It’s hard to beat a good example. The CSS Tricks blog has a great one when it comes to hiring a web design agency or consultant: The blog’s author, Chris, currently wants to buy a new porch but he has no idea who to hire:
I know what a porch is, but I don’t, like know about porches. I don’t have a good grasp on what porch renovation costs. I don’t know exactly what I even want, other than that my current porch looks kinda crappy and I want to make it more beautiful and more useful.
So I’m in the position of hiring some kind of porch company. Are there porch companies?
How Much Do You Know About Porch Building?
I suspect this will sound familiar to many people trying to get a website built. There are some great questions and thoughts as he talks about considerations for buying a
- Do you have a budget and vision? Are they realistic?
- Do you know exactly what you want or do you want someone to lead you through it?
- What are the biggest factors that affect the cost of a porch?
I think the one possible difference between porches and websites is that most people use the internet to write and create things every day. The distance between their skills and experience and those required to build and design a functional website aren’t always so clear.
Ironically, even for those of us that don’t build porches, we can generally understand how a porch is constructed—you measure and plan, you get the wood, you put the wood together, and voila! Porch!—since it’s out in the open and a physical object. I think building websites is a little more “magic” to people and so the steps seem simultaneously easier and more mysterious.
It’s All In [When You Have] the Details
I thought one of the most valuable observations was the difference among website builders and the level of specificity they want when first starting to work with a new client.
If you have a mockup and exact plan of what you want, you should be upfront about that when hiring an agency and you are hiring them to build a thing you have a firm plan for. Some may be into that, some may not.
I certainly know people who mostly want specific instructions of what to build and design so they can get to work, but I prefer to understand my client needs first and then work with them to clearly define what we’ll build to meet those needs. This is the same reason I often think RFPs hurt more than they help people since they encourage you to get to specifics early in a project.
At the end, though, it’s not just porch-building skills that matter:
Just as importantly, I’d like to feel like they are strong communicators, have my best interests in mind, and come recommended.
Sounds right to me.