In house vs. agency: which model is best for website design & development?
There are undoubtedly pro’s and con’s when it comes to in-house vs. agency marketing. Much has been written about it, but little attention has been paid to how to manage your corporate website. Which model makes the most sense for the website? Writing from experience – the in-house vs. agency model for managing your website should work symbiotically. In fact they both need to co-exist.
Why do most companies outsource web design & development?
Outsourcing website design and development will make sense for most companies large and small. Reason why? Agencies have professional staff and workflows that will help the project move along faster while getting a better end result. If you have preferences for the way you’d like your website to be built, you can find an agency that will meet your needs. When you in-house website design and development, you subject yourself to short term and long term problems.
What are the issues with in-housing web design & development?
Knowing how to hire for the right skillset
Even for agencies, it’s difficult to hire great talent without testing for a prospective employee’s skill set prior to hiring them. It could be easier done if you already have a creative director or developer in-house. But higher than average risk exists when hiring for skills that are more foreign to the company. And if the dream is to have in-house website production, it could be a costly mistake.
Bandwidth issues become huge bottlenecks in the organization
One of the primary issues with hiring in-house web designers in particular is the idea that they can be used to help each department with any design needs. This usually happens pushing any web design request into a queue with a backlog of design requests. You’re left with a slow moving design department unable to work iteratively through design concepts.
Lack of experience across a wide variety of industries and disciplines
One of the under-appreciated advantages of working with an agency is their expertise across industries. Agencies are able to creatively problem solve because of their day in and day out work across their client roster. Agencies are simply exposed to a wide variety of issues and challenges to solve for. From a design perspective, agencies also have an advantage. Designers take inspiration from their constant exposure to new projects and independent learning agencies often give them.
Reliance on key individuals to keep things alive
Your in-house design and development resources become very important players to the organization. Time away from the office or losing employees creates a scenario where projects fall behind.
Lack of work turns the department into a cost center
Unlike the examples provided above, companies that in-house web design and development often face a scenario where there is a significant lack of work for the department. At times, the web department gets created when a company realizes they need a new website. A lack of long-term planning, unforeseen budget cuts, and turnover will turn this department into a cost center. We’ve noticed that there are times where a company heavily relies on the department and times where there is no work.
What are the downsides of outsourcing web design & development?
On the other hand, there are also clear downsides to outsourcing web design and development. The primary of which is usually speed. Most companies want to be able to execute a website initiative right away. In-house resources allow you to control the production schedule to prioritize what’s important right away. Many agencies do not allow their designers or developers to interface with clients. With in-house resources, you can hold meetings, ask questions, and make decisions very quickly.
Another downside of outsourcing web design & development is the potential to feel trapped by an agency. Your agency should not be the only party that knows what’s going on with your website. If you need to move on from working with your agency, it can be very frustrating and challenging to take over the website.
Costs can get out of control if you do not have an established time & materials agreement or a fixed cost scope for projects. If you are in an engagement with an agency where they are charging hourly for the work without a monthly cap, you can quickly get into a situation where costs get out of control and you’re surprised by each invoice you receive.
The hybrid option is the best approach
Companies get the highest return on investment when there is both an external agency and an internal website manager involved. You get a blend of the expertise you’re looking for to make your website better alongside the organizational management that the website manager offers. A website manager is one of the most underrated positions on a marketing team. They bridge the gap between technical know-how and company vision for their website. A website manager will help draft requirements for a project to get the most accurate scope for a project. They also take marketing strategy and implement ways in which they can contribute to established goals through the website. You’ll get better results from your agency because they will have clear documentation from the website manager outlining what the goals for each project are. A website manager will know when to scale up work with an agency and when it’s time to dial it back depending on the circumstances. In this arrangement, agencies can be highly effective partners because they’ll have clearly defined expectations. Website managers shield all of the internal back and forth and only present the agency with the strategy for the project.
There exists a wonderful balance when you’re able to utilize in-house resources and collaborate with an external agency for the execution of website projects. There are clear pro’s and con’s when you consider working on your website with in-house resources only. When the role of an internal website manager exists, you’ll find the balance of great website management with the best execution services that you can scale up and down over time.