I am hiring a PHP developer to build me a website. Their rate is 70$ an hour. He seems to have a good portfolio and experience.

How do I know that I get a good website that is scalable and easy to maintain?

Do I ask them to give me code samples so I can review it (I am a programmer but I did not do much PHP)?

What are good credentials for a PHP developer? experience with Drupal? LAMP?

4 Answers 4


(I'm a PHP/jQuery/Javascript Drupal/WolfCMS developer)

  1. Credentials: Look at the sites, email their owners, confirm that they did what they say they did. Ask the previous clients about their experiance, how the site is working out for them. Important: A web developer that does simple sites is not nesseseraly good at portals, the revers also holds true.
  2. Ask them what CMS they'll be using. If they say Joomla, run (no self respecting developer will ever work with joomla). If you have a simple site Drupal is NOT the way to go. If you have a portal Drupal IS the way to go. If it's a blog than it's Wordpress.
  3. First impression: Remember your first impression and how and what they say.
  4. Did they ask about your target audience? Did they analyse your company? Your products? If not, leave.

Did they ask about your target audience? Did they analyse your company? Your products? If not, leave.

Thing to remember is, putting up a site requires very little or no (php) coding (you only code really obscure or customised site functions, the rest has already been coded by the community) So there wont be "code snipets" to review. (But it still requires a LOT of knowledge). You should be able to get a professional developer for 40$/h. Also make shur you make a good plan at the start. Listen to the developer. Avoid corrections.

I could tell you exactly what to ask if you specified your project. But most importantly look at the credentials and TRUST YOUR GUT.

  • Thank you. I can't disclose much but it is a website where users will register, upload files (docs, videos, audio etc), create groups of discussions (customizable) with different sets of privacy levels (some users will be able to share certain discussions with you while others won't be able to based on the levels you set for them). You can create your own profile. You can have your own little community or groups within the website. There will be a lot of people uploading files so will that be something I need to look for when hiring a developer (indexing large data sets)?. Thank you
    – user23599
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 13:24

It is the same thing as when you go to the mechanic? How do you know that they are actually fixing something and not causing more problems for repeat business? The answer lies in asking for references. See if he will give you the names of people he's done work for and then get into contact with them. If you do not know PHP then asking for code samples won't do you much good.


If the guy is good and gets you a scalable and easy to maintain site, for $70/hour, you got the best deal in town.

Let's assume 50 weeks of work, at 50 hours a week, or 50*50*70= $175,000.

The site will incude a database, framework, dev and prod environments, automated deployment, an admin interface, an API, templates, css, jQuery, and a good-looking site.

If you tried to hire the skillset for that in a regular company, you would be looking at

  • DBA: 95K/year
  • Sysadmin: 80K/year
  • UI Engineer: 75K/year.
  • PHP Developer: 60K/year
  • Project Manager: 75K/year

...for a total of 385,000 in salaries. Multiply by 1.5 for the overhead (Employer taxes, health insurance contributions, office space rent (these people don't work in dusty warehouses), 401K, computer equipment, hiring costs (your HR person isn't free), etc) and you're looking at $577,000.

Now, I guarantee that the project won't be done in a year. It will take 2 months to ramp up, 2 months to get the servers up and provisioned (I'm being optimistic in my estimates), 2 months to nail down the requirements (with the team in place, can't write it all down and expect people to read it. You need meetings.), 2 months to design a passably scalable system, 8 months of coding, 2 months of testing, 1 months for deployment... Oh shit, I forgot, you need an architect for the scalability part: $135,000/year--No? Ok, no architect.

So we're looking at a minimum of 19 months. The bill is now $ 912,000

That's assuming nothing goes wrong, meaning, nobody leaves the team halfway. What happens if your PHP coder leaves at 90% completion of the framework? (Knowing full well the remaining 10% takes another 90%) and, huh, you gotta pay salaries to the rest of your team while you find a competent PHP developer who is willing to take over the custom framework-from-hell. Let's say you're lucky and you find this guy, and I'll be nice and say you can hire him and put him in a cube in 2 months. By now, though, you're paying $100,000 for the php guy--you learned from your mistake. He takes 2 months to familiarize himself with the project, go over the code base, and learn the server setups. That's not a lot of time. 40 business days. So this adds 4 months to the schedule.

So the interim 2 months period cost you: $81,000

His 2 months ramp up period cost you: $106,000

So, realistic scenario: your website cost you $1,100,000, and takes 23 months.

And if you look around and ask people who have done this stuff, you will find that I'm not out on left field.

So at $175,000 your guy is providing the site for 15.9% of the normal cost.

Imagine if he charged you $300 an hour. That would be $750,000, and gets done in 1 year. You would still save a 350,000 dollars and have your site done a year earlier.

If the guy can deliver, he's worth 4 times what you're paying him.

Any question?

  • @Mahan. I actually don't mind paying him 100 an hour. My question was how do I ensure that I get what I asked for and what type of PHP developer should I hire for my needs?
    – user23599
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 21:04
  • 1
    @user23599 You don't. You must already know their work, know that they can do it. You must know the individual's strengths and weaknesses. Start smaller. Smaller projects, where the cost of failure will be light. Develop a working relationship. Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 21:08

I don't know the wage level where you are, but $70/h doesn't seem too bad to me. You can't compare this directly to the wage of a normal job, there is a lot of unbillable hours and little job security.

In any case, be sure to do frequent reviews where he show you what he have done and you give feedback. If the job is "done" the first time you see it there is very little chance that it's done right.

Check-list qualifications ain't worth a lot, there are lots of people out there who know a lot of different languages and frameworks (or at least claim so), it doesn't mean that they can do a good job in any of them. Years of experience doesn't guarantee anything either. So what's left to look at is the portfolio.

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