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The Advantages of Small Web Design Shops vs Agencies

May 29 2009

Generally, where web design and development are concerned, there seems to be a common view that larger web design firms and agencies can provide much better service than smaller shops and individual web designers. I’m here to dispel that myth. Having worked for several “established” companies where I was the key (if not only) player in many site builds and designs, I’ve come to realize that all the company itself was bringing to the table was me. I’ve concepted, wire-framed, designed and developed many a site on my own while working for larger companies. Often times companies can present the illusion that you’ve got a huge team working on your project while in fact you have one person (just like me) sitting in a room getting around to it when the boss says to.

Just a few of the major advantages of using individuals or small shops include price, quality of work and service & response time:
Price of course is probably the biggest advantage. Agency rates are often times well into the $150-$200 per hour range. Typical freelancer hourly rates beat that by a mile and in this economy every dollar counts. Smaller shops and individuals have less overhead and fewer costs yet all the knowledge and capabilities.
• Generally the quality of work will be better with an individual at the helm. Smaller companies depend much more on word of mouth referrals to get new business and thus (generally) put in a good bit more time and effort than your disgruntled agency employee who hates his or her boss and has no real vested interest in your site.
Service and response time are also a big consideration when selecting a provider. In my experience with larger agencies, The red tape and bureaucratic process are enough to stop any minor change in its tracks. A change order has to be made and placed. Then it goes through the traffic person, then it hits the designer or developer’s desk at which point it has to be produced and then run through an approval process before it can be shipped back out the door for client approval. Needless to say, with an individual that process is dramatically cut down. With an individual or small shop, most of the time you have direct access to the person who is really responsible for your website: the person who can get things done quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, larger web design firms have their place. If you run a huge corporation or have a very complex site with hundreds of pages and tons of complicated upkeep then perhaps a larger firm is right for you. Even in this case though, if the site is built correctly from the start, minor maintenance and updates should be easily handled by your people internally. Anything else should be easily handled by an individual.

So for your next design or development project, consider a small shop or individual. You’ll get all of the know-how and capabilities at a fraction of the cost. And for the love of God don’t outsource it to India. Buy American!