There are several aspects to consider before deciding which is better for you; hiring a web design agency or creating your own team. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. In this article we hope to answer some of your questions.
As a small business owner, you probably already have a working website that presents your company to the world. Most probably, like many start-ups working on a budget, you designed it yourself or had a friend help you set it up, but now the time has come that your needs exceed your web mastering skills and you don’t have the time to update it.
When your business grows to a higher level, your website needs to perform at a higher level. You will need professionals with the skills that can develop a website that performs well, communicates your brand and that is easily found by customers.
An External Web Agency Vs. An Internal Web Team
There is no right or wrong answer. Each business owner has to decide what works best for them. When hiring a web agency or creating your own team, the roles and responsibilities of each team member are the same but there are pros and cons of working with internal and external teams.
Working with an agency
- An agency already has a team that works well together, no need to manage interviews, employment contracts, pay-checks and vacation days.
- An agency is already set-up. They’ve got the software, the equipment, the training and they are up to date on the latest trends, technology and training.
- They have experience working on several projects and can quickly find solutions to fit your needs.
- Being external, they can see your brand from the customer’s point of view and be objective when making decisions about how to communicate your concept.
- For business owners that want “the bottom line”, delegating the design and development to an agency relieves a lot of pressure, leaving you time to run your business.
- Agency fees are usually clear cut; you will get a quote for your project and be billed a monthly maintenance fee. Any add-ons or additional services are usually quoted in advance.
- An agency has many clients and you may not be the most important one. Unless the agency has a fulltime support team, getting things done may take longer than desired.
- For business owners that want to “be in the loop” on all aspects of the business, an agency will not welcome your daily input and feedback.
- Agency fees vary. You will have to evaluate the investment costs of setting up an internal web department vs. using an external web agency.
Your Own Web Team
- You decide who to work with. You can take your time meeting and interviewing candidates for the roles necessary to get your project done. You may even find candidates that can cover two or more roles.
- Your team works exclusively for you and is not distracted by deadlines for other projects.
- Your team will have an understanding of daily business operations and can work directly with colleagues in other departments to find solutions that will help them work better.
- Although you will decide who to work with, you will have to interview individual members, negotiate their work contracts and salaries, not to mention the accounting that goes with it.
- You will not only need to make the investment in personnel, but also in hardware, software, licenses, updates, training and any external services needed to develop and maintain your project.
- Internal teams may not want to take too many risks, as a result this might stifle creativity and lead them to choosing a “safe” option rather than one that makes an impact.
Keep in mind: you can create a team of freelancers, but by doing this you are essentially hiring multiple agencies for different tasks. In this case, you should have an internal project manager who can co-ordinate and assure they are all working in your best interest.
Understanding the website department
Whether you decide on a web design agency or creating your own team, you should understand the workings behind the scenes of designing, programming and managing a corporate website and the roles of each department and team member.
Website design starts with the end result
No matter what your goal is; getting more bookings for your B&B, getting more subscribers to your online publication, or targeting a certain audience, then your website needs to reflect an image that attracts, engages and encourages the customer to take action.
There are several professional roles that work together to get your web business up and running online. Here is a look at each role. Depending on the size of your company, one person may wear many hats and take on the tasks of multiple roles.
The project manager needs to have a clear idea of your vision and goals. He/She must have the skills and experience to be able to communicate to each team member their responsibilities and be able to discuss and understand the steps and methods of realizing the objective. The project manager does just that; manages the project. All communication to team members and across departments should go through the project manager. If you, the “boss”, business owner, gives input to individual team members it may not follow the plan of action set in place and create discord within the group. Choose a project manager, or an account manager from an agency, that you can easily communicate with and who can explain in plain language the phases of the project.
The web administrator or “webmaster” is responsible for keeping the website up to date, secure and fully functional. He/She is capable in server management, security and protocols, website administration such as programming and integrating external services and apps onto the website. Web admin works closely with the design team programming the interface and functionality. Web admin also works closely with the content team when publishing new products or blog articles.
A web designer is a graphic designer with UI and UX* skills. He/She not only knows how to design the page to reflect your corporate image but can design it in a way to facilitate navigation and enhance the customer experience. The web design team understands the programing platform and works closely with the web admin programmer and content team to create the best interface and navigability for the site.
*User Interface, User Experience
The content team creates the text and images that will captivate and engage your customer. They write the copy best describing your products and services, write blog post and select or create photos and video that best communicate your message. Content teams work closely with the marketing department, chiefly with the SEO managers and social media managers. When choosing photo and video they may turn to the design team. Content managers have to have a clear understanding of the company goals and the target audience.
The website is the marketing team’s main tool and communications channel. The marketing department works closely with the project manager to make sure the website offers performance, the correct message and that is found in search engines. The marketing department may have more than one member.
It’s the job of the SEO manager to make sure the webpages get indexed with the highest possible ranking and that your site is found in search engines when users search your topic. He/She analyses statistics and best keyword combinations. The SEO manager works with the content team in optimizing page copy and creating a strategy plan for future content. SEO will also work with the web admin ensuring analytics, social media pixels and best programming practices are set up correctly. SEO will also work with marketing selecting beneficial off-page marketing resources.
The social media team is a fairly new element of corporate marketing teams but managed effectively can make a difference. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking social media management is easy and can be done by anyone. A good social media manager creates a strategy that builds your brand image and engages your audience which will turn into leads and ultimately sales. Your social media team must be able to achieve measurable lead generation by increasing traffic to your product/service pages. The end game is covert followers into paying customers. The social media team creates targeted content working closely with the content and copy team and creates strategic campaigns with the SEO marketing team to run on social networks and in search engines.
Public Relations are an integral part of guiding new customers to order your product/service and afterwards have them return or refer you. Good PR helps you keep strong relations with your suppliers, press and media as well. PR and SEO work together on off-page solutions like finding other blogs or online publications to promote your brand. Often the PR tasks cross over with customer relations by interacting with customers through the company newsletter, press releases, and outreach for review acquisition.
There is no easy formula to predict how much a project will cost, but here are factors that will impact the budget.
- Gone are the days of hiring a web designer who puts a website online and the business owner just waits for the emails to roll in. Depending on the tasks and complexity of your project, an agency fee can cost anywhere from $3000 – $10,000 for a small business web project. E-commerce and larger projects will have higher fees. Monthly maintenance fees for marketing; SEO costs can run from $400 – $7000, the same for social media management. Basic content management can cost up to $3000 per year and that does not include photography, video or infographics. If you calculate the low end, it comes to about $9,600 for the first year. Don’t skimp on maintenance, work with your agency or professional to get the most out of the budget you can afford.
- The experience of the professional or agency you hire will impact the price. Expect to pay more for professionals with experience. Today’s 40-year-olds most likely already have 20 years’ experience working with the internet. Freelance fees run from $30- $75 an hour or even more.
- Geography and the cost of living of your professional will impact the price. If you feel comfortable working remotely online, your professional can be in a different city, country or continent. You can find very capable professionals all over the world.