to switch from MailChimp to Infusionsoft, ask them to show you visually why Infusionsoft is better. It might just come down to automation and segmentation, but you might not need automation or advanced segmentation capabilities.

Ask your developer what it will take to maintain the feature

One thing developers don’t always account for when suggesting features is the maintenance and upkeep required. Developers are used to installing updates and patches, clearing caches, making backups, and checking in with their technologies. They sometimes forget that clients don’t always have that ability (or desire).

When your developer suggests a feature that wasn’t already planned, ask them what it will take to maintain that feature. If they suggested a discussion forum, for example, you’ll need to manage disputes and moderate your forum until you can find reliable moderators. This will require a huge chunk of your time you may not have. To avoid getting in over your head, find out what you’re signing up for before you agree to a new feature.

Trust your web developer, but put your needs first

Don’t be afraid to say no when your developer suggests an unplanned feature. Maybe you don’t have the budget, or you don’t have the time to maintain the feature. Or, maybe you just don’t see the value for your business. You can always change your mind and add those features at a later time.

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Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.