Web development company, web design company or freelance developer, technical company or digital agency?
Here’s the short overview to help you decide.
Not much to explain here. There are a lot of very capable professionals out there, many of whom will have left permanent jobs to strike out on their own. This is by far the most cost-effective option for your project. You will need to manage them to a certain degree, depending on the person you get. Finding them is easy: ask your contacts, visit sites like Upwork or UK-focused freelancers.net . The questions to ask are: can they handle the volume of work you need them to do? Are you happy to invest your time in managing them? How do you ensure consistency and continuity?
Web design/development companies
There are over 10 000 of these in the UK. Most of them are one- or two-man bands. They produce millions of commercial and non-commercial websites. In a typical small team, one person might be more technical, another more creative, and maybe a third person is doing the admin, marketing or account management work. This kind of company can grow by taking on more projects, but those projects will still be small, and done by one or two people. Although they work more or less like freelancers, there is more contingency: if a person working on your project leaves, somebody else might pick the work up, and you will be still doing business with the same organisation.
This is where you should go if you have a website to build. Typical technical features like user accounts, content management systems or e-commerce can be implemented by using open-source off-the-shelf products such as WordPress, Drupal or Magento. But if you need a sophisticated bespoke system, or deeper customisation of an existing solution, these kinds of organisations are likely to struggle. Only a small percentage of web design agencies have true technical proficiency. Most just modify existing scripts and copy and paste code.
Look at their portfolio . Have they completed projects that truly match the complexity of what you want to do? And if so, are they successful projects that have delivered real savings or incremental revenues to the client?
Top media/digital agencies
These organisations excel at marketing and sales. They tend to be very good at preparing striking visuals, generating and communicating their ideas, and making the sale. Unfortunately, not all of them are as good at technical implementation. The result can be a website with poor performance, bugs that cannot be fixed, changes that cost a fortune and security problems.
That is because their technical teams are small, and in many cases they hire contractors on a per-job basis, which is not (in our opinion) a sustainable practice for a web/software project. These are big organisations charging big money to cover their high management overheads. You will spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds for a solution that is actually technically unsophisticated. These providers should only be considered if money is no object, and your project is more oriented to visual communications with little technical risk.
Larger software houses
Unlike media agencies, these providers are focused on technical solutions, but might have a creative team to complement their service. This option is very good if your budget range is in the millions.
Smaller technical companies
There are not many companies like Magic Web Solutions. We are still small and agile but we can handle technically sophisticated work without a hefty price tag. All our people are technical, and most of them are core software developers.
For some other specialised skills, like graphic design and branding, hosting, web marketing and legal work we may use our partners and contacts. Moreover you have an option to work directly with those third party providers, or let us manage them (with many projects it’s a combination of the two). You can always procure your own suppliers if needed.
Our experience shows that the additional overheads involved in dealing with several parties will be more than offset by reducing the risk of technical failure. Focusing only on the technical aspect of work allows us to excel at it.