Although it’s seemingly similar to finding a software developer, there are some distinct differences to consider when thinking about how to hire web developers. Let’s find out what makes for a great web developer, what tech skills they should have, where to find them, and how to hire them.
What is a web developer?
A web developer is someone who gets a finished website design from a designer or a client and turns the design into a functional website. To make this happen, they need a sound knowledge of a variety of programming languages, databases, frameworks, libraries, and a keen eye for good user experience. Of course, the kind of technical skills they will possess will vary depending on their role and industry. There are three different kinds of web developers: front-end, back-end, and full-stack web developers.
What makes a great web developer?
The qualities of a great web developer will greatly depend on their specialization. There are some common traits that all web developers need to have, but when thinking how to hire web developers, you’ll need to know exactly what hard skills you’re looking for to get the job done. (We’ve designed a killer recruitment tool for developers looking to grow their teams, check it out!)
Front-end developer skills
Mobile Responsive Design
Another crucial part of a front-end web developer’s arsenal is a solid knowledge of mobile development and responsive design. If a design is mobile responsive, it adapts to the screen size the user is viewing it on. A web developer who can write code that will lead to the best user experience on any device is an asset in any industry, especially since as of 2016, the majority of internet traffic comes from mobile phones.
Content Management Systems
Furthermore, they should have a firm grasp on different content management systems and e-commerce platforms. This means an understanding of WordPress, Shopify, Magento, Drupal and others. Most websites today are not built from scratch – they are built using one of these platforms and it’s a good idea to hire a developer specialized in the CMS you’re going to use.
Finally, a good understanding of good user experience will set great web developers apart. Since they build content that website visitors see and use, they need to understand what kind of content is actually user-friendly.
Back-end developer skills
A back-end web developer, as the name suggests, deals with the ‘behind the scenes’ elements of web development. They need to write a super clean code that connects the website’s server and databases to the front end. If the back-end developer does their work properly, great design will be coupled with superb functionality and the website will work flawlessly. A website with superb design and a poor back-end will be just a pretty disaster.
There are quite a few languages that back-end developers use nowadays. Some popular options include Python, Java, C#, PHP, Ruby, .NET and many more. Before deciding what kind of language your project needs, it’s a good idea to speak to experienced developers to see where you should start your search.
If you want a back-end developer capable of building projects that interact with something other than a web application, they’ll need knowledge of APIs.
API is short for application program interface. Simply put, APIs allow apps to “communicate” with each other. An API sends a request from one application for a piece of data and delivers it back to the application that you are working on.
For example, if you’re building a SaaS that you want to offer as a mobile app (iOS or Android) at some point, having a developer with API knowledge is a big plus. APIs make it easier for developers to write code because they are essentially reusable chunks of code that make development quicker and more efficient. For example, you can run product experiments more easily.
Databases & servers
Database knowledge is crucial for backend developers because you need a way to connect the front-end part of the website to your database. Popular technologies include MongoDB, Oracle and Redis. Finally, all of the data you have is stored on a server, which is why it is important to hire someone who knows how to set up and maintain those servers.
Full-stack web developer skills
Finally, a full-stack web developer is the best of both worlds. They understand the basics of user-facing and server-facing aspects of a website or application. This means that a capable full-stack developer can see the entire web development project through. If the project is not complex, a full-stack web developer can build an entire website from scratch. Full-stack web developers are highly sought after, especially for leadership positions in development teams.
Needless to say, a full stack developer should be familiar with the technical aspects of both front-end and back-end development. Besides the technical skills, they need to be creative and highly analytical in nature to be able to see through entire projects. They need to be able to focus on the bigger picture, as opposed to front-end or back-end devs who only work on part of a development project.
How to hire web developers
Now that you know what a great web developer is and what they can do, let’s see how to hire web developers for your project or team.
Know what you want
As mentioned in our last article on how to hire software developers, the first and most basic step to hiring any kind of developer is knowing what you want to be done. This is even more important for web developers, because there is an enormous difference between a front-end and a back-end developer, even though both of them work on the same project.
As a business owner, HR manager, or first-time employer of developers, you might not have the knowledge of web development to write a detailed job description (if you do, power to you!).
You should at least have a good idea of what languages your developers will be using. One of the reasons why developers hate recruiters is because they spam them with offers that have nothing to do with their skillset. For example, offering a back-end developer a front-end development job in an agency.
If you don’t know anything about web development, that’s okay, just consult with a friend or someone in your network who knows more about it than you do. The more specific your job ad is, the better applicants you will get.
Don’t use LinkedIn
You may be tempted to hire a recruiter or do some outreach on LinkedIn to hire a great web developer. The problem is, you’re not the first one to think of this idea and the developers on LinkedIn already have their inboxes swamped with different offers, most of them completely unrelated to the developers’ actual skills. You can try posting a job ad on LinkedIn too, but not only is that pricey but it will also not get you the results you want.
The reason is simple – all good developers already have jobs and are not actively looking for new ones. The trick is to get in front of them when they least expect it. Capture their interest with a fun and engaging application process, like a quick skills test from Toggl Hire. People who are good at what they do love a challenge, and if all they have to lose is a few minutes of their time, why wouldn’t they apply? Try posting highly targeted job ads on social media – which is what we do for all of our roles at Toggl Hire. Bonus points for using our skills tests, too!
If you are looking for a platform where you should reach out to developers, it’s better to spend time on GitHub. You will be able to see what kind of code the developers write, what projects they are interested in, what kind of topics they talk about and how helpful they are in the GitHub community.
Offer more than competitive pay
Web developers are paid fairly well. In the United States, the salary of a web developer is anywhere from $50k to $100k annually, depending on specialization (back-end, front-end, full-stack), experience, location and other factors.
There is more that you can offer than compensation. For example, you can offer leadership opportunities, or the chance to work on an exciting new technology to advance their skills. Other benefits you could offer are more flexibility, the option for remote work, excellent healthcare, and parental leave. These are all great ways to stand out as an employer and capture the attention of a web developer who’s already employed.
Let them do a skills test
You can actually find out if a web developer is skilled enough to do a job before you bring them on for an interview. With a pre-employment assessment tool such as Toggl Hire, you can test the knowledge of your applicants as soon as they apply. This could decrease your initial screening time as much as 80%, and leads to more in-depth and interesting interviews, since you are free to focus on cultural fit, and problem-solving skills, instead of testing technical skills.
Skills tests also give candidates a better understanding of the role they’re applying for. It gives them a chance to see what kind of problems they’d be solving, and what skill level is expected for the position. This, combined with the instant feedback they get after the test, leads to a great candidate experience, which in turn builds up a positive employer brand for you.
Although there is plenty of demand for web developers at the moment, finding a great one is absolutely doable. Follow these tips on how to hire web developers and you’ll find your new web developer in no time.