My Website developer is awesome he said so!
The problem with the website development industry is there is no overall qualification for being a website developer. There are TAFE and some University courses, but the industry moves so fast that anyone learning today will be years behind when they finish. Furthermore some stuff you can only learn on the job by making mistakes and then fixing them.
Consequently the only thing a client can judge a website developer on is his portfolio. This is a good place to start however the person judging needs to understand what they are looking at also. A lot of websites that look simple on there surface are highly complex behind the scenes and many busy locking sites are super basic.
Like most people we often make a judgement call on the Website Developers confidence and sales talk presentation. Here is where things can get interesting. Our intuitions are normally wrong. This social reasoning error in thinking is a little hot in academic circles at the moment, as Scientists are often presented currently as not being confident in there statements and conclusions, when the opposite can actually true.
“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” Bertrand Russell.
The Dunning-Kruger effect
The Dunning-Kruger effect is the finding that the poorest performers are the least aware of their own incompetence.
Combine this with a little information age excess self esteem and you have one self assured Website Developer. One who is ready to take on any job, because s/he can totally make anything. They have never made a mistake. Those failed projects were because of those clients being to difficult. They failed because they didn't put the effort in.
I think the risk of hiring one of these people is higher in the Website development world because there is no real concrete measure for your competence. You can build site after site and be told you are the next closest thing to Einstein. However all the sites you built may have been been well within the abilities of any 6 week community Website design course or Youtube series on Wordpress setup.
Even a little information can make you seem like a god in the internets to someone who doesn't possess it.
How as a prospective client can you tell the difference. Well the Dunning Kruger effect may have some answers for you in part and I have a few tips as well.
The Dunning-Kruger effect tells us that the incompetent tend to be overly confident and often over look and don't ask the deeper mechanical/functional questions involved in creating a more complex website. On the opposite side the competent tend to be less confident in appearance. Ask deeper questions and give less firm answers. They will prefer to go away and come back with something concrete rather than give you an answer on the spot, if its for something completely new. That is not to say if they have built a couple hundred stores/complex sites before they will have quick deep answer already because they have done it many times before.
Nether one of these is a magic wand of truth. However, it helps you create a better picture of who you are starting a partnership with. Additionally, If they are saying they are an expert, but they drive an old beat up 1989 Hyundai, live at their Parents house and have two standard 4 page websites in their portfolio and are saying they can handle your 100,000 item store...you might wan't to take a step back for a moment.
Some simple tips and common sense guides
Price is not always an indicator of skill
There are a couple ways pricing works in the website development world. One is hourly rate and the other is set rate per job. One is based on productivity the other is not.
I have meet a lot of $10 and $20 an Hour developers who were really expensive and plenty of $35-65 an hour who are down right cheap. The lesson is the appearance of cheaper or more expensive isn't better or worse without context.
A great example is taking your new high tech car with a weird issue to your non branded cheaper local mechanic. They maybe cheaper, but perhaps it takes them a week to work out the issue. By contrast taking it to the franchise dealer will cost you more per hour, but the mechanics are vehicle specific trained. The higher trained mechanic may fix it in a few minutes, due to experience and skill.
Hierarchy of technical skill
In order of least technical to most technical
1) Setting up Domain name and DNS routing
2) 4-20 Page Wordpress website
3) 4-20 Page Standard small HTML/CSS Website
4) 4-20 Page Php/html/css website
5) Basic 1-100 item Wordpress, shopify, cscart type stores
6) Small Php website under 50 pages with login and some technical calculation or custom functions requiring Java or php coding
7) Larger functional site with unique functions requiring Data-basing usage
(Also 100+ item Wordpress style store) 8) Basic Magento Store 1-300 items
9) Larger scale site require a frame work like Ruby, Codeigniter, Zend or similar
10) Large Magento based store 50,000 Items plus
11) Large custom frame work build, like a social networking type site or freelancer style
12) Mega Magento store 100,000 items plus, with large volume of traffic (Coding not more technical that 50k store, but the server requirements and skill set is very high, elite even).
13) Large custom Magento store with custom extensions and APIs
14) Large scale original project with multiple developers and all boundaries are being pushed, coding, framework, server design. Essentially many good sized coding projects operating within one.
15) Enterprise sized Store. These are no more technical than the large Magento store. However, it requires another level of sophistication, staffing and planning outside most smaller coding houses
15) The mega project, this is the highly sophisticated long term project. They are normally done in house, but sometimes outsourced. This is a project like designing a content streaming site for Netflix or making a Facebook sized site from scratch. (These projects are quite rare and often take 12 months or more to just get to beta stage).
What you want to do is match the whole story up, what the developer says, the portfolio, the technical and the price before you go ahead.
Weber, Helga. 'Dunning-Kruger Effect: Why People Remain Incompetent'. PsyBlog. N.p., 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.