There’s an element to hiring a web design agency that gets overlooked: agency size. While on the surface, this doesn’t seem like the most important aspect of your project (rather the relevant skills and experiences the team offers), it does significantly impact the way your project is approached and the relationship you have.
Find out the differences between large and small web design and web development agencies here and how they impact your project.
It’s different for everyone and every business. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to the size an agency should be to complete a project successfully. Here’s a summary of the good and bad points of each.
Extensive combined resources, skills, and experience.
Faster project turnaround capabilities
Lack of continuity in the team and less personal communication.
More personal relationships; designers can take more ownership over projects.
May have more commitment to finding bespoke solutions.
Slower delivery times.
Less established experience and industry innovation.
The project management triangle is a well-known model that demonstrates how a project is limited by factors affecting it. It shows that a project relies on three elements: time, money, and quality. Changing any one aspect affects the other two. For example, increasing the quality of a project means a higher budget or more time is required.
The adage is “fast, cheap, good: choose two”. While not all projects, especially not creative ones, can be boiled down to this simplistic model, it’s helpful to bear this in mind when considering the type of agency you want to hire.
A large web design agency will have benefits and shortcomings that a small agency will not. The most important advice when hiring the right web design agency is to find the right one for you. A very large agency might handle a multinational eCommerce platform project very well, but the brand story of an independent conservatory builder might be lost in the impersonal client-agency relationship, leading the project to suffer.
Conversely, a small agency may be able to capture the essence of the independent conservatory builder's passion but lack the resources and skills needed to pull off a high-functioning multiplatform eCommerce site properly. There are so many web design agencies in the UK. As a responsible business owner, you need to protect your brand by vigilantly researching before settling on the web design agency for you.
Jo and Tom, in the MadeByShape studio
The primary and most apparent advantage to working with a large web design agency is the broader pool of talent and resources you have access to. Larger agencies are well-established in the industry, having spent time building reputations as respected, knowledgeable, and capable providers of web design services.
They are likely to be multi-award-winners and manage teams of some of the best talent—those who have managed to impress and get past rigorous hiring processes to work for the reputable business.
Regarding web design, access to more technical industry skills and know-how really pays off. Responsive design, UX and UI, and even augmented reality; if you’ve got the budget, it pays off to have top-notch design and development skills in your reach.
Not only do large agencies offer broad and extensive skillsets but they are likely to have a more diverse portfolio of experience than smaller agencies. For business owners, this means there’s more chance they've worked on a project or in an industry similar to yours and know what the market is like. This experience allows an agency to align its ideas with its goals better. It also reduces the time necessary for the research phase if the agency is already familiar with your industry.
Thinking back to the project management triangle, a large agency should also be able to turn around your project much faster than a smaller agency. Multiple people will work on your website, meaning a large agency could be the best option if you need yours made in a hurry.
While a large agency has the power to speed through your project, this isn’t always a good thing. Large agencies have a culture of passing work around several different team members. This can lead to information getting lost in translation, and your designs may devolve throughout the project unless someone is responsible for quality control and sticking tightly to the brief.
This way of working can negatively affect the quality of design work as no web designer has true ownership over how the website looks and feels. Without this sense of responsibility, the results may become a little confusing and lack the clear voice of your brand identity.
Large and constantly changing groups of people working on a project can also impact the client-agency relationship. Clients of larger agencies can find communication is less direct. They don’t have one primary point of contact and may find it difficult to speak to the design team directly (something which is highly necessary throughout the project).
It’s not the result of low effort or lack of skill. But the web design agency structure benefits from consistency and close communication, which builds trust, understanding, and a shared vision of the end result.
Another disadvantage of large agencies is the price range for websites. A large agency probably isn’t the best for clients seeking a cost-effective option. Higher overheads such as wages and office utilities contribute to higher prices. Not to mention, agencies with a reputation may be able to charge more because they are in higher demand.
A smaller agency has a different internal culture from a large one. Typically, a small agency team will be more tight-knit and have closer professional relationships because they see and talk to each other most days. This team culture leads to more consistency in who works on certain projects. For example, most often, one person will be assigned the main build of a website, with assistance from over members of the development department and overseen by the head developer.
This allows designers and developers to take more ownership over the project, keeping the design consistent and maintaining high fidelity to the brief.
Another benefit of working with a small agency is the close client-agency relationship. A client will usually be assigned an account manager or project manager who they speak to every time they contact the agency. The client will also have more opportunities to speak directly with all those working on their project.
While small agencies might not be able to offer the flashy resources larger ones can, this leads them to be more creative in their solutions—you could end up with a more unique solution for less money. Their commitment to producing bespoke results is backed by a motivation to grow and develop their business and reputation.
Small agencies tend to be on the cheaper side, too, for all the reasons that large agencies aren’t. They have fewer overheads, fewer team members and likely less high salaries to meet, and generally, small agencies are known to be a more cost-effective option.
Working with a small agency does have some setbacks. If you’re on the hunt for an extensive, ‘all bells and whistles’ website with a fast turnaround, a larger agency might be a better option if it’s within budget. The scale and resources available to smaller agencies mean delivery times are slower as fewer people will work on the project.
While smaller agencies tend to be more creative in their solutions, it doesn’t remove the fact that they often simply can’t provide the same wide range of deliverables that larger agencies can. Suppose you’re looking for a very specialist feature or very bespoke powerful website. In that case, you might want to hire a larger agency or find a small one that specialises in precisely what you need.
Lack of resources means that some small agencies outsource work to third parties. Work like film and photography, content writing, and even development work can be outsourced to contractors or other companies. It’s not always bad, but if you want to know who is working on your project at all times, then it’s important to be upfront and ask the question at the first meeting.
MadeByShape comprises a team of 16 professional web designers, developers, SEO experts, brand designers, and content writers. Since 2010, our goal has not been to grow exponentially but to carefully add to our team when the right people come along at the right times.
To us, having a team that gets along and works together well is more valuable than having a big, impersonal team. We think it makes our work even better. Get in touch today if this sounds like the kind of team you're after for web design.