The freelance developer didn’t ask “why”.
You have a great idea. You have an audience that loves what you do for them. All you need now is for your web site to connect the people with your idea.
You’re not a software developer, however. So you go out and look around for someone who can put together all the technology. You find someone who says they can do the job. His name is Lucas.
Lucas’s hourly rate is a little pricey, probably what you would pay a plumber or electrician to come to your house on a weekend, but you’re OK with that. After all, they are going to bring your dreams to life. You know that when the project is done, you’ll make a lot more money back. Hopefully.
After a couple of phone calls and a meeting at the coffee shop, you show them your sketches and designs for your idea. Lucas nods appreciatively, murmuring about frameworks and hosting options.
You ask Lucas how long it would take and he says “a couple of weeks”. You want to know, of course, what this means for your budget.
This is the big moment. You do the math. It’s almost $10,000, half of that up front. You suck in your breath. But what choice do you have? You really need this to get done as quickly as possible.
You shake hands with Lucas. The deal is done. The question is, what did you just buy?
Think back to when you agreed to hire that developer who was going to make your dreams come true.
Did your freelance developer ask “why” questions?
The best “why” questions are the one that ask about the flow of money. A developer should ask things like “Why do you want this feature?” and “Why does that make you money?” and “Why would this help your business?”.
Why should they ask “why” questions? What’s the big deal?
- If they don’t ask why, they cannot understand the problem or pain you are trying to solve.
- If they don’t understand the problem they will make a lot of bad assumptions.
- Bad assumptions will lead to a “solution” that is inadequate – it won’t solve the real problem or it will be awkward and troublesome to use.
- Fixing this will require several course corrections. You will explain how things are not right. The developer will go back to work.
- Each cycle of adjustment and application takes time (and costs you more money).
You are not just hiring someone who can write software. You are also hiring someone who can apply their experience and intelligence to produce a business solution. When a developer doesn’t ask “why” they can’t possibly understand everything they need to know to create the best solution. They have to guess.
Not asking “why” will lead to a more expensive, awkward, or wrong solution.
It’s much cheaper to fix problems earlier in the development process than after the code has been delivered.
There’s another benefit to asking “why” questions. These questions force you to explain your thinking about the problem.
Have you ever been in the middle of explaining a tough problem to a friend? Suddenly in mid sentence a fantastic solution jumps into your mind. Without the discussion about the “why” you miss out on these moment of epiphany.
“Why” questions help you discover better solutions.
It’s possible that the developer you hired is a good one. They might deliver a good solution, on time and on budget. Not asking “why” questions might indicate inexperience and not necessarily incompetence.
If your developer doesn’t ask these questions then it might be a sign of trouble.
There are more signs that you can use to determine if the the choice you made was a mistake. This is just the tip of the iceberg.