Are You Just Buying a Product or Benefiting from Expertise?

The relationship between a client and an agency can be brilliant. It can lead to fresh ideas and unexpected excellent results, but it is also an asset that isn't always fully utilised.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes…

As customers, we are used to entering a shop and either making a purchase based on prior knowledge of a particular product or being open to trying something different with the hope that satisfaction will be guaranteed. Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised when we try something new. We pick up the tin, inspect the packaging and ingredients and think “Ok, I’ll give it a try”. The reality is that we can also feel let down if that particular product isn’t up to the standard we expected. You can feel hard done by and think this will be the last time you gamble with such an important choice. Not being familiar with a brand or product certainly presents an element of risk.  

The field of digital web design can be mystical landscape full of traditions, myths and legends. One person I used to work with constantly called it a ‘dark art’. I’ve even heard one person say “Some call it Voodoo, others call it CSS”. As a client, perhaps with limited knowledge of what goes into creating a design or building a site, you can often feel out of control whilst a digital team is beavering away. Therefore, placing trust in who you have hired can seem like a big risk that pushes you out of your comfort zone. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Where do you start? Who do you hire?

How many times have you seen TV programmes talking about dodgy builders who either tarmacked a drive with a less than generous helping that fell to bits on contact or who turned up with a tonne of bricks and plastic sheeting on day one, only to never return again after they were handed a down payment? It’s better to contract with people who have a good reputation or with people for which you have seen examples of their work. Therefore, research the agency you choose and pick one with a great portfolio not just a great promise. After all the web is alive with stunning work.

I’ve heard rumours of a great website called Google that all the kids are using nowadays. It sounds just brilliant for finding examples of who does what and how well. If an agency’s work can’t be seen it is often a warning sign that they are hiding something. Transparency and openness from a company displays genuine confidence in their ability and customer respect. Do your research well prior to picking an agency and it will often pay off. Another great step would be to pay a visit to an agency just to hear about what they do and how they can help. Building up a relationship is always healthy.

Example of a self-aware but not entirely helpful portfolio page

‘Welcome - our portfolio is never coming’

I want a walk-in shower

My partner worked as a sales consultant and designed bathrooms for about a decade. It was a job they actually loved and thrived on. Simply meeting people, getting to know them a little and seeing the smile on their faces when the product was delivered was a real buzz. There was no interest in selling for selling's sake.

One day a couple came in that wanted a walk-in shower, which no matter what, just couldn’t be fitted due to the immersion heater in the room being the size of a small submarine. Instead of taking their money and leaving them with something that would have leaked into the lounge below, my partner said “no, it’s not going to happen”. Sometimes you just have to listen and accept what you are being told from those who know best. They are more often than not telling you for a reason so you as a customer benefit the most. This logic is the same when bringing your business to a digital agency.

I personally feel that web projects led solely by the client are counterproductive, often damaging and tend to result in a thorny relationship somewhere along the line. This situation always reminds me of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Gordon swoops in on a failing restaurant, changes the menu and the décor, but the owners say, ‘what you’re doing? You’re ruining our business!” They soon find that Gordon’s changes mean guaranteed success.

In my time as a front-end Web developer, I’ve even heard one client declare “stop everything, the old site worked so why change it?” This was despite the fact that they were experiencing cripplingly low traffic, poor sales and came to my agency at the time looking for help. However, the design and information architecture change increased traffic by over 50% and the client was amazed at the results. The moral? Trust thy Web Agency!

If blue is the warmest colour

It is frustrating for me when clients want to change things on their sites that will have a negative impact on their business, instead of trusting those that know. Statements like “I don’t like blue” shouldn’t come in to play when any change will have a detrimental effect. If using blue is proven to boost results surely it would be the correct move, rather than being written off by one person’s taste? Of course I am using a simple analogy here, but this does tap into the concern I have for the bigger picture.

Personally, I really want everything I am involved in to meet and exceed its intended purpose and bring success for the client. A lot of agencies carry out huge amounts of work in terms of research, design and development. They are usually full of attention to detail and ambition. Why hire an architect and builder only to force them into using cake for foundations, jelly for walls and a whipped cream roof? You end up with a giant trifle, not a house.

I am lucky to be around such a talented design team who really do know their beans inside and out. Essentially, our clients can sit back, relax and have faith in the fact that the team here will create brilliant concepts and deliver a final product that guarantees results. From the passion, commitment and knowledge I see on a daily basis, it would be wasteful to just brush this valuable expertise aside. By opening communication channels and being open to suggestions, it’s possible to get more from an agency than just the box standard website you imagined. You can get something more comprehensive and beneficial. 

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