Five Critical Skills for Web Developers

Anyone can learn to click the buttons these days. Great CMSs like Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress have made it easy to throw up a great looking website in no time at all.

So how do you differentiate yourself from those button clickers and justify your higher price for your product?

  • Understand your client. Take the time to listen to what the client has to say. Also note what the client does NOT say. Listen around their technical words. They might throw out words like blog, Twitter, photo gallery, and calendar without really understanding what those words mean, technically speaking. Listen for what they’re really trying to communicate less than the technology they think they need to communicate it.
  • Understand the problem the client wants to solve. What are they really trying to do with their website? Understanding the problem can be difficult, but once you’ve clearly identified what outcome they want for the site, the technology will just fall into place.
  • Understand your client’s clients. The visitors to this website will want to achieve certain goals while using this site, and they’ll want to achieve them under specific circumstances. What do visitors want to do on the site? Are they using a PC or a mobile phone when they want to do it? Are they new to technology or are they experts? Do they have broadband service or are they still in dialup land?
  • Pay attention to customer service, please! I am embarrassed how many phone calls I get from clients who have lost their web developer. They’ve tried to get in touch for weeks by phone and/or email and the developer hasn’t gotten back to them. Look, we’re all busy people, and the job we do isn’t 100% of our life. We have families or hobbies or big looming deadlines, and it’s easy to get behind. But if someone calls you, call them back, within one business day preferably. Even if you call them back and tell them you’re busy and you’ll talk next week, your client will be grateful to hear from you and know that you didn’t get hit by a bus. Return those emails and phone calls. You’ll be surprised how much work you get as a result.
  • And please, please PLEASE do not cut your price to compete with the button clickers. Your time is valuable. Price yourself accordingly. If your client wants someone to work for $10/hr, let them hire someone who will work for $10/hr. Don’t cut your price to get the job. It is completely possible to charge too little for your services, every bit as possible as charging too much! When you cut your rates, you lower the value of the industry as a whole. Look them in the eye, tell them your rate, and don’t apologize. You’re worth it… but if you don’t believe you’re worth it, neither will they.

Notice that none of those 5 points had anything to do with technology or code. They’re mostly people skills.

We all know you’re tremendously geeky and your coding skills are formidible. Good for you! Unfortunately, code skills don’t necessarily sell you to a client. You’ve got to have these soft, squishy skills as well to make the sale. You’ll also effectively differentiate yourself as a true web professional, and your business will become successful as clients recommend you to clients who recommend you to other clients.

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Comments

8 responses to “Five Critical Skills for Web Developers”

  1. Jen,
    This is a fantastic 5.  (I’d consider coining that).  😉  Thanks for taking the time to put it together.  So often in our industry, the soft skills are lost to overly confusing techno-talk.
    The paragraph defining each item you’ve listed is invaluable for true understanding.
    Keep it up!

  2. Tina DuBosque says:

    Jen is 200% right on with her fab 5.
    We all need to keep in mind that it is not our code/module/extension/plug-in work that is important to the client, but the end result of that work, and the roi.
    It is also important to be able to speak geek and english, when appropriate.
    Good work, Jen!  Can’t wait to get a copy of your new book!

  3. Tina DuBosque says:

    Jen is 200% right on with her fab 5.
    We all need to keep in mind that it is not our code/module/extension/plug-in work that is important to the client, but the end result of that work, and the roi.
    It is also important to be able to speak geek and english, when appropriate.
    Good work, Jen!  Can’t wait to get a copy of your new book!

  4. TJ Baker says:

    Great list Jen!
    It’s so easy when sitting in front of a computer for most of your day, day in and day out, to lose or forget your ‘people skills’. 
    Great list, and great reminder! 

  5. Todd Wallace says:

    You know, I always hear about the two sides of website design; coding and graphics.  It’s nice to know there are people out here that recognize that there is a third side. 

  6. abhinav says:

    Regards ma’m,
                      i am a student of 2nd yr engg. from india…..i am affluent wth languages like c,c++,c#.can u plz tell me what other languages or script i must learn to be able to develop webpages…or websites more specificaly……
    thanks..

  7. abhinav says:

    plz help mam….

  8. femi says:

    what an inspirational article, quite helpful in efficient dealing with the client, it also holds by the hand to profesionalism.

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