Previously, creating a website required programming and design skills. And though we no longer need those skills with the availability of website builders, there are still agencies that offer website creation services.
In today’s article, Roman Nadein, a co-founder of the Rocket Firm IT production agency, will talk about why companies commission digital agencies, the processes and costs involved in creating websites professionally, and how you can know your money is well-spent.
While do-it-yourself services for websites such as Tilda, Webflow or WordPress are readily available, business owners still opt for agencies and outstaffing businesses to get their websites done. The reasons are several:
Without solid programming and design skills, your opportunities with website builders will be limited to templates only. And, despite their vast range, templates always have limited functionality. For example, you need special skills to use a website builder for creating an animated website with a custom loading screen and unique clicks.
Tilda Publishing, one of the popular website builders, has a section titled #madeontilda. It features the best websites made using Tilda. However, it is professional designers and developers from agencies that actually create beautiful websites like those Tilda showcases. People who have no experience in programming and design will only get the standard one-size-fits-all templates.
Meanwhile, customers expect unique solutions that reflect their brand identity and offer a seamless user experience. It is agencies that can come up with the personalized approach customers want.
Also, agencies are often commissioned for projects that require complex functionality and integration with other services – something you can never get from ready-to-use services or website builders.
Online you can find guides to create websites using website builders, helping you figure out design, layout, and publishing details. However, to make your website effective, you will also need to optimize page loading speed and content, set up a system to process orders, connect analytics, and launch advertising campaigns. Then there are also issues related to domains, hosting, adaptability, language support, and scalability.
When designing a website with no prior experience, you can make a mistake at any of the above stages, which will inevitably lead to disruptions in your website’s performance.
Agencies have seasoned developers, designers, and product managers at their disposal. Their internal processes are fine-tuned, with a clear understanding of the right sequence of actions and the ability to create a website that meets the latest standards and requirements and can then be maintained and improved for years to come.
Websites need ongoing technical support as web browser requirements continue evolving, new systems emerge that require integration, and new website content is developed. In this case, programming skills are a must.
Studios and agencies offer free technical support for a certain period after a website goes live; afterwards, technical support can be provided as a paid service. Usually, agencies keep technical documents on all their projects, which means you can get help even several years down the line.
Any company that needs to develop and maintain a website can hire an agency, but the most frequent customers include:
Here, everything depends on customers’ preferences and the agency’s communication channels. The most common ways of getting connected are below:
Getting as much information as possible before the project actually starts increases the chances of success. So, during your first meeting, an agency’s account manager will be asking a number of important questions. While each project is unique, there are basic questions to answer before creating a website.
Things to consider: what is it that you want to achieve with your website? What do you expect your website to deliver for your business?
For example, the website of a store needs to be able to sell directly to customers or collect requests to be handled by sales managers, while a charity foundation needs a website to raise awareness about major social issues.
Getting your goals and objectives straight will help define the overall focus of website development and structure all its subsequent elements.
Things to consider: what is your target audience? What are the features of your potential customers?
For a beauty parlor, the audience will be girls aged 25 to 34 who live in the same city. A toy brand can have two target audiences: children to play with the toys and parents to actually buy them.
Your target audience will shape efforts related to design, content, and marketing.
Things to consider: What are the key functions and capabilities you want your website to have?
A retailer typically prioritizes an online store with a cart and wireless payment options, while a landscaping website will focus on its gallery, portfolio, and contacts.
The more effort you invest in your website’s functionality, the better experience users will get. However, it will also take more time and money to achieve. Once the goals are determined, the agency can come up with the functions they believe are best for your needs.
Things to consider: what design and style would you like your website to have? Do you have a logo or a style guide that must be followed?
Agencies start by analyzing the target audience to make sure the website’s design is aligned with customer preferences. If you have not analyzed your audience before, you might well have an agency come up with options that are totally different to what you had in mind – and that makes perfect sense.
Things to consider: do you have ready-to-go content or will it need to be created? What type of content (text, images, videos, animations, 3D visuals) do you envision for your website?
The content will influence the design of the pages: if you want videos or animations on every page, it is important to communicate this in advance so that the designers can take it into account when crafting the mockups.
The same website block would vary significantly depending on whether it features images, videos, or text. It is worth deciding on the desired content early in the process because each new iteration increases the time to develop the website.
Most agencies offer services for creating website content, including text writing, photo shooting, and video recording.
Things to consider: who are your main industry competitors? How does your business stand out in terms of design, content, and functionality?
Reviewing peer websites may help the agency people identify and leverage your UVP to set you apart from the rest and make your product the preferred choice for customers.
Things to consider: what is your project budget, and what are the desired completion deadlines?
Keep in mind that the urgency of the website launch is likely to impact the cost. If you have a limited budget, the agency can propose a streamlined functionality that can be enhanced over time, or offer professional website development using a website builder or content management system (CMS).
The average cost of website development by agencies in the US market is as follows:
Things to consider: do you have any preferences for the technologies you would like to use?
If you do not have specific requirements, the agency will opt for the most popular and flexible solution that is convenient to implement and support. However, if you do have preferences, it is crucial to communicate them to the development team.
Things to consider: do you have specific requirements for search engine optimization (SEO) or marketing tools that you would like to integrate? Are you planning to actively promote your project?
Customer traffic to your new website will not materialize instantly. Search engines require a certain amount of time to analyze your web pages, identify their value, and start displaying them in response to user queries. This can take up to six months.
To improve your website’s visibility to customers, you may want to use paid options such as contextual search engine advertising and targeted social media campaigns. Many agencies offer services to set up these ads.
Certain industries have specific advertising requirements. For example, online advertising of pharmaceuticals is prohibited, so pharma brands need to promote themselves differently, such as through advertising in pharmacies and eDetailing presentations. Some agencies provide these types of services as well.
Things to consider: what are your plans for post-launch development?
Depending on the frequency of content updates and whether you plan to pursue new business lines, the agency will set up the website infrastructure for future changes. This may include implementing a content management system, developing a responsive design to accommodate section expansions, and selecting the right hosting service to store all media files.
Answering all these questions will give you a clear vision of your future website. The agency’s project manager will ask numerous clarifying questions about your business to grasp all the processes involved. It is essential to answer them, even if they appear obvious to you. The more information the project manager has, the better they can articulate the task to the team, resulting in a faster achievement of your desired outcome.
While the list may vary, it will likely feature the following most typical and essential points:
After reviewing the briefing data, the development of the website prototype commences, involving the creation of the website structure and visualization of block placement on the pages.
Typically, the prototype is created by a collaborative team comprising a project manager, analyst, and UI/UX designer. During the internal stages of prototype creation, developers also check if the intended concept is realizable.
They help visualize the main website sections, functional capabilities, modules, and internal connections. For complex and large-scale projects, multiple mind maps may be used.
At this stage, we also create a customer journey map (CJM) in Miro to understand how users will interact with the website.
After making adjustments and finalizing the website structure, we move on to creating the prototypes.
We think of a prototype as an interactive model representing the website’s layout, navigation, and basic functionality. It usually features no final design yet but gives the client an idea of how their website will look and function.
We build prototypes in Figma, which is a convenient tool for online collaboration among the entire team and the client.
Once the prototype is ready and approved internally, we present it to the client. The presentation kit includes:
During the prototype presentation, we demonstrate the website’s structure, functionality, and the visual blueprint of the interface. This helps align the client’s expectations with our understanding and provides a tangible glimpse into the future website.
Once the prototype is given the green light, the active website creation process unfolds as follows:
Throughout the development process, we share progress updates with the client and seek their feedback at each milestone. This iterative approach allows us to incorporate their valuable input early on when there is ample flexibility to make adjustments.
If the agency does not share interim results during the website development, it can be a cause for concern signaling that they are encountering difficulties and are reluctant to communicate them to the client. This can leave you with delays and unmet expectations. Therefore, if you feel that the agency keeps it low for quite some time, it is best to request an update.
Agencies can set different timelines for creating a website depending on the project complexity, team size, resource availability, and level of detail in the client’s requirements. However, on average, the process length may be as follows:
The actual time to create a website may vary in each individual case. However, the likelihood of timely completion can be increased if you engage an experienced team, clearly articulate your requirements, maintain strong communication, and rely on well-established processes.
Nevertheless, there are factors that can substantially extend the development process. For instance, clients may request additional functionality beyond the initial project scope and cause delays in approving crucial intermediate stages. Furthermore, the integration of external services may face difficulties with the timely provision of data. Normally, agencies proactively inform clients about such challenges and present viable solutions to address them effectively.
Agency professionals are skilled in what they do, but they are human and prone to making mistakes. To minimize the human factor in the website creation process, you can keep track of certain checkpoints:
1. Regular milestones and timely delivery. An agency needs to keep you informed of every stage of the project. This approach enables clients to track the project progress and make adjustments early on. If the agency frequently misses deadlines, it may indicate challenges in the development process. If this happens, consider conducting a technical audit of the website before accepting it.
Question to ask the agency: “Do you provide regular progress updates throughout the development stages to help align expectations? How frequently do you provide these updates, and is there a limit on the number of revisions?”
2. Availability of technical documents. After completing the project, the agency is required to provide the client with a full set of documents for the technical deliverables, including a description of the website's functionality and technologies used, and instructions for its deployment on both local and virtual servers. The availability of such documents will ensure transparency and ease of website support. Additionally, it will help facilitate its smooth transition to another team or the integration of new team members engaged for website support and improvement.
Question to ask the agency: “Do you provide clients with a full set of technical documents for the project?”
3. Code audit by technical experts. If you find it challenging to assess the quality of the created website yourself, you may engage skilled external developers to conduct a code audit. These experts can thoroughly analyze the code to identify any potential bugs and recommend areas for improvement, helping you get a reliable and secure final product.
Website builders are a convenient tool for quickly creating websites. They are commonly used by agencies to develop budget-friendly landing pages or multi-page websites. However, it is essential to understand that DIY website builders are suited only to simple projects with static information. To create a website of higher quality, additional programming and design skills are required.
For larger projects such as multi-page websites or information systems, clients prefer to commission agencies that can guarantee a high-quality outcome and provide technical support.
The choice between using a DIY website builder and hiring an agency depends on the client’s needs, budget, and expectations. Business owners need to decide which option is more advantageous:
Regardless of whether you choose to create a website on your own or hire an agency, you will need to use web analytics to track audience behavior and ad campaign performance. For instructions on how to employ web analytics tools, see our guide for beginners.