BEWARE: The part-time developer

I'm inspired to write this article because I'm currently working on more jobs which involve finishing other "developers" projects than new projects of my own.

Here's an extract of 2 emails recieved this week...

"I have half a site in joomla but I can't make it live until quite a few problems are sorted out. Unfortunately my joomla developer has started full time work and a PhD. I really need to get my site up and running."

"Our site, www.--------------.com.au has a couple of bugs that need sorting (the original developers are too busy to help)..." Seems the original "developer" got a full time job.

Today, I presented a proposal to a client to develop quite a big site. A fully fledged ecommerce system, multiple payment gateways, custom design, logo design, web hosting, etc. It's easily a months work. When I presented my price, he stared at me gob smacked. Turns out he had been presented a price by another freelancer only one fifth of mine. He was "a friend of a friend" who worked in I.T. and designs websites on the side. Good luck!

If you have already had a look around my site, you would have read a bit about an awesome Content Management System (CMS) called Joomla. I love it and I'm a huge advocate of it and build almost all my sites with it. Why? Because it is very easy for my customers to use, easy to develop sites with, has a huge number of very good plugins available, and I've been working with it for so long now that I know it inside out.

To set up a Joomla site, install one of the hundreds of templates available and install a couple of plugins requires no knowledge of PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS or any other web technologies for that matter. Indeed you could do it yourself and have a very basic site online within an hour or so.

Unfortunately, it's this apparent ease of which a site can be built which attracts the part-time "developers" offering web services to the same market as full time professionals at unsustainably cheap prices. Customers think they are getting a great deal. And in some cases they are. For small businesses with a 5 page info site there's not a lot that can go wrong.

But, what if things do go wrong?

Javascript confilcts between different plugins can render sites unusable. What looks good in IE7 can be completely unreadable in IE6. PHP errors can crop up when plugins aren't compatible with the latest security updates...  This is just a fraction of the possibilities. Will your part-timer know how to fix problems like these? Possibly, but probably not. If he did, then he would probably be a fulltime developer by now.

And, I haven't even got started on Search Engine Optimisation, security and ongoing maintenance procedures!

Building a website with Joomla is easier than building one from scratch. But, it still requires a lot of planning, knowledge and experience to produce a site which is eye catching and user friendly. And it does require HTML, CSS and PHP coding to produce a quality, custom designed site in which all the plug ins work like well oiled cogs. Only, a full time Joomla developer would know about the proper security procedures to implement when setting up a Joomla installation. Only a full time Joomla developer would know all the ins and outs of how content, mambots, components and modules work together.

Unfortunately, by the time a decision is made to pull the plug on the part-timer and consult a professional, it's usually best to start from scratch. One of the biggest problems I've come across recently was a developer (this one apparently had some php knowledge but very little Joomla experience) hacking core Joomla files to implement functionality that already existed in Joomla!!! WHAT THE...?! In the end, it was cheaper for the client to pay me to start from scratch with a clean installation than to sift through all the files and undo the changes.

So, when it's time for you to choose who you are going to hand your project to. Please ask yourself "Does this person have the experience, training and knowledge to handle this project?"

This is all I do. Every day (and most nights). Joomla and Virtuemart are to me like carburettors are to a mechanic. There are not many issues I haven't already seen and know how to fix. I know these applications inside out. Joomla template design and development (HTML and CSS) is my forte. PHP coding comes second. In the event that I do encounter a problem that I can't fix (usually a Javascript problem), I have a network of people to call on who can.

If you would like a quote on a new site, or help fixing one, please contact me here or call me in Australia on 0416 123 282.

john-pitchers-avatar smAbout John Pitchers

John Pitchers is co-founder and lead developer at Joomstore where his primary role is the design and development of Joomla websites. He is also the developer of the FocalPoint maps extension for Joomla. John has been building CMS based web sites since 2004, originally working with Mambo before it forked into Joomla. When not writing PHP, Javascript or CSS you'll find John carving up the hills around Baldivis on his longboard (long before Walter Mitty made it famous).

Find out more about John on his About.me page and . Follow John on Twitter.

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