The good thing about jetliners having two engines is that the plane can still land if one of them blows up mid-flight. Same goes for having multiple developers. If one of them stops working, the project doesn’t go down in flames.
I started this post with an allusion to fiery death because it is somewhat less horrifying than having to hire developers. At our Austin-based advertising agency, we have to do it from time to time, and sparing our clients this trauma is as much a valued service as social media strategy or search engine advertising. Most companies don’t need one or more full time developers for their marketing needs, but they’ll try to get away with it by hiring a web developer freelance. That freelancer then vanishes after the down payment and you’re stuck in a single-engine plane without even that one engine working.
Frightening analogies aside, we have a lot of real horror stories that are maybe funny in retrospect, especially after a few scotches to numb the still-sore, stress-induced emotional wounds inflicted by developers through the years.
Hiring front-end and backend developers is how we learned what “going dark” means. It’s a cool way of saying someone has neglected their obligations, ignored any promises or deadlines made to you, and vanished as though they were error 503’d off the face of the earth.
Why would a developer abandon a paying job? Well, there’s a good chance they don’t know how to do what you’re asking them to do. It is difficult to gauge a developers’ skills ahead of time––especially if you don’t have another developer you trust involved in the hiring process. It’s relatively easy to piece together snippets of code found online to create a serviceable website or app to as a portfolio item. That doesn’t work for custom projects where the demands for the UX designers don’t fit templates and examples found online.
The deadbeat developer may try to convince you that what you have requested is impossible to accomplish. They might try to make you out as ignorant in the ways of the code. Of course, these accusations only come after they’ve taken the job and your money. This problem is exacerbated if you hire someone in a faraway country whose face you’ve never seen. Watch out for web development firms that outsource work in that way as well. Every developer you work with should have a face that you can see with your two eyes.
Not all developers are demons. We find them all the time and have some on our marketing agency’s team right now. Being a good developer is really really hard and not a lot of people can do it. That makes them a rare and expensive commodity. Maybe this is being too nice. Perhaps years of punishment trying to find the decent developers makes us all the more enamored with their skills. But if you can find a developer who doesn’t make you constantly fear for your project, hold on to them dearly.
Hopefully, you won’t have to learn all this the hard way. Just hire an agency and let them lose sleep at night.