It’s become increasingly clear that a number of firms are changing their work direction to focus more on strategy as opposed to web production. This means they are tackling the first steps of planning an online campaign and working to develop recommendations on strategy without executing the actual build. Then, other companies take on the task of actually building the website. This change presents an interesting comment on changing times in the web development business.
At Agentic we develop both the strategy and the website build. For us, this is a good moment to take stock and consider just the opposite: Why do we build websites?
To answer the question, let's consider some industry trends. Web projects have gotten both cheaper at the low end and more expensive at the high end. In the middle area, where we are typically involved, projects are becoming more and more sophisticated.
One main reason why we build websites is the increasing sophistication of our clients. They are coming to the table with more complicated requests. This means that experienced developers need to be involved in the early stages of requirement building. Increasingly the kinds of requirements that we see are new or different from what we've seen before. Plus, many of our clients are coming to us with not one website, but ten or twelve. We have been increasingly working on trying to create what we call a digital ecology
. This is an important reason to not only develop the larger strategy, but to be able to smartly articulate the content and technical exchanges between all of these sites.
At Agentic, strategy is inimitably connected to production. This means that strategy must be able to be executed. Sometimes clients create strategies either by themselves or with the help of a firm that cannot be implemented for the time and budget available. It can limit strategy when wireframes are not fully realized into the needs of production builds. It is very difficult to do all of the wireframes for all of the pages. When Agentic works on a project, we understand how it will be actualized to completion. This is an important aspect of success for any web project.
The opportunity to understand strategy and implementation across a wide range of clients allows us to notice the similar ideas and features clients are requesting. This helps us develop insights in the social change sector. This type of vendor intelligence also gives us an advantage when we move to implementation because we understand the connections between a client's idea and its many potential implementations.
A number of clients are also looking for a one-stop shop. We call it the one neck to wring strategy and it seems to work. It means that clients are able to call us and work through any issues that arise. Typically a situation split between different agencies is more expensive. We also have the added incentive of being able to realize that what we suggest should be done, and can be done, which makes a huge difference. We can relate a client’s needs with what we have done already. This can save significant sums of money for the client.
Sometimes as a Drupal shop, we run the danger of having everything look like a nail to a hammer; because we are Drupal experts, every project seems to suggest Drupal to us. On the other hand, we tend to take on projects that are appropriate for Drupal. It's a bit of a self-selecting audience as many of our clients come to us directly for this expertise.
Of course we also really enjoy executing work that is done well. We have more control and ability to do this when we are involved in the build. We feel like we're making a difference when we can have the added insight of providing strategy through execution.
There are times when having an in-depth strategy is critical to large projects. These are the times when having an independent strategist that works with the client independently to a level that is beyond the typical budget and time available in most projects is appropriate. Our typical client budget is in the range of $40,000-$60,000 and this means that often the strategy is a lesser part of the build than a larger project. It continues throughout the build but isn't a large enough amount for strategy alone to conduct the kind of research that might serve the client well. We often will complete one or two focus groups or potentially a survey online. But this is a far cry from the depth and breadth of research that a strategy only firm can do when given the proper resourcing.
Overall, we are happy to be in the web development business. For now it is a business that suits us and our clients, who are always looking to understand industry trends. At this point we feel our trend of completing strategy and site-building is the winner.