Whether for yourself or your business, a website will be your face to the online world. So, you must put your website creation project in the hands of someone you can trust to build a high-quality, bug-free, and effective website according to your vision and specifications.

However, depending on your own experiences, you might not know where to start when it comes to scouting potential talent. In this article, we’ve got you covered with some of the most important questions to ask a potential hire, as well as what answers you should expect.

What are the main responsibilities of a web developer?

You may be surprised at how many responsibilities a web developer has and how many don’t realize the full extent of what’s expected of them. To avoid any miscommunication or pitfalls, you should expect the following answer or be able to agree on a specific set of responsibilities:

  • Know and be proficient in the required programming languages/technologies
  • Build the website or web application
  • Test the website and rework/redesign where needed
  • Collaborate/rendezvous with you, your team, or other stakeholders
  • Either work with a designer or carry out website design
  • Produce a fit-for-purpose, functioning, optimized, and bug-free website
  • Carry out maintenance and troubleshooting (at least initially)
  • Monitor website uptime, traffic, etc.

What’s your educational/training background?

This one is hard to pinpoint to a single answer because web developers can come from various backgrounds. You may be surprised to find self-taught but experienced web developers that are much better at producing real-world-ready websites than fresh college grads.

However, in most cases, you should expect a tertiary degree in a relevant field to ensure you’re working with someone knowledgeable. If they don’t have this background, they must back up their skills with even more work samples. Simultaneously, you should also expect some work samples from highly educated developers, as it doesn’t necessarily mean they can realize a real-world website project.

Do you have a portfolio?

Any web developer worth their salt should be able to provide you with a portfolio of their previous work. So, the answer is a resounding YES! This should prove that they can carry out client instructions, make real-world-ready websites, and allows you to assess their skills in design and development.

A good developer should be proud of the work they’ve completed in the past and should have no problem providing you with their portfolio.

What languages do you know? What are your strongest languages?

In general, these are the minimum requirements to expect from a competent developer, especially for an essential, custom website:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript

The following languages are more project-dependent but are still considered must-have skills for almost any web developer, mainly if the website relies on dynamic content, a backend with a database, or other advanced capabilities:

  • PHP
  • SQL
  • JQuery
  • Python

If you want a WordPress website built, PHP is crucial as it’s the primary language the CMS is written in. A developer will need to know PHP to implement any custom code, features, or style changes and optimize the website. Ditto for other website builders, such as Shopify’s Liquid.

Have you worked with businesses in Toronto before? Where are you based?

A developer’s proximity to your business can have several consequences for your working relationship. For example, you might only have a few hours to discuss or collaborate with someone that lives on the other side of the world per day.

Developers in your country, region, or city also better understand the challenges that face local businesses and consumer expectations. For example, if you’re based in Toronto, a Toronto web developer should be preferred to minimize any of these issues.

How can you reduce page loading times?

The answer should include a reference to the following:

  • Optimizing images
    • Reduce payload sizes via compression
    • Implement responsive images
    • Use next-gen image formats (WebP, JPEG-2000, etc.)
    • Lazy load images
    • Address Core Web Vitals, such as First Contentful Paint, Largest Contentful Paint, etc.
  • Minifying HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Use HTTP/2
  • Implement clean web code
  • Using a CDN, image CDN, other asset-specific CDN
  • Minimize redirects
  • Use effective caching policies
  • Use a reputable, performant web host
  • For local websites, find closely located servers to host
  • For WordPress/other CMSs, remove unnecessary plugins, widgets, themes, etc.
  • Use tools to test website loading times, e.g., Lighthouse, Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom, etc.

How to optimize website pages for SEO?

You should expect the following in the developer’s answers:

  • Clean and machine-indexable coding
  • A website XML sitemap
  • Creating Google My Business listings
  • Localized SEO optimization (if targeting local business)
  • Allow search engine crawlers
  • Use logical and structured URLs
  • Use redirects when shifting content
  • Use site tags
  • Use logical and structured web page hierarchies

Technical questions:

Even if you’re not proficient or knowledgeable in website development yourself, these simple Q/A sets can help you test a candidate’s know-how for your website project:

What is CORS?

Short for Cross-Origin Resource Sharing is a technique that allows a website on a domain to request resources, such as code files, media, etc., from an external domain. It’s supported by HTML5 websites and uses XMLHttpRequest to access the external resources.

What are the differences between HTTP/2 and HTTP/1.1?

HTTP/1.1 is an older HTTP protocol. HTTP/2 is the newest version of the protocol meant to reduce web page load latency by using compression, multiplexing, and prioritization techniques. The main difference between the two is the use of the binary framing layer in HTTP/2.

What is the best way to include JavaScript in website pages?

Use inline JavaScript for simple, single-page websites and external JavaScript for larger, more complex web applications.

What are some of the new API standards supported by HTML5?

  • Media API
  • Text track API
  • Application Cache API
  • Data transfer API
  • MIME-type protocol and handler registration
  • WHATWG specification of APIs
  • User Interaction API
  • Command API
  • Constraint Validation API
  • History API

Can you write a function that does X?

If you or someone in your organization can review the submission, this age-old interview technique is still one of the most effective and widely used. Programming a clock, a function that outputs the Fibonacci number, or any other creative yet straightforward test can be a great way to assess a possible recruit.

The most important answer here is their attitude. If they are enthusiastic, willing, and take the challenge seriously, it says a lot about their character. On the other hand, you should be wary of an evasive or unenthusiastic response. Of course, being able to complete the task promptly is essential too.

In conclusion

These are just some of the question-and-answer possibilities when interviewing a web developer in Toronto or, in fact, anywhere. There are many others, depending on your exact business, project, or requirements. However, these should give you a solid baseline for assessing almost any candidate for nearly any project.

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