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Let’s put the word “meet” in parenthesis. When you’re signing on to work with a website design or development agency you should be able to, at the very least, speak with your developer in the same way you speak with whoever you’re speaking with on the project. If you’re working with an agency outside of your area and you speak with them via phone, the developer should be there as well. In short, the development team needs to be in-house.
You may be asking, why is this so important? If you’re doing a marketing website that really doesn’t require any programming and heavy developer lifting, honestly, it’s not. But if you’re doing an e-commerce website or any kind of complicated application the development team had best be in-house or it will be more difficult for your company in the end.
I’ve been on both sides of this. I’m not going to name names in these instances but I’m going to give you two examples differentiating an in-house team versus one that outsources.
At a former agency they outsourced all their development, front end and back end to a development company in Eastern Europe. Now, they were good. I liked them. I still communicate with several of them today. These are good developers who do their job well and as far as developers goes, I couldn’t speak higher of them. But there were drawbacks.
If your website is important to you, especially if it’s e-commerce and makes you money, you need rapid response. I could get calls at 3,4,5 PM here in Eastern Time but we wouldn’t be able to fix major issues until early the next morning because it was 9, 10, or 11 o’clock at night there. This is a scary proposition if that means hours of lost revenue.
To preface, their English was far and away better than my ability to speak their language. So the fault laid as much on me as it did with them. However, translating design changes, functionality problems, and user flow is hard enough without a breakdown in basic communication. When you add that into the mix, you could create more problems than you originally had. All this because of a language barrier that prevented you and your agency from getting the message across.
This is pretty simple – you can’t collaborate easily with an outsourced development team as an agency. It makes agile project management almost impossible, even with the advent of screen sharing and cloud applications. If the agency you’re looking at says they’re both agile and work with outsourced developers, they’re either gifted beyond belief or not being fully honest.
At Build/Create we only use in-house development for our projects. They work in the same room as a designer (who can also develop, which is a huge advantage) and a UX designer who understands development and can translate customer needs. Every day the team works as a single force to get clients what they need in the best way possible.
If you hire an agency with an in-house developer you’re able to communicate your needs in real-time. A problem doesn’t need to be re-worked, sent into a queue, and then brought to an overseas team to analyze and fix.
An agile process can work much better when you have an in-house development team. Designers and developers can tackle the same problem from their vantage point in the same room at the same time. Problems aren’t disseminated, they’re met head-on by someone vested in the company.
When you’re dealing with an outsourced developer their responsibility lies primarily with the billable hours between you and the agency you hired. There’s a layer of responsibility which can affect the urgency in which they handle matters. When you’re dealing with a company who keeps their development in-house, they have a vested interest in their company. They have to answer to their peers and bosses on deliverables. Most importantly, it’s their name on the website, not the agency who hired them.
There are a lot of good outsourced development companies in the world. I’ve worked with some great developers over the years, and some were hired guns. The point of all this is to ask your agency if they do. Ask to speak to them, meet them if you’re in house. If they can’t produce one, it doesn’t mean you need to get out of your chair and walk away on every project.
It does mean that if you’re doing a large project, consider if your business can afford to take longer to develop a project. Can you afford to wait until the next day for a response from a developer? Can your business take the time to revise things multiple times because a developer didn’t understand you? If you have that ability, that’s great, keep the conversation going! You may be able to get a discount since the agency is working with cheaper labor. But if you can’t, consider working with a company who hires locally for their development talent and makes them accessible to you!