How to Hire a Good Web Developer

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A Web developer, strictly speaking, builds and maintains websites. However, a lot of people who create a site from start to finish -- designing graphics and webpages, figuring out the site map, then producing the site -- call themselves Web developers, so it's a confusing term. People who conceptualize and plan out the site are actually Web designers. Developers are the people who use some form of HTML to build the actual pages. A Web developer's other responsibilities could include optimizing graphics for the Web and producing rich media such as Flash, streaming media, or online audio.




  • Can hand-code HTML

  • Can optimize graphics and webpages so that they load quickly

  • Can handle cross-browser optimization -- making sure the site looks good on different browsers




  • Familiarity with JavaScript

  • Photoshop

  • Dynamic HTML (DHTML)

  • XML

  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

  • Familiarity with CGI forms

  • Can deploy dynamic Web technologies such as XSSI, JSP, ASP, Dynamo, and Cold Fusion

  • Familiarity with SSI (server-side includes)

  • Has a working knowledge of JavaScript and CGI scripting. This will become increasingly relevant as DHTML becomes more widespread and more content is generated using scripts



Senior developers manage the overall building of the site and assign junior developers specific areas to build.




  • Has created at least one website

  • Has updated content on an existing website




  • At least one year of experience developing and maintaining a commercial website

  • Experience with naming conventions and setting up file structures (important for large sites)

  • Can look at a visual design and tell what it will take to implement it

  • Can tell at a glance how a page was put together or an entire site assembled

  • Knows what functions a given line of code performs




  • At least two years of experience developing and maintaining a large-scale commercial website

  • Experience as lead developer or project manager


  • Candidates should be able to provide URLs of previous work. This is the equivalent of a portfolio.

  • HTML code should be clean and well organized. You can check this by looking at the HTML source code of sample URLs.

  • Many Web development companies screen job candidates with a standardized HTML coding test. Candidates are given an image created in Photoshop and asked to turn it into a Web page using only text-based editors.

  • Get references from previous clients or employers. Was this person easy to work with? Did he or she produce a fast-loading, well-functioning site?


  • Looking at websites done for other clients is not always a good indicator of a web developer's skills, since it's hard to tell exactly what they contributed to the site and how much it's changed since they worked on it. If possible, you want to see exactly what they contributed. Ask what role they played in the project. Did they build the entire site or just optimize webpages?

  • Be wary of self-taught folks who haven't worked in an agency or corporate setting. They might not have the training or discipline to complete jobs on deadline.

  • A degree in one of the following is helpful: computer science or engineering, human-computer interaction (HCI), or architecture.

  • Continued education in Web programming, interface design, information design, or multimedia production is also helpful.



Use relevant keywords to search Guru's database and find the talent you need. These words commonly appear in the Guru Profiles of Web developers:

HTML, Web design, Web development, Web production, HTML, XML, DHTML, CSS, dynamic Web technologies


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