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A Design Agency’s Struggles Led them to Speed & Function

Digital agencies play a critical role with their clients in developing outstanding user experience, branding and marketing. This article will focus on those that deliver user experience. The most creative firms are phenomenal at designing effortless, inspiring interfaces to amaze and engage their clients’ customers. Wired Magazine said of one agency Work & Co. regarding their work for Virgin America: “Beyond the cutesy gloss is the first radical rethinking of the flight booking experience in a decade.”

Agencies typically use a collaborative process with clients to research, define and apply creative and analytical methods to improve consumer experiences and increase engagement. Many times the work for their clients will require custom software development, whether that is a marketing website, e-commerce or something else. Most agencies have the skills to build a website and do it exceptionally well. But what happens when there will be complex software development? Or there will be integration with other software? Or the site will have heavy traffic volume or require fast performance?

Should the agency accept or pass on this work? Rarely do agencies have the skill sets to take on this more complex work but it can be hard to turn it away. Agencies often find what I talked about in an earlier post describing the failure rates of software development projects. One of the key failure points has been projects going over budget. Finding local software development is expensive. This is one reason that agencies have turned to the allure of offshore companies that can provide cheaper software development resources. This has had varying degrees of success and failure.

Offshore technical teams can be difficult to collaborate with which makes it nearly impossible to deliver a quality solution that meets the client’s needs.

One local agency that I talked with knew that choosing a team based on price was not the solution. They had learned the hard way and were determined not to do that again. They knew that they needed a high-quality technical team that:

  • Could be an extension of their own team
  • Possessed advanced technical skills in front-end and also testing and hosting
  • Delivered work fast to meet tight deadlines
  • Would be less expensive than the majority of local dev shops to allow for a profit margin

This agency reached out to Speed & Function after working with co-founder Nick Gluzdov in the past and knowing his technical expertise. Speed & Function has a team of engineers in Eastern Europe and in the Philadelphia area.

The agency found Speed & Function to be an excellent collaborator and they developed exceptional front end and JavaScript code. The agency founder said: “It’s pretty darn good”. He found that the code did what it was supposed to do. He also realized that Speed & Function made sure that the code was lightweight and had outstanding performance.

They hoped for that, but they also found that:

  • Their creative team liked working with Speed & Function more than other providers.
  • Speed & Function Philadelphia team was easy to reach. And despite the timezone difference, they could almost always get hold of the European Speed & Function team and that they could join meetings with their client.
  • They were technically proactive, meaning that they would suggest potentially better alternative technical solutions (see my post on technical debt), as well as suggest simplifications to ensure it’s easier to hit a fixed budget.
  • They delivered frequent demonstrations, an important Agile concept, which kept the agency and their client involved and informed of progress and gave everyone the ability to make adjustments as needed.
  • They helped implement Agile methodology to ensure success with end clients when delivering a technology solution.

The result was that the project was successful and their client was happy which has led them to use Speed & Function again and again, so far delivering over 20 projects together.

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