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What to Look for in a Web Agency

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This article was written to help you feel comfortable in approaching and evaluating software agencies for your next web application project.

Websites are invaluable to your company’s image and, potentially, the entire business. Finding the right partner to help you conceive and build out your website can be daunting as there are major consequences for choosing the wrong one.

How can you tell a good agency from a less than stellar one? What exactly am I looking for? How do I explain what I want and/or need?

It’s rare a client comes to us knowing exactly what they need, so rest assured, part of the process is for the agency to understand the problem and assist you in determining the appropriate steps and provide options.

For complicated projects, one of the options may be a more thorough discovery. That is, a dedicated effort to work with you to uncover every detail available in order to conceive a well planned solution. While it may cost a little more up front, it can save a lot by reducing the unknowns which could be costly diversions when discovered later, after the project is well underway.

Hourly Rates can be Apples and Oranges

If you’re using hourly pricing as a factor in your decision, it’s important to consider factors including:

  • What time is billed? (Development, project management)
  • What is the experience level of the development team?

In the examples below, the agencies with the more expensive rates are very likely to cost less in the end for a variety of reasons including the way project management is billed and experience reducing the time it takes to produce a proper solution.

Examples:

Agency #1: $175/hr

  • Free project managment
  • Uses exclusively senior level developers

Agency #2: $130/hr

  • Project management is billed at the hourly rate
  • Uses developers from interns to senior level developers

Agency #3: $100/hr

  • Project management is billed at the hourly rate
  • Uses an over seas 3rd party for development

Interview the Agency

With the understanding that the best agencies can help you determine what your requirements and an hourly rates don’t determine final cost, you can focus on interviewing the agency.

After the initial contact, request a meeting where you will be able to ask questions about the company and their process.

Here are a few that should give you a pretty good idea of how they operate and either reassure you that they may be a good partner, or set off the red flags.

Is development done in house?

As with anything, there are exceptions, but you should scrutinize any situation where the agency you are working with is using a 3rd party for any of the development.

I’m not referring to remote employees or contractors who are managed by the agency, rather a situation where the agency you are working with is a proxy to a 3rd party development company.

Ever played telephone? There is too much risk for failure due to requirements being misinterpreted when the agency you are working with is not handling the technical planning, architecture, and development.

What is your discovery and project management process?

Discovery is the process in which the agency learns about and uncovers all the detail required to adequately plan the project.

Project management the planning, management, and communication processes involved from start to finish.

While different agencies may have very different styles, the processes should be well defined and easily articulated.

Have you worked on projects similar to ours?

Even if they haven’t worked on a project exactly like yours, this is still a great way to learn about their experience.

An experienced agency should have worked with sites that have at least some features in common with your project.

Ask about the biggest challenges of the project being discussed. It will probably be unexpected and could lead to a candid response. Hearing about bumps in the road and how they were overcome are a good thing.

Ask for References

Asking for references sounds easy enough, but it can be awkward to initiate contact. It is important though. Make the calls!

You will gain a more candid insight into the company’s process than you would otherwise.

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We love learning about potential projects.

Give us a call! We might just be a perfect fit.

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