When you’re on the hunt for a developer to help you with a project, it can be tempting to cut corners—whether it’s going for the lowest rate, setting the fewest milestones, or rushing your timeline to get it off your plate and into production. But that would be mistake, especially when you want your investment to stand the test of time.
If you have one of the estimated 80% of web applications using PHP code, having a skilled PHP freelancer on your regular roster can be key. The value is two-fold: You’ll invest in high-quality code upfront that ensures an application’s long-term success, and re-engaging a developer who is intimately familiar with the code means more seamless fixes and upgrades in the future.
We spoke with Upwork freelancer Preston Hunter, a PHP developer and database specialist, to hear about the benefits of partnering with a PHP developer for the long haul.
Longer-term development partners can create complex applications that will grow with your business—not fall apart under pressure.
Hunter says his long-term projects can be ongoing but are not without end. That would mean he hadn’t done his job. A good developer will take the time to build your application to be stable and able stand on its own for the long haul.
“With a long-term project, we are typically talking about web applications and information systems that address complex business needs,” he says, “but my goal is always to work myself out of a job. It is never my intention to create a system which requires my ongoing support, but to create a system which is simple enough to use by its owners and staff.”
Creating something that solid can take time. “It can take some time to grapple with very complex business processes so they’re at the point where they’re easily managed using a simple interface or, even better, handled automatically without user intervention.”
Tip: Invest in the time it takes up front to create that solid foundation.
Strategic milestones can make longer-term projects modular—and help you see if the developer is a good fit.
Even long-term engagements can be short-term in nature. That’s where milestones can be really helpful. “The most successful formula for developing any project is to do so in a very modular way,” Hunter says.
Well-planned milestones are crucial to creating a successful foundation for an entire project. “The goal should not be to have a developer create the entire system that includes components A through Z, and then deliver it to you. You might as well just go to Las Vegas and put coins into a slot machine and see if a finished app comes out of the slot.”
“No matter how good your original plan is, if your plan calls for components A through Z, then you need to complete component A first. Then, test and verify that to make sure it works.”
This is also a good way to feel out if the developer is a good fit. “If you like the work that a developer did on component A, then by all means, continue working with the developer on component B. If you don’t like how the first phase went—whether you don’t like the quality or the schedule or the communication style—then stop working with that developer.”
Tip: Talk with your developer about the best way to divvy up more complex projects into milestones that set you both up for success.
ENGAGING A DEVELOPER WHO “OWNS” YOUR CODE CAN SAVE YOU TIME AND MONEY ON FIXES AND UPGRADES.
A developer’s done the job when clients don’t need the developer for the day-to-day. But the time will always come when code needs to be worked on. “It doesn’t matter how knowledgeable or experienced or skilled a developer is, if you are asking the developer to work with OPC (other people’s code), it’s going to take more time. Most developers don’t like working with OPC,” which are wise words for anyone considering hiring a developer for a project.
Re-hiring a developer can be key when it comes time to make improvements beyond the original scope of the engagement. Hunter says, “Most of the long-term projects I deal with could be classified into one of two categories: Creating an entirely new system from scratch, and re-engineering or migrating an existing system.” It’s the latter that can really benefit from a developer who already knows the code inside and out.
“It’s less expensive and less time-consuming to hire somebody to create something from scratch than it is to hire somebody to work with OPC,” Hunter says, “but if it is my source code, I can typically make changes and bug fixes very quickly.”
He sums up the value of a long-term developer pretty well: “If I’m working on a regular basis for a client, then I essentially maintain the entire body of source code in my head. If an issue comes up, I know where to go to figure out what is going on.”
Tip: When you can, rehire the developer who knows your project inside and out.
How to Engage the PHP Development Talent You Need
PHP is one of the most widely used languages on the web, so there’s a broad talent pool to choose from. This might mean you need to take extra care in your vetting and interviewing process to ensure you’re getting a developer of the caliber you need. You don’t need to be a developer yourself to explain what you need; check out this guide to writing a PHP job description to help you get started crafting a post that will attract the right long-term PHP developer for you.
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