Hiring a digital product agency is a great way to develop your product with less risk and responsibility. But, how do you choose the right agency? In this article, we share important questions to ask before making your choice, including their professionals, experience, and attention to detail.
Things you should ask yourself before choosing a Digital Product Agency
Everybody pays attention to a highly functional and visible online presence in today's digital world. To a point, we’ve reached market saturation - for every digital product, there’s an alternative to choose from. That’s why it’s so important to place your ideas in the right hands. The concept itself - however unique it might be - will be judged based on how well it’s executed. Every detail, feature, and function plays a significant role in the end user’s experience. And since the surrounding cyber-reality is filled with competition, your product has to stand out to be noticed. But, enough with the pep-talk - you might already know those principles.
Whether it’s an online course, mobile game, editing software, or e-commerce software you want to develop, you have two ways to approach it. You can either build your own team or hire a team of professionals. The first option will perfectly fit companies that see their future in digital development - they have the resources for costly recruitment and have the ambition needed to keep their developers busy. However, if you are looking for product implementation with less responsibility and risk on your side, then a digital product agency is a place to turn to. Here, under one roof you have all the skills needed to develop a product and a team that has already worked together on similar projects. Once you start searching for the right one, you might consider a few questions for your future vendor. These will help you find a great match.
1. What kind of professionals do they plan to bring in?
One of the most crucial questions to ask is… who you will be working with. The team members and the skills that they contribute to the project depend mostly on your idea. You won’t need a React Native expert in a web-based product. Nevertheless, there are some key roles and viewpoints to look for, when choosing a professional team Agile-based roles are something to look for (scrum master, product owner, etc.) - this goes to show that your agency is organized around a predetermined circle of adjustments and iterations, that will help you to work through the whole process. This approach is usually handled by a team consisting of a product owner, development staff, and a scrum master. The roles might have a different naming, depending on the method used, but they play a similar function - either they build your digital product, watch over crucial functions or carry out the appointed work schedule. Next, you should have a little look-see at the design scope. Graphic designers are often crucial for the app or product you’re building, that’s why your ideal team has to know User Experience and User Interface tools. They will allow them to align your product with the ideal user, test visual solutions, and match preferences or the latest trends. We think with images nowadays, that’s why the design will play such an important role in your future development. The design might be crucial if you are in the mobile game department or insist on having an original layout that goes beyond regular solutions. Finally - research. “A team of professionals” differs from just “a team” because they have a research-based outlook. No piece of information is taken for granted; no batch of code goes unchecked, and everything is tested in small parts to mark the errors quickly and make testing more efficient. Having a software tester on your team can reduce costs & errors. This role is needed to detect mistakes at an early stage & it’s good to have someone who is not afraid to challenge assumptions.
You should ask:
- Do they use Agile methodologies?
- Do they have a UX or UI specialist?
- Do they have a QA Engineer?
- Do they have a research-based mentality?
- Are they willing to expand the team according to your needs?
2. Do they have experience in your industry?
There are three principles, when it comes to experience, that you should keep in mind. First, the individual aspect - will you be working with professionals that have the knowledge and competence to deliver your project? Secondly, do they have a technological background that matches your requirements: did they work with similar brands, can they operate on a framework required, do they know the programming languages needed? Lastly, work ethics: clear communication procedures, punctuality, and attention to detail. Sure, you can look through the agency's long list of success stories, but are they as good as they sound? Glancing through previous projects, check for development tools and chosen frameworks, not the sugar-coated words and smiley faces. Do they use popular programming languages? Did they work with operating systems that will be crucial for your idea? How about similar industries and business categories? Will they be able to understand your end goal in the specific market? Here, you should take into consideration individual skills, as mentioned before. Usually, IT team members have a broader background and experience than what you can see based on the agency’s portfolio. Don’t hesitate to ask or search for more case studies, that just might expose some true talents.
Red flags to watch out for:
- no case studies or ones missing technical details
- no referrals/opinions
- no experience in working as a team
- no company culture and values mentioned
- frequent employee turnover
3. What is the level of attention to detail?
Let’s get to the bottom - what you should be searching for is an honest engagement. Meaning, that your future team should ask a lot of questions, undertake your vision and things specific just for your business, challenge your concepts with things you never thought of, listen, and propose solutions. That’s the attitude behind a great success story, although it sounds a bit hard to measure. Especially if you don’t have too much experience in software development projects. Paying attention to details and a good understanding of your product will show in a transparent workflow, proposed by the agency. It should have milestones, deadlines, testing phases, roles, and MVP delivery included. Such a roadmap has all you need to know about the process - from designing a piece of code from scratch to the deployment level.
Based on your concept goals, market analysis, and user-based research, digital agencies develop a Product Strategy that includes not only the idea behind it but also technical specifications, pricing, and KPI measures to reach. An efficient workflow is based on a calendar - sure thing - but also has a time cap, description, and roles assigned to each task, so the process stays transparent even if it’s past the due date.
Things to look out for:
- transparent roadmap - you know where you are at every step of the way
- a workflow that includes planning, managing, delivery, and iterations
- product strategy, that shows a deep understanding of your concept
- thorough research; based on the market, existing solutions, and user personas
- no jargon - every stage is understandable from your perspective
4. Are they willing to challenge you and your idea?
It’s your first time in the IT development world? Don’t be scared to admit it. Maybe not everything you’ve imagined is doable, and your concept needs some changes, to perform better on the market. A company led by true professionals will be able to advise you on better solutions, keeping the main purpose of your product intact. What you don’t need is a money-hungry group of yes-men, agreeing on anything just to retain your interest. Saying “yes” to every idea is a quick buck, almost always as irresponsible as draining your budget. Too good-to-be-true promises are a downward road to poor end performance.
A great, original idea should be challenging on both ends, that’s why trust is necessary. Don’t be afraid to listen to your team’s “no” even throughout the development phase. A perfect digital product agency should be focused on delivering, but also, they should be able to admit failures and switch their perspective to find different, better solutions. Changes are as certain as death and taxes - how we handle them shows creative thinking and commitment.
You should prepare:
- an outline of your concept with main goals and solutions provided
- a list of must-haves and spaces for consulting & negotiation
- deadlines & budget, if there are lines, you don’t want to cross
- alternative, acceptable scenarios for your digital product execution
- any original, never seen before features, that you want to implement
5. Will they support you all the way to success?
That’s it. You’ve reached the end of a development process - your product is ready to launch on the market. Now, are you looking for the happy ever after’s? It’s not that simple. The digital environment changes daily and keeping up to date is a must-have. When choosing a digital agency, you should search for people that are not afraid to change their patterns and react with a dose of excitement, when hearing about new platforms or frameworks. For example, your product might need essential adjustments to fit in a new version of the operating system - will a digital agency support it? Can you build a long-term relationship that will ensure your project stays relevant?
Updates and new releases are common things, and it’s understandable, looking at software dynamics. But, what about if you want to take an active part in this evolution? Is your agency willing to scale up the product? Imagine having an app that performs so great that a desktop program is often required by users - you can either outline your concept again to a new vendor or work with a team that already knows the objectives. That’s why choosing a digital firm, you should pick one that can foresee the future and wants to always follow your ideas.
Green flags for future collaboration:
- straight up, maintenance and optimization are featured in the product strategy
- in the portfolio, you can see long term-clients and long term-projects
- their team follows trends and updates knowledge regularly
- your agency takes an active part in shaping the vision
A great idea is a part of success – the rest depends on the development and that’s why it’s so important to choose a team with a mutual understanding of the product. Don’t be afraid to challenge your product, accept suggestions and ask questions – hopefully thanks to this article you’ll know what answers to look for.