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What to Look for in a Kentico Xperience Developer: Four Essential Traits

One of the biggest challenges for customers is hiring their own Content Management System (CMS) Developer. It is easy to hire the wrong person just because they have the right CMS platform in their work history. If you’re looking for a developer to lead your Kentico Xperience project, you probably need a broader range of skills than most people imagine. Most Hiring Managers will look for someone with prior CMS experience, .NET development skills, and modern front-end framework experience. If they are really on their game, they ensure candidates understand SOLID coding principles and software design patterns. This may help you find a fantastic Web Developer, but if you are looking for someone to provide technical leadership on an Xperience project, you need more. Here are four essential traits that are often overlooked:

Content Author Focus

Developers love to code and will tend to design solutions that enable creating elegant, beautiful code. However, in a CMS platform, the models that a developer works with are often tied to the content forms and structures that an author uses. As I shared, in my previous article, Improve Content Authoring in Kentico Xperience Using Allowed Types and Global System Events, it is easy to create solutions that make perfect sense but cause horrible author experiences. Since an author’s experience can make or break a platform’s success, you need a Developer who cares as much about the author’s experience as anything else. When looking for an Xperience Developer, listen for examples of them trying out the entire authoring experience and working hard to reduce the number of clicks required to create content. You want to hear examples of choosing to sub-optimize their code to keep the author’s experience simple. If the candidate talks about avoiding complications by having authors do more manual work, it’s a red flag. Look for a candidate who has empathy for authors.

Breadth of Platform Knowledge

More than once, I’ve seen a solution that ignored the CMS platform’s built-in capabilities and created a custom framework on top of it. This meant the project was more expensive, lacked flexibility, and was costly to maintain. It is essential to recognize that leveraging a platform requires a much different mindset than building everything from scratch. When interviewing candidates, ask for examples of using platform features to avoid writing unnecessary custom code. Explore examples of using a variety of platform capabilities, like personalization, marketing automation, and email marketing, to ensure they are familiar with a breadth of features. Watch for hints that unnecessary custom code disappoints your candidate, and look for their familiarity with the platform’s built-in frameworks.

Content Modeling

An effective content model is an important foundation for a successful CMS implementation. It enables reusing content within the site and on other marketing channels. It supports SEO optimizations like adding structured schema.org data to web pages. And it makes it much easier to ensure ADA compliance. Your CMS Developer needs to have experience using a structured-content approach – defining content types, attributes, and relationships for organizing content. This differs from embedding content directly in a page’s layout. We can flush out this kind of experience by asking candidates how they help authors maintain ADA compliance or provide SEO optimization. Ask for examples of using the same content in multiple places and multiple ways and how they balance this with keeping the author experience simple. The ideal candidate will recognize the strategic value of reusable content and a master content model while recognizing the need to keep the approach from getting too complicated.

Troubleshooting

A reliable Kentico Xperience implementation requires more than good content and good code. It requires multiple hosting environments to manage integration, testing, and releases. It requires a sophisticated network infrastructure, which often includes external services to provide enhanced caching and protection. Each one of these layers provides an opportunity for something to go wrong. Therefore, a CMS Developer needs familiarity with all layers of the solution and solid troubleshooting skills. Skilled troubleshooters can imagine the components and integration points, think about how all the layers relate to each other and validate each piece of the system through a systematic process. A great coder can struggle with troubleshooting, but it’s an important skill for maintaining your solution. So, when interviewing candidates, ask for examples with questions like “tell me your favorite troubleshooting war story” and “how about a time you figured out a mysterious root cause.” Look for a methodical process and an awareness of how all the components interact with each other. As a bonus, ask how the software could make the problem less likely or easier to find.

Closing

Every developer knows that a successful project requires more than great coding. A platform with sophisticated, built-in features like Kentico Xperience amplifies this principle. So, when looking for an Xperience developer, remember you are looking for more than a coder. You need someone with a passion for making the lives of content authors easier, loves the platform and knows its capabilities, embraces a modern, content-first approach, and is skilled at getting your system up when something goes wrong.

Does this sound like a daunting task? If so, you’re in good company. Many organizations recognize the CMS Developer role is difficult to fill. Even when they succeed, this essential person often moves on in two years. Instead of fighting this constant cycle, they utilized a reliable partner like BlueModus.

Have questions on how to get the most out of your Kentico Xperience implementation? Drop me a line on Twitter (@HeyMikeWills) or view my other articles here.

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