Is Your Web Development Contractor ACTUALLY Agile?

What is Agile web development?


Some common terms/phrases used to define agile development: Extreme web development. Collaborative. Scrum. Lean. Feature-driven development. Streamline development. All these methodologies work together to revolutionize the way web developers work. Used In a team environment, it helps push websites toward completion with a fast turnaround and satisfied clients.


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While Agile web development offers a new way of thinking about web development for teams, its fundamental approach is a mindset, not a process. In our modern “gig economy” with  freelancers and contractors, how can you tell if your web development contractor is ACTUALLY Agile before hiring?


Agile's fundamental approach is a mindset, not a process.


Agile Experience


First, dive into experience. When a reviewing a developer’s portfolio, ask the following questions:


Timing – Has the Agile approach resulted in a faster time to project completion on your website projects?


A 2013 Agile Survey reports that 73% of respondents believe that an agile approach reduces completion time on a project. If a web development contractor has been part of a successful agile team, they will rave about faster project delivery times and sprints.


If they haven’t been part of an agile team but they have a strong desire to join the agile revolution, they should at least mention the drawbacks of a waterfall approach and how the agile approach gives them an advantage to deliver a better website.


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Project Types – Have they worked on Agile Scrum or Agile Kanban projects?


Agile Scrum


If a web developer has experience with the Agile Scrum approach, they should be able to discuss how stories were chosen for sprints. They should also be able to identify team communication and transparency tools.


Agile Scrum can lead to problems if web developers don’t like to talk with team members. If an Agile web developer identifies with the Agile Scrum method, ask about their communication style with the client or owner.


Agile Scrum won’t work for every website project. An experienced agile web developer will know this and can identify the circumstances or scenarios where it is best to go with another approach.



Agile Kanban


Agile Kanban is less structured than Scrum and works best for simple projects. An experienced Agile web developer knows that simple landing page projects or sites that don’t require much design guidance and input are best for Kanban.


Agile Kanban is unique in that it does not require a leader or someone to set priorities. If a web developer has never worked in an Agile Kanban environment, they can become overwhelmed quickly and fall short of expectations due to lack of guidance and direction.




Before the Agile Manifesto was created in 2001, software developers used a Waterfall approach that transferred over to the website development community. An experienced agile web developer contractor will not only know about Waterfall, but they will also have experience using it, and they will be able to explain when and why it’s not suited for certain website projects.


The Waterfall approach works best for projects that have a high-level of financial scrutiny and need stakeholder approval at each stage. An agile web developer contractor is usually relieved to work within an agile environment because it provides flexibility, a level of independence and expediency that is not possible with Waterfall.


Agile Terminology


If a web development contractor is still using GoToMeeting to go over client preferences and information architecture planning on a weekly basis, it’s possible they are not as agile as they claim to be.


Agile web development is faster because it eliminates the time-consuming back-and-forth planning that involves wireframe approval, architecture planning, etc. You’ll never hear an experienced agile web developer say, “Those weekly client meetings via GoToMeeting were very helpful in moving the website project forward!”


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Agile Web Developer Tools


After the experience questions, start asking about tools. Tool knowledge will not only give you insight into a developer’s level of agile experience, but it will tell you whether the developer has worked with Startups or Enterprise brands.


Agile tools are sometimes specific to Kanban or Scrum; make a note of the contractor’s experience levels and the tools they mention to make sure they line up.


Atlassian JIRA

Large-scale projects that involve many team members at the enterprise level utilize Atlassian JIRA Core to bring organized processes and team collaboration together, quickly. JIRA Agile supports all types of agile methodologies, making it a leading tool of choice among agile web developers. Atlassian offers the largest number of agile tools under one brand, including Trello, HipChat, Bitbucket, and more.




Axosoft is primarily used as a Scrum tool for large-scale projects. A primary competitor to JIRA, agile teams love the customer portal.




Git is a code organization tool when more than one developer is involved on a project. Instead of requiring all team members to work in the same frames, Git allows developers the flexibility to proceed in their own way and merge their code at a later date.




easyBacklog is easy and fast to set up; users can create themes for stories and sprints in minutes. A favorite among lean start-ups, easyBacklog is an agile team favorite.


Pivotal Tracker


Pivotal Tracker was designed specifically for agile web and mobile developers. Created by a consultancy firm on software development, Pivotal Labs, Pivotal Tracker offers integrations with JIRA, bug trackers, and more.




If Trello falls short on Agile Kanban, developers are likely to use SprintGround for the priority-level framework and communication necessary for enterprise level projects.




A HipChat competitor, Slack is the communication tool of choice for agile teams of all sizes and scope. Users can organize messages into channels, teams, and projects. Channels house all phone calls and communications, making it easy to check in on the latest project changes and updates.


Final Notes


When interviewing a contractor for your next agile web development project, keep these questions in mind for your top picks:


  • If a fast website launch is necessary, what would you do to increase speed, testing, and user experience?
    • Answers should include some of the following terms and topics: Continuous deployment, responsive prototypes, quick feedback.
  • What’s the first step of planning in an agile web development project?
    • Answers will include topics like User Journey Map, Roadmapping, Sprint Planning
  • Have you ever worked within a DevOps culture?
    • If a developer has experience working within an agile environment, DevOps is the next logical step. Even if a DevOps culture hasn’t been identified or defined, most agile web developers know that improving DevOps will enable agile teams to achieve a level of productivity that eliminates dependencies and continuous testing.


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As agile developers work, they focus on instant feedback and implement changes in real time to ensure clients are happy with the launch. There’s a focus on cross-functional project teams with the delivery of a positive end-user experience.


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Agile web developers not only believe that successfully launching a website with a fast turnaround is possible, but they’ve also done it, successfully, and with enthusiasm.  Agile web developers look forward to seeing and supporting workflow solutions and collaborative tools that will allow even more flexibility in the development process and shortened fixed-schedule timeframes while implementing the latest lean practices.


Khuram Zaman

Khuram Zaman is the CEO of Fifth Tribe, a leading digital agency serving the Washington DC Metropolitan Area based out of the 1776 Startup Co-working Space. In his professional capacity, he has provided digital marketing services to clients as diverse as the Department of Defense, Kaiser Permanente, Oxfam America, Ernst and Young, and The Hult Prize. His writing has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, and Business2Community. Khuram is the host of the Campfire: Impact and Innovation live podcast on Youtube. In his free-time, Khuram serves as a mentor to startups through the Peace Tech Accelerator, the Halycon Incubator, and is also a Entrepreneur in Residence at Georgetown University