#1 They Make Assumptions
Watch out for the developer who knows everything. There’s a line between being an expert and being arrogant, so find a developer who falls into the first category. A big red flag is a development team that assumes they know what your company needs, how your users behave, who your target audience is, or what the best solution is. While offering suggestions and options is helpful, a developer that assumes and doesn’t ask will lead you down a road that may or may not be successful. Instead, look for a development team that asks important, high-level questions and seeks to understand your company from the very beginning. Other red flags in this category include jumping too quickly to design or development without a complete discovery process. Avoid these developers by asking what their process is for discovery and UX research. They should have a process in place or partner with another company to provide these services for you.
#2 They Lack Professionalism
Yeah, yeah, “professionalism” is extremely broad and hard to define. But over the years we have noticed a few trends that do signal a lower level of underlying professionalism. And none of them have to do with dress code. No, when we warn you about unprofessional developers, we’re talking about delayed or hurried communication. Does the developer you’re considering take more than two business days to respond to an email or phone call? Do they always seem in a hurry to answer your question and move on? Do you get voicemail more often than not? Do they use “slammed” in more than one email thread? In short, professionalism means placing the customer (you) as a top priority. That comes through in timeliness and thoughtful and friendly communication.
#3 They Low Ball Bid
Big custom software projects come with a decently sized price tag, so it’s always a game of trying to find the highest quality development for the lowest price. All developers know this, and we all want to win a sale for our team. That’s the way business works, and that’s why you can expect variation in bid amounts from different development companies. That’s not necessarily the red flag, but a low ball bid certainly is. You might be excited to get a great deal, but beware the company that only wants to make a sale. Once the bid is in and you’re hooked, that company now has to build what they promised. And to keep their internal costs down to match the low bid, they may sacrifice quality or testing or timeline. So be cautious of the company desperate to make a sale.
#4 They Go with the Flow
You’re hiring a developer for their expertise. A red flag for lack of expertise is going with the flow. If you come to a developer with a concept, and they nod and congratulate you on your perfect concept and direction, they may lack the experience to see potential pitfalls. (Either that, or your concept really is perfect.) You need someone who’s done enough work to see areas in your project that need extra consideration and offer solutions. Hiring a developer should be establishing a partnership, and that partnership should include open discussion about the viability of concept and functionality. Both parties should lean on each other to fill in knowledge gaps. If the developer you’re considering nods along and agrees with everything, they may lack the expertise and confidence you need.
#5 They Get Distracted
Web development is a changing and evolving field, which is awesome. But that also means that there’s a constant stream of the latest options, which may or may not be the greatest options. New technology is great, but it usually needs a period of debugging and revision. A developer who gets sidetracked from well-established best practices by the latest tech gimmick is not ultimately concerned with the quality of your application. Yes, it is important to stay current, but that doesn’t mean taking risks with untested technologies. So if the developer you’re vetting can’t stop talking about the coolest thing that came out last week, consider it a red flag.