When looking for a digital development agency, the most important concern is about the quality of work and time-to-market rather than the cost of development.
The development process itself is a nontrivial effort, and you want to be sure that your effort is not wasted and that your project is delivered on time.
One of the primary concerns should be to make sure you check the technology stacks that your chosen agency is really familiar with. The reason for this is that you want to give your project the best chance of success, so if you can remove a learning curve from the equatiation you are more likely to succeed.
The technology stack may also give you a clue about the technical competency of your agency, if their own website and all of their client websites use WordPress and pre-made templates that you may want to back away.
Experience with Laravel, Symfony, Ruby on Rails are all more indicative of an agency that is in the loop with an in-depth project and will likely have the right tools, experience and expertise to deliver difficult solutions confidently.
If you are instead looking for a corporate site with a few features you may find that most agencies are perfectly comfortable to deliver this and the extra expertise would only go to waste in this situation.
Make sure your agency is capable of developing mobile applications for multiple platforms, the reason for this is two fold.
First you would like to make sure they are truly capable as developers and secondly the need for mobile apps as part of a complete solution has rapidly become the status quo. Additionally depending on your industry mobile apps may be an expectation such as honouring loyalty schemes through purchases and QR codes.
Secondly you may not yet know where a mobile app fits into your strategy but a development agency will be able to provide you with information and a strategy that would accelerate your ahead of your competitors through better technology.
You should be asking your potential agency what role AI plays in their process. While AI is not ready to overthrow humans yet, it’s certainly able to aid various parts of the agency process, if you want to ensure you are on the cutting edge then your agency also needs to be right there with you.
An example of how we use AI is to assist in creating content, in fact the idea for this article you are reading was suggested by our AI solution as was the structure of this entire article, additionally the words and concepts for most sections. We use AI to scaffold our content, then we edit it to make sure what is said is both true and exactly how we as an agency would deliver it.
We also use AI to create example content for our customers so they can better visualise their new websites and have a stub of content to start creating their own content from.
Depending on when you are reading this article, either this is a cutting edge idea that other agencies are not implementing yet, or if it’s 2050 onwards it’s rather mundane. But regardless of when you read this, we will always be at the cutting edge of technology for that time period.
The ability to deliver digital marketing is less important when it comes to choosing a development agency, rather it is a nice-to-have that means you don’t have to find a secondary agency to provide marketing services, however if you find a great development agency that do not have their own marketing capabilities that’s okay, make sure you get the right product first.
Generally you will find many more development-focused agencies that can provide a great marketing service, as opposed to marketing-focused agencies that can also extend into development. As a pretty general rule development is harder than marketing to get right which is why this problem exists and matters. Make sure your agency is technology-first not marketing-first.
The idea of perfectionism or attention to detail is especially important in development, you ideally want the people who slightly overthink problems to come up with edge cases as this leads to a more robust and reliable solution. If the developed solution is what you will depend on for a major part of your revenue stream then it needs to be great which requires great developers.
Experience is key, but it’s actually not about the experience of the development agency itself, an agency may have existed for a long time without even having the development arm of their business until recently.
Ideally you should be looking at the developers that are within the company and what their experience is. Developers are generally less motivated by salary and more motivated by the kind work and level of challenge they get to take part in.
A development agency that is able to attract and retain experienced developers at the top of their careers is doing something right in the process to maintain that. Conversely a development agency that is made up of only very junior, or intermediate level developers with short service to the company should raise a few red flags for you.
Another area to judge experience is to look at the Founders, CEO or MD. Do they come from a development background? This is probably less important as good leaders are defined by many other qualities, however if you find an experienced developer that has successfully started their own development agency then hold onto that unicorn!
The cost of development can be astronomical, the reason for this is multi faceted:
Between the sheer number of man-hours that must be put in, followed by the rate it's paid at and supporting costs have potential to add up to a significant sum. Even fairly simple applications can cost in the region of tens-of-thousands.
Before you approach a development agency you need to make sure that you have access to funding from a source that is familiar with turning development projects into a success. This can be either funds from your own company if you have experience in this, angel investors or venture capitalists who have the right background to understand the pricing and long term strategy.
Costs will vary from one agency to another but generally will be in the same ballpark. If you have one agency that has a significantly lower price it’s very likely they haven’t understood some of the requirements or don’t have the experience to deliver.
Conversely if one agency has overpriced significantly it is worth asking why to work out if they caught something that no one else has or if they provide extra guarantees in their services.