So you need something that's more than just a website — it's a web system. It'll involve lots of third party system integrations, ongoing web marketing programs and sensitive data in need of retention.
Sounds like you need a solid agency partner to help out – but where do you start? Where do you find the right agency? How do you go about assessing their capabilities?
Here are a few tips to get you started.
First things first – decide what is most important to you. Is it quality, speed, risk reduction, cost, results? Being honest with yourself about your goals will be key to finding a web partner best suited to meet those expectations. You will find each web firm is very different.
For example, at Integrity we design and develop websites, mobile apps and web applications like many other national web consultancies, but our approach is 100 percent user centric. We identify and design the optimal user experience and work backwards to the technology needed to support it. Everything must bow to the user. Other firms will build their projects around different value structures, and that’s OK, just be sure you know what each team values so you know what to expect from them during the project.
Once you have defined your goals, budgets and timelines, you are ready to find a partner to turn your ideas into reality…but what's next?
How do you find a web agency? Well … how do you find a contractor to fix your house? It’s a service, after all – albeit a complex and risky one.
You can start by asking your friends who recently did something similar. Who did they use? Did the project turn out well and stay in budget and timeline? How did the agency manage change? Would your friends use them again? Why or why not?
No friends to call? No problem. Let's do some research and create a list of possible options. As with most things, Google is your first stop – especially when looking for web companies. Try searching for the kind of work you need help with (ie. "web product development," "custom web development" or "mobile application design") and note anyone who seems competent, is aligned with your goals, has strong design and demonstrates a focus on completing projects like yours.
With any service, don’t underestimate the power of proximity. While it's true your web team could be located anywhere in the world, it's best to find a local team that you can easily visit in person. Miscommunication is a huge project risk and nothing beats a face-to-face discussion. Working across great distances (especially offshore) can mean risking a complete misunderstanding of your consumer and market.
No one knows what a Midwestern American will find useful in a product better than a Midwesterner —sorry Ukraine!
“Wow, these agency websites look really fancy,” you say. “Surely they are all competent teams of professionals who can help me with my project. Right?”
Anyone can look the part, but few can deliver on the promise. This kind of work has never been more complicated and you need corporate experience and talented individuals with a track record of success to make your project happen.
So, how can you tell?
The first step is to pick up the phone and talk to them. Try to get a sense of their personality and approach. Do they seem like they would be enjoyable to work with? How many employees do they have? Do they outsource their work or do it internally? Have they done this before? What technologies do they specialize in? What type of work don’t they do?
While this initial call won't qualify an agency to do the work, it will disqualify quite a few.
Now that you've collected some great information, let's do some fact checking. Go to LinkedIn and find their company listing. How many employees do they “really” have? What kind of experience do these employees list? If an agency said they have 20 employees and do all their mobile work internally, but LinkedIn shows only three account managers and no programmers, you know they are just a sales organization that outsources the work, and that they're not being honest with you.
Hopefully you have found a few companies that are what they profess to be. At this point, go see their offices. Meet the team and shake their hands. Ask to speak with the specific individuals who would support your account if you hired them. Do you like those individuals? Remember, the sales person disappears once the ink on the contract dries. Make darn sure you like and have confidence in the people who will be doing the actual work.
Lastly, ask for references from clients who had similar projects. Call them up and see how their projects went. What do they feel the agency’s greatest strengths and weaknesses are? How do they manage projects and control change? Did anything go wrong? How did the agency handle it? Would this client use them again? Why or why not?
Like most things in life, it's impossible to eliminate all risk from every project, but if you do your homework you can stack the deck in your favor before the game begins.
Are we on your list of possible agencies? Give us a call and let's talk about how we can become your first choice.
Ed Morrissey, Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Integrity, will lead a breakout session at the upcoming ScalePoint on AI Conference hosted by TechSTL.
Integrity is excited to welcome Evan Kelly as our newest Technical SEO Consultant.