This is one of those awkward articles that end up sounding like special pleading. I can’t really blame anyone who reads what follows and concludes “he would say that, wouldn’t he?” or variations on that theme.
But nevertheless, at Kooba we regularly deal with the fallout from organisations choosing the wrong agency, or no agency at all, to build a digital presence for their business. As a result we get a first hand view as to what can go wrong when that happens. So here is a brief look at precisely why you should employ an agency - and specifically a digital agency - to build a website.
The Value Added By An Agency
One natural alternative to using an agency would be hiring an individual, or indeed a team, to work on your site.
I’m going to be fair and honest here: if you are a large organisation with a strong HR team and functional management procedures, hiring a team can work. I am not going to pretend otherwise. But unless there are at least half a dozen people in that team then you are liable to walk into problems.
The reason for that is relatively straightforward. “Building a website” is not a job, but rather the end result of a number of inputs that come from radically different places and indeed sometimes compete and conflict with each other. Those inputs include, but are most definitely not limited to:
- User experience design - the process of defining common tasks and designing to support them
- Information architecture - the process of structuring information to support users in finding what they need
- Visual design - building an online look and feel that works for the brand and the business objectives
- Digital marketing - thinking clearly about how any online design integrates with current go-to-market efforts
- Responsive development - building the site in a way that supports all devices, enables updates to be performed quickly and easily, but controls what needs to be controlled to combat ‘website entropy’
It is, naturally, extremely rare to find these skills all highly developed in one person, or even two or three people. So an individual employee or internal team is unlikely to bring the depth of skills to the table that an agency can. As a result, the final site will be that much poorer - we regularly see sites that have clearly been produced by an individual talented in one of these areas but without the necessary skills in the others - and as a result they don’t function as they should.
So as I say, unless you have a particularly large team, building in house is unlikely to work. And of course if you do have a large team, you are incurring all the cost that involves and doing so in an inflexible way. In some cases you’ll be employing people full time and have nothing meaningful to give them…
Why A Focus On Digital Development Counts
You’ve decided to use an agency to build your site - but which kind of agency? Does it matter? Yes it does.
First, a little background. The world is full of agencies of one type or another, and as sure as night follows day those agencies will always have an eye on any form of activity, and particularly any activity ‘adjacent’ to what they already do, that is typically outsourced by another business. It’s all revenue after all.
That’s why we see brand agencies offering to build websites. Or SEO agencies, or even PR agencies.
It’s their right to go after the business, but it is your right to question what sort of value you will get from them. Firstly, you should be aware that in many cases they won’t do the work at all. Particularly when they are far from their own skill set, they may simply find someone else to do the work, apply a mark up and pass the bill on to you. Make sure that doesn’t happen.
But in addition, we should also be aware that they simply may not have the relevant skills to manage a web project effectively. In particular, they may have a partial view - informed by their day job - that actively prevents you getting the best result possible.
Consider, for example, the brand agency. These organisations develop brand values and corresponding visual identities for their customers. And in most cases they are happy to bring that identity online - ie build a website.
But when they do so, what are their goals? How do they define success? All too frequently they are going to prioritise presenting the brand as effectively as possible online. They won’t even do this deliberately, it is simply in their nature to think in those terms. If it makes the brand look good, it must be the right solution.
This, of course, misses the whole point (or most of the point) of successful web design. Ultimately your goals are likely to be commercial. Number of new inbound leads. Total traffic. Total number of sign-ups, or total revenue. And whilst making the brand look good may be part of that, it most certainly isn’t the whole story.
In contrast to the brand agency, the dedicated digital agency is attuned to the particular needs of any organisation doing business online. And they have worked with dozens of those companies (or even hundreds) before. Getting things right online is the only thing they care about, and they bring no ulterior motive to the process. You are simply more likely to get the solution that is right for you, and that delivers on your business objectives.
Aside from anything else, a key role of the agency is to challenge opinion and provide guidance - and if necessary help unblock internal conflicts. A digital agency has the knowledge - both of processes, best practices and new technologies - to help do this. Another agency, be it SEO, PR, brand or advertising, simply does not.
So when considering your options, think agency first, digital agency second. And yes, I would say that.