Friday, 29 July 2011

Good things come in small packages

The world of online services is supported by big companies, small offices and freelance operations all over the world. Some with outrageous claims of result guarantees and some with outrageous price tags. So how do you know what your best value for money is going to be?

Well when it comes to website or online application development, bigger isn't necessarily better, and a one-man-show is often unlikely to offer a tailored solution. There is a point at which a web development agency is too small to accommodate a wide variety of clients or solutions, and there's also a point at which your project is too insignificant or time consuming for a profit-driven large agency to focus on your individual needs and work out a custom solution that's not only cost efficient for you but also pushes the envelope beyond a run-of-the-mill product.

In online services, a large agency would probably be classified as one with over 30 staff, but some would argue that 20 employees is larger than 80% of the industry in the western world. Here's a list of areas where they fall short.

Problems with working with a large web development agency:
  • You're paying for their million-dollar office building, latest fancy mac laptops, lavish Christmas party and the owners new yacht. Most employees are paid about the same across the industry, so all that higher premium you're paying is doing little more than lining some investors new pool.
  • They're hamstrung by their bottom-line profit-driven pre-made model that most of the time you'll end up with something that fits into their existing framework.
  • Usually, lots of people are working on the same project which causes problems with missed detail, non-linking of information. Each developer has their own way of building things, and the seams often show at the end.
  • The impressive portfolio is loaded with work that was done by people that no longer work there. Often work is done in collaboration with another large agency so it's hard to know who did what.
  • Your personal desires and attention to detail is often overlooked in light of a deadline and final invoice. Since you're just one of thousands of clients they need to do work for, the quicker you're out the door the quicker they can move onto the next project.
On the other hand, the freelance market is quite a mixed bag of goodies. Like Forrest Gump suggested, You never really know what you're going to get. Sometimes you happen to find a jaded genius who branched out on their own, bust mostly you're finding amateurs that over-promise and under-deliver.

Although the rates they offer are often a fraction of the cost of structured business (due to little or no overhead costs), you're also taking a lot more risk and there's very little you can do if things don;t go the way you thought they would.

Problems working with a freelance web designer/developer (or your next door neighbours kid)
  • Since most of them working from home, it means you usually don't have an office you can drop in to if you need or want to.
  • Legal liability is limited to their personal possessions, and very few freelancers have any kind of professional insurance.
  • Most one-man shows rely on contracted partnerships with other freelancers or agencies meaning that you're not only relying on the freelancer working for you, but their relationship with their contractors.
  • Regardless of what they tell you, very few (we're talking less than 1%) freelancers are good at design AND development. They usually have a strength in one and have passable skills in the other. This means you end up with a good front end or back end, but rarely both (unless the contract to someone who does the other half).
Efficiencies of a small agency

A small web development agency is really the prime place to be in this industry. You have the personnel to create new, dynamic, custom and exciting products for each client, and not rigid enough that you can't change your best practices as needed and improvements across the business happen very quickly.

Clients get to know the people working on their project, so there's a personal service, and chances are high that they will be doing everything they can to make you a satisfied customer (since there's not always another 10 jobs ready move on to like in a large business).

At Digerati, we hand-select staff that are not only experts at what they do, but also love what they do. We hire passionate people that are going to throw themselves 110% into each project, looking for ways to squeeze in a small detail that nobody may notice or take the extra 20 minutes to make something more seamless to the user.

Talk to us today about how we can build a website with you.