Could you share any statistics or metrics from this engagement?
Hidden Brains produced exactly what I was looking for, down to the letter. It hasn't been released on the market yet, so I have no user metrics.
I can say that the bug count during the development phase has been better than the average output I've encountered from other developers.
How did Hidden Brains perform from a project management standpoint?
There seems to be something missing in the working method of most developers. They tend to trust their code more than they should, which leads to lack of rigorous testing. This sometimes created delays, due to having to send the work back.
Another issue I've encountered is lack of information from the developers. They might create a log-in, but not send the data for it every time, or they might create a new feature and not explain how it ties in with other features connected to it. Projects are not documented in a way that would help a non-developer save time and not have to figure things out for themselves. This is something I've told Hidden Brains: they should consider employing someone to go through their work orders, compare that information to the outcome, and create documentation stating how features work. This kind of approach would elevate any developer's quality of output.
What distinguishes Hidden Brains from other providers?
I've operated websites since 2006. Back then, they were simpler, of course. I've worked with a few developers for them. I had the opportunity to hire someone from India in 2010, but didn't do it because I perceived a lack of accountability on their part (both in charging me for incomplete work and fixing issues that could come up), and the time differences could be difficult to work with. It was a leap of trust for me to work with someone that far away.
The current site was brand-new, and wasn't worth anything before I had it built. I was able to take a chance with it, and I'm overall happy that I did. First of all, I was able to save a lot of money. Secondly, the outcome was generally less problematic than normal in terms of bugs found.
I worked with one developer from Hidden Brains. They didn't hand me off to whoever was cheaper, which is a real possibility with other firms. I also worked with the same coordinator. She sent work orders out to the developer and to the designer. There was good continuity in terms of how they communicate. There was one person I could go to, whether I needed to add something new, needed to check the work being done, or wanted to do some design work.
Is there anything Hidden Brains could have improved or done differently?
Even though they charged very little for what they did, I would have preferred the development hours spent to have been better accounted for. They communicated tasks in terms of something taking 2-3 days and costing $400. I have enough knowledge about programming to know that no task takes that long. Working an 8-hour day, you can achieve a lot. Again, they charged me $400 for a particular feature that I knew would cost me thousands locally, so I couldn't complain.
If they really wanted to up their accountability, they could use freelancing services that actually show screenshots of the person working, along with time stamps. Even though a good programmer could circumvent that easily, it would give the person paying the bill some sense of value for their money.