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What to Ask When Hiring a Web Application Development Company

Important Questions to Keep in Mind and Pitfalls to Avoid

by Bernard Kohan

When it comes to coding a web application, quality is of the upmost importance.

Watch out for sloppy programmers

It is important to know that not all programmer know how to write code properly . . . and not all programmers follow the same coding standards and guidelines.

Some inexperienced programmers will write sloppy and disorganized code without any consideration for future growth. This also makes it very difficult for other programmers to work on the project.

In most professions when the consumers' health and rights are on the line, there are regulations in place and licenses required from a government agency to allow a person or company to conduct business. Unfortunately, in the programming world, anyone with some coding knowledge can start his/her development company or become an independent contractor without any required license.

In addition to sloppy coding practices, there are many off-shore web development companies and independent web developers who may not follow the same ethical standards that a US based business must legally follow.

An impressive degree doesn't always equate to quality programming skills.

If someone has a Masters degree, that does not mean he/she is a great programmer. Someone can be book smart but does not know how to code properly. I have seen programmers with Bachelors and Masters degrees in programming that cannot keep up with today's new and complex programming world.

Look for clean, consistently written code.

Two programmers can accomplish the same result, one writing 10 lines of code and one only 3 lines of code.

An SQL Query can be written so poorly that after five concurrent database connections, the SQL server software or server's CPU can come to a halt. A good database programmer can write an SQL Query that produces the same SQL result and the server can handle 100 concurrent database connections without any server issues.

It is true that there is always going to be a learning curve for one programmer to study and become familiar with another programmer's code, but if the code is clean and consistent, comments are used and some basic coding guidelines and structure are in place, there shouldn't be any issues for another experienced programmer to be able to jump in and edit and extend a well constructed and structured web application.

Does the development company follow coding standards and use a framework?

Web Application Frameworks are a organizational coding system which allows programmers and designers to easily work on the same project. This structured system utilizes reusable libraries, components and tools to promote better code maintainability and future growth.

For example, here at Comentum, we use a structured web application framework and set forth coding standards that every programmer on our team follows. This means that all of our programmers can easily understand and follow each other's code. It is so seamless that a team member would not know which programmer has written a function, because we all follow the same coding guidelines and standards. Anytime we add a programmer, he/she can jump in and start editing or updating another programmer's codes easily.

What are good questions that you should ask a prospective web development company?

  • Will I have the ownership of the final program code?
  • Can I take the final program code to another development company for future edits and expansion?
  • Does the code come with proper documentation to allow for migration and scalability?
  • Would there be a copyright issue, such as code that was copywritten by someone else?
  • Are there comments used in the code that would provide ease of migration and readability by another developer?
  • Are there coding guidelines and conventions in place?
    If yes, ask to see the coding guidelines and conventions documentation.
  • Do they utilize a structured and web application framework?
    If yes, ask for additional information on program libraries, tools and the type of framework used. Ask to see a sample of the project's folder structure with programming files in it. This should show how organized and useful their programming would be to other programmers. Make sure that the file structure matches a live project. You don't want to look at a fake file and folder structure.
  • Do they use MVC Architecture? This helps programmers and designers to work side by side on a project (designers do not need programming knowledge when using MVC architecture).
  • What type of quality assurance testing is in place and what methods are being used to do bug testing and fixing?
  • What type of security testing and methods are being used to find and fix vulnerabilities?
  • What type of stress testing and methods are being used to check the site's scalability and tolerance for large traffic growth?

The above questions are just a few important considerations when hiring a good development company.

Since many of these questions are very technical, it may be a good idea to hire an independent consultant to evaluate and ask these questions for you, and evaluate any answers and supporting documents provided by the developer.

Comentum wishes you good luck and success on your next web application project.

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Bernard Kohan

Bernard Kohan is a mobile app and web application development and technology analyst expert. He is available to discuss any issues or questions you have about web development and the best choices for your company or project.

Bernard can be reached at
858-410-1500


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