Choosing a new website development partner. It's one of the most difficult decisions an organisations can make.
Your partner needs to be rock solid on technology and design. This is a given. But what about SEO, responsive design and e-commerce? And do they inspire and excite you? Do you go for a one man band, a small, mid or large team? These are the people who can help transform your organisation.
I've heard a number of horror stories from charities that have spent £thousands on a website and the project has either run months late or £thousands over budget + they don't get the ongoing support they require after launch.
I believe this is down to the organisation choosing the wrong partner.
The challenge in-house and agency teams share is that we all have peaks and troughs of knowledge. We're feeling the pressure in-house, as expectations from digital are so high. People look to us if our rankings aren't high enough. People look to us if conversions aren't hitting the mark. People expect our name to be across social media 24/7/365.
While the in-house team can say 'we don't know', we expect the agency team to have all the answers. So creating a clear idea of what your digital expectations are for the agency is therefore essential.
The simplest way of doing this is to create a five year roadmap of what you want the site and your development partner to help you with. What features and tools do you want to add? How does your organisation plan to use social media over the coming years? Do you want to integrate your database and CRM with your website?
Your plans are likely to change (technology certainly will), but you need a plan, so your expectations are clear internally and to the agency.
Does agency size matter?
The challenge you face working with a smaller agency is that you are exposed if the technology goes wrong and the agency doesn’t have the knowledge or skillsets to fix it. or what happens if a key person is sick or leaves. What's the agency plan for cover?
You will see a huge difference in costs when you speak to the different sized agencies. A small agency can create a good small micro site for £5k, but when you start exploring larger projects with more established larger agencies, numbers of around £80k are easy to throw around. And that's at the lower end!
For me, it is much more than whether the cost and tech expertise match your needs. You need to find an agency that will help you strategically now and in the future. They need to have the right cultural fit, as web build projects should be collaborative with team members across your organisation.
What I believe you should be looking for from an agency:
• Established design and technology expertise
• A team large enough to offer cover if people are on holiday
• Guarantees/warranties if technology goes wrong
• Clear SEO understanding
• Local, so face to face meetings are possible
• Strategic partnership for the years ahead + a cultural fit
• Manageable annual running costs for hosting and software updates
• Open Source technology, so you have the option of working with different developers + escape the sometimes hefty licence fees