One of the most challenging aspects of developing any set of resources is having a strategy.  Whether you are expanding your knowledge of coding standards or adding a member to your team; you must have a strategy.

A good indication of a poor strategy or an altogether missing one is if your job posting looks something like this:

Promising startup looking for that rockstar ninja developer that can draft wireframes, design beautiful mockups, with the ability to engage clients on all levels.  Your responsibilities will include web development, marketing, copywriting, and user interface testing.  Must have proficiencies in HTML5, CSS3, JQuery, and PHP.  Extra attention for Joomla experts and eCommerce application development experience.

Braden Kowitz at Google Ventures says: “I read ads like this all the time, and I think Great! There’s a team that understands all the skills they’ll need!  But I also think, They’re looking for a unicorn—a magical designer who can solve all their problems. It’s too bad unicorns don’t exist.”

What Braden is talking about is a hurdle that many organizations face when implementing anything new – the lack of focus or knowing what they’re really looking for.

Hunting for Unicorns

While there are resources and people out there that can solve a lot of your problems, they are in very short supply.  It is due to the limited supply of these one-stop-shop skills that you will likely not find one solution for all your needs.

You are even less likely to find one solution that is the perfect fit for your organization.  

Instead, you are better off to prioritize the key areas that you most definitely need, and start your search on a prioritized scale of must-haves to nice-to-haves.

Defining Your Need

Before meeting with potential developers, you should have an idea of what you’ll be looking for.  This may include an itemized list of skills and experience, preferred coding languages, and areas you are willing to compromise on.  An often overlooked part of this process is rating the priority for specific requirements.

Do you need a specific coding platform, or are you willing to entertain alternatives if they are presented with good reasoning?  Are there certain features of your project you need before others (e.g. a marketing plan and a website)?  Are there parts of your project that can feasibly be put off until later iterations (e.g. an interactive user forum for FAQs and Customer Service)?

Refining Your Need

It is certainly not unreasonable for your requirements to change as you go through your search.  You may have a meeting with a particular agency that presents ideas you hadn’t considered, or you may realize upon further consideration that you may not need some part of your project right away.  Your list of priorities can (and should) be organic and flexible as you narrow down your search.

Expanding Your Horizons

Similar to accepting that the requirements for a developer for your project should be an amorphous, refining list of priorities; try to keep an open mind in your search.  You may begin your search looking in one direction for a specific kind of development agency and find yourself later looking elsewhere.  Keeping yourself open to the possibility that the right fit for your organization isn’t necessarily where you’d expect opens the door to all sorts of possible solutions for your particular project.


The first step is defining what you actually need.  The reality is, the traditional method of locating the right fit for your particular project isn’t always going to work.  Allow yourself the flexibility to change your mind as you interview prospective developers.  Leave room for growth and compromise in areas you know you can afford it.

Once you have gone through the process and you have the experience of evaluating candidates, deconstructing their work experience, and reading through proposals – you’ll be well-equipped to make the best decision for your project.