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I am a non-programmer that has used the services of : freelancer, odesk, etc

I've tried asking for what i need but, I can't find anyone who can show me any type of example similar to what I request in the specs for the web-programming.

They have front ends and back ends, but they don't fulfill true "live" website requirements. "live" as to be ready to support traffic, keys in hand, can be updated constantly by me, ...

How do I figure how to evaluate a programmer ?

How do I bid the appropriate price for the services ?

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I think you need to clarify your question. Are you a non-programmer attempting to hir a web-programmer? Also, I think you need to clarify what you mean by 'true "live" website requirements.' –  John Kraft Mar 17 '11 at 22:12
    
@John Kraft is that clearer ? –  0Complex Mar 17 '11 at 22:16
    
Does Live mean it has to handle the traffic of Facebook? Does Live mean the code or the infrastructure to run it as well? There are still a lot of vague bits in what you've stated that I doubt this is even close to easy to answer other than what S. Lott posted which matches you in terms of being just a few words that mean much more than what may be an initial impression. –  JB King Mar 17 '11 at 22:46
    
Don't expect cream when you're scraping the bottom of the barrel. Just sayin... –  Evan Plaice Mar 18 '11 at 12:26

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I am a non-programmer that has used the services of : freelancer, odesk, etc

There are very few really talented people on these services. Even the mediocre command salaries of $40k in the US, anyone competent earns $50k and up. The average bid on a site like Rent-A-Code [i've hired there] ends up being less then $20 an hour. You get what you pay for.

I've tried asking for what i need but, I can't find anyone who can show me any type of example similar to what I request in the specs for the web-programming.

My guess then is you don't know how to ask for what you need. You don't need to see a site that operates like one you want built in someone's work experience. You need to identify the smaller parts that make up what you want built, and see if someone has that type of experience.

Say you want a search engine built. Do you look for someone who's built a search engine? Its not likely you'll find one. Instead you might look for someone who:

  • has worked with indexing large data sets
  • understands methods to search though data sets without exact matches
  • has experience with large databases

Even though a person has never built a search engine, these attributes will help them greatly (this is a very contrived example, and I'm listing limited points).

They have front ends and back ends, but they don't fulfill true "live" website requirements. "live" as to be ready to support traffic, keys in hand, can be updated constantly by me, ...

You're very unclear here. Building a site that will scale to high traffic is as much (more?) the job of your sys admin as your programmer. Not to mention your hardware. Allowing a site to be updated by the owner is the basis of any CMS, look for a programmer who has developed one ... you can swing a cat and hit a half dozen.

And finally, perhaps you're not budgeting well for your project. I've found on these commodity-programmer sites that people will bid whatever your declared price range is, even if its completely unreasonable to do so. In the end nobody is really happy. On the off chance you get a product that meets your immediate needs, be ready for the shock of your life when you want things added or changed.

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How do I figure how to evaluate a programmer ?

How do you figure how to evaluate an automobile mechanic? A plumber? A doctor?

It's the same.

Trust. Experience. Skills.

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Very vague reply. My last mechanic cost me 300$ in useless repairs, a well "experienced" and well referred mechanic. No way to recuperate the cash spent on that good advice. –  0Complex Mar 17 '11 at 22:36
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@0Complex: There's no magical secret for judging programmers, either. If there was, it would be applied widely, and we'd all have stripes on our sleeves to indicate our ranks. Sadly, humanity is not as easy to categorize as gravel or potatoes. –  S.Lott Mar 18 '11 at 0:14
    
@0Complex: What did you learn from your mechanic story? You learned that you should not trust a large job without knowing more about the mechanic or the job itself. So, you should (1) break a big job into small pieces and (2) plan to change mechanics if one doesn't work out. If that's true for auto mechanics, it's just as true for software developers. –  S.Lott Mar 18 '11 at 9:55

I find that in my consulting work, most are evaluating me by referrals that I can provide or by my portfolio of previous projects (not all programming related). Similarly, when looking at contracting out a programming project you will want to ensure that the individual (or company) has a portfolio of work similar enough in nature to yours that you can evaluate their likelyhood of being able to complete the project satisfactorily. If for some reason a portfolio isn't available (and honestly this happens a lot due to confidentiality agreements) any seasoned developer should have a few prior clients on hand that they can use as referrals.

If you have rather specific requirements, it is unlikely that you'll find a turn-key solution, and as such will have to rely on prior business relationships that a developer has built to reassure you that they can perform.

As a note: I think that S.Lott has it pretty much right (though perhaps a bit on the terse side). As good practice, you should interview your Dr. and ask for referrals...I drive a specialty car, and as such, only go to mechanics with a solid reputation for my type of vechile...when looking for an accountant I certainly discussed them with my colleagues...the same applies in this case. Reputation and history count a lot when investigating any potential business interest or partnership. As you noted, you'd lost out on a poor referral (or perhaps a problem outside the scope of his expertise). It is nearly impossible to gaurantee that an individual can complete a job.

If this is a major issue, hedge against it. Bonds, insurance and other hedging principles can reduce the loss involved in something "just not working right" with the relationship.

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You first need to figure out what you want to do. Spend a couple of weeks mapping out the sequence of steps that you would like the Web site to follow as user interact with your system. If you cannot carry each branch to a logical conclusion, you don't know what you want and you will spend most of you money deciding.

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