You hired a digital agency. They led you through an energizing and exciting discovery process. They interviewed your stakeholders and audience to ensure goals are aligned with needs. They built an information architecture that makes content easier to find. They tested calls to action and user journeys that deliver real results. They created a modern and effective design. Everyone was thrilled.
Then they built it. At first, it seemed perfect. It looked just like the designs, wireframes, and templates you signed off on. But people started complaining:
“The site is hard to update! Editing pages and adding new blog posts is a confusing chore!”
“Social media previews look terrible! Why did nobody think of this?”
“The site is too slow! Pages take forever to load, especially when I’m logged in!”
“It looks terrible on mobile devices! The menu doesn’t work, and images break the layout! Tables are unreadable!”
Then your web or IT team chimed in: “This isn’t built correctly! We can’t support this! You’ll need to find someone else to make updates and security patches!”
You weren’t sure what they meant, but it sounded terrifying: a poorly built site that your own team can’t maintain, improve, or keep secure.
Perhaps your digital agency didn’t build the site, but when you started soliciting developers to implement their IA, wireframes, and designs, you got disappointing news. It was going to be very, very expensive:
“There are very few reusable components in these designs. Everything is a one-off, and that takes a lot of time to build.”
“This site was not designed with your CMS in mind. Implementing their designs will require a lot of custom work.”
“These designs hint at very complex functionality that wasn’t defined or thought through at all: user profiles, CRM integration, single sign-on, social media integration… Did your designers consider any of this?”
No reusable components? Lots of custom work? Hidden complexity?
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. We see this all the time.
Too many digital agencies focus their efforts on the important work of goal-setting, user research, and beautiful visual design—all while ignoring the practicality of building the things they dream up. They are very good at exciting clients with their ideas—most of which are genuinely great—but disappointing them with poor implementation or sticker shock.
Great ideas excite and inspire people, but empty promises hurt much worse.
When choosing a digital agency, look for those with strong technical skill. At least half their team should be developers or people with hands-on experience building websites, apps, and software. They should have an active GitHub team and a proud history of contributing to open-source projects. Their blog should reflect their technical skill—not just their design acumen.
You deserve style and substance.
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