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Posted by Marlon on August 21, 2013

So you’re ready to launch a new or upgraded website and you’re contemplating hiring either a web developer or a fully integrated marketing agency. How do you compare the two types of service providers beyond their pricing?

First of all, there are many web developers out there – from very good ones to those who simply use existing templates to provide you with your website. Depending on your budget, you may be leaning towards developers who will provide a quick website looking somewhat appealing at a low cost. Don’t let them mislead you, the lower cost typically means that the developer will purchase an existing or “off the shelf” free template to create your site.

Templates are preconfigured sites (cookie cutter sites) with specific layout, colours, fonts, navigation/menus and pages. Most templates allow you to change colours, possibly fonts and web page names, but nothing else. Layout changes are not easily done and are difficult to keep up to date, especially if the template creator releases many updates. For basic brochure websites, some templates may suffice but you will likely outgrow your basic site very soon after it is launched. Great agencies and web developers prefer not to use templates. They will always deliver to the client’s specifications and build a site with functions needed now and in the future.

If you’re comparing costs between developers, make sure it’s apples to apples – you may not be able to do it exactly, after all there are a bunch of subjective factors– but you should know what you’re getting in terms of feature set, functionality and timeframes.

One of the key subjective factors is the developer’s understanding of your target market and what makes them tick?

Integrated agencies offer an advantage in that they fully understand consumer behaviour and brand requirements thus creating great user experience. They know the critical features and functionality required to bring customers to your website and increase your business.  They understand user experience so they can provide key information to the prospective customers quickly as possible. Agencies know that if the consumer can’t find relevant information within seconds of coming to a site, they will leave and go to a competitor?

Is your site used to build brand awareness, to generate leads or to sell online? How will you measure these to ensure that the end product delivers upon your goals? A great agency will know the best way to measure your goals and deliver the desired results.

Has your service provider considered all of the following items required to successfully launch a website such as:

  1. Business objectives and how these will be measured – A great service provider will ensure that not only will your new website meet your business goals but provide a way for the site to measure and report against these goals.
  2. Content and images – Content is king! Whether you need a few paragraphs or pages with white papers, a great agency will ensure that it’s written well, organized, keyword optimized, target market optimized, spell-checked and proofread. The images they select will help to tell a story without distracting from the main message. Images can be original or from stock sites but an agency will find, organize, retouch and properly size and output them for web.
  3. Design – From high end to simple websites, an agency will consider colours, fonts, graphics, and how they all work with your brand? Agency’s experience in branding is evident when each page of your site flows seamlessly with a consistent brand story.
  4. Structure of the site –Site structure is critical for your customers to easily find relevant information. A good service provider will consider number of pages, navigation and usability. The user experience will ensure that customers will get from point A to B with minimal effort while keeping within the brand story.
  5. Layout – To ensure the best user experience, a great designer will consider headers, footers, sidebars, call-outs, pull quotes, opt-in boxes, and social icons. Sure these can be stuck somewhere haphazardly but will they provide the best user experience?
  6. Optimization – Beyond keywords and meta data, the great developer will consider site speed and code quality to increase natural search rankings.
  7. Functionality – From simple opt-in boxes and contact forms to more complicated product catalogues, shopping carts and other custom features, the agency needs to ask questions like “what happens if….?” and “then what?”. If these questions are not being asked, then how can the functionality deliver value to the project in the long run?
  8. Compatibility – Good developers ensure that the website works on common browsers and all of their many versions, multiple operating systems and platforms including the many types of mobile devices.
  9. Launch – Integrated agencies will install the site on your web hosting server, set up DNS, set up web analytics and site maps and ensure that the site is working as intended.
  10. Content Management Systems – If the website was developed using a content management system (CMS), the agency will train you to use it to manage your content. They will ensure that the chosen CMS is right for your business objectives and experience level.
  11. Ongoing fixes and support – Great web development houses will support you months after the launch when you need to change something or fix issues. Great agencies keep up to date with the rapid technological advances and help you stay on top of the necessary trends and applications.

A good agency continues to provide value to their client after launching a website to create marketing campaigns and promotions. These campaigns are then optimized and communicated using all of the marketing channels. They help the client maximize the utilization of their latest marketing tool – their website.

What is value? It’s not what you paid. Value is “Is it worth what you paid”? Did they add extra intelligence and experience to your solution to make it better? Value is timeless. It’s not over when the project finishes. Did the project deliver upon its goals? If not, then you have a site that sits there and gathers dust without adding any business results to your bottom line. A great agency will help future-proof the website by asking “what if…?” and “do you want to….?” questions during the initial stages of development.

BTI provides results. We don’t sell websites or promotions. Sure these items are tactics that are used by BTI, but ultimately, BTI uses its years of experience to deliver real bottom line results. Call us now  to see how we can be of help in your website project.