What should I keep in mind when working with a digital agency?

What should I keep in mind when working with a digital agency?

Renovating our new office involved a pretty extensive construction project with deadlines, budgets and a team of contractors. As the client on the project, my job was to oversee the process and to make a million small and large decisions.

I had never been involved in a construction project before and it was quite a trip. I basically felt confused and incompetent the entire time. I didn’t speak the language or truly understand the process. I asked many, many stupid questions and had to have things explained to me 2-3 times before I was able to “get it”. I lived in fear that I would make an expensive mistake.

Managing the construction of our new office increased my appreciation for our clients. Being the client is hard. By playing the role, I was able to gain a greater understanding of the stress and emotions our clients feel when working with us on web development projects.

At the Brick Factory, our clients are smart, busy people who spend their days fighting important policy battles, running successful businesses and trying to make the world a better place. Their jobs are hard and stressful, with deadlines and goals they rely on us to help them meet. While the web is critical to what they do, building websites is rarely their primary job and not all of them have a deep understanding of web development.

If web development isn’t your native language, here are some tips on working with us to make the process smoother:

Share as much information as possible.

  • The better the understanding your web development agency has about your project, the more likely they are to succeed. Share as much information about your needs and requirements as possible up-front.
  • Doing this allows your partner to understand the full scope of the project. It will save time and money, and keep things on budget.
  • We had an experience where we built most of a site before finding out that the client needed a complicated and time-intensive integration. We had already focused their resources on the priorities we knew about, so there was no way to adjust course to prevent extra costs and a delayed timeline.

Don’t be too prescriptive.

  • Take advantage of the expertise of your web development partner. Explain the problem you are trying to solve, and look to them for ideas and recommendations.
  • With some clients, the web development and maintenance process can become too task oriented. This can cause a relationship to go stale and clients don’t benefit from the best thinking of their web development partner.

Be honest about your budget and timeline.

  • A lot of clients worry that by sharing their budget, we will charge the maximum possible. We have no interest in making you overspend on your site. But in order to make appropriate recommendations, we need to know what your budget is!
  • We’ve had projects where the client didn’t provide budget or timeline information up front. We ended up coming up with solutions that were too ambitious or didn’t fit budget/timeline.
  • You can get from point A to B using a bicycle, a Honda Accord, or a Ferrari. If you know you only have the budget for a Honda Accord, share that.
  • There are many ways to solve problems. Some clients only have time for simple and cost effective solutions. If saves time to know that up-front.
  • For example, if we know you have a limited budget, we may recommend a prebuilt theme to save development time as opposed to designing a custom theme from scratch.

Ask questions.

  • We don’t know what you don’t know or what you don’t understand.
  • If you don’t understand the deliverables we produce or the language we use, let us know so we can explain.
  • We have had some experiences where we delivered wireframes or design compositions to clients who didn’t understand what the purpose of that step was. That is easy to fix if you let us know that you aren’t sure. Likewise, there is a lot of technical language used in our industry, some of our clients are used to these words and use them with ease. If that’s not you, we are more than happy to explain a term. Just ask!

Be prepared to invest time, in addition to money

  • Undertaking a web design project is a lot of work. You need to be prepared to help with content, review materials, and set up processes to get feedback from your internal stakeholders.
  • If a client falls behind in reviewing materials, it can lead to us developing features without enough feedback, leading to wasted time and money.
  • Clients should be realistic about their own time. Let us know how involved you can be so we organize the project for success from the start.