Why you should appoint a web development agency rather than a web design agency

February 1, 2022

You’re hungry, so you browse for chicken salad on Deliveroo. One restaurant has gorgeous pictures but you’re baffled because they have a low rating. Another has quite good pictures, but their rating is high. You have a very important decision to make, which chicken salad do you order tonight? 

After careful consideration you conclude “those pictures though…” and order from the first restaurant. After waiting for two hours, you hear a knock at the door and find a bag of food left there. When you open the bag, you are greeted not by chicken salad, but a plastic box of chicken feet. 

You might now be asking, have I ended up on the right blog post? 

You have. The story above rings true if you’re trying to distinguish between a web design and a web development agency. Web design agencies, as the name implies, have a strong focus on the aesthetics of a website. They’ll potentially focus on your logo and branding if you don’t have a strong brand already in place, and the content of your website (like your blog posts and layout) for example. Or to go back to the original story, the images on Deliveroo.

And there’s a lot of utility in this. For example, 38% of people will not engage with a website whose design or layout is considered unattractive. You also only have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression and 52% of people are less likely to return to a website if they have a bad user experience.

So if the aesthetics of your website are so important, then why not go with a web design agency? This begs the question – do you want chicken feet or a chicken salad for dinner? In other words, are you looking for something that can deliver a fulfilling meal with excellent customer service, or do you want something that looks the part at the expense of performance, security, maintainability and functionality?

How to avoid chicken gate

As the saying goes, there are certain horses for certain courses. The same goes for a web application – there are certain technologies for certain objectives. You may spend your budget on tasking a web design agency to craft an innovative design for your e-commerce website. “Wow”, you think “these 10 animations are going to look great”. 

Often, you’ve just squandered an opportunity to get a design that satisfies the design team and the development team. Those 10 animations may have just added an extra 3 weeks to the project for marginal improvements and oftentimes detrimental outcomes. Did you consider, for instance, that those animations cause render speeds to decrease 3 fold? Or that a web development agency would have suggested different animations since those ones are incompatible with how your codebase is currently structured? 

And not only this, you may have just blown most of your budget on the design alone. But have you considered who will build the site? Well the web design agency has said they can, but before you go ahead with that, consider this – web design agencies aren’t fussed about the technology they’re using. They might, for instance, task their dinosaur developers to use vanilla PHP (i.e. without frameworks) and jQuery for your e-commerce platform. However, a web development agency (worth its salt) would choose a platform suited to e-commerce stores – Drupal Commerce for example – and start using this.

But why does this matter? Because new frameworks and new technologies perform better and can be maintained securely for longer than their predecessors. Want more sales? Then use React, or any single page frontend framework – it renders much faster than older frameworks (like jQuery), which will improve your conversion rates https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/page-load-time-conversion-rates. A backend framework, like Drupal, would give you the flexibility to scale your e-commerce store much more easily than vanilla PHP. The catch is you would need knowledgeable and experienced developers, like the ones at a web development agency, to create a platform with these technologies.

The lifecycle of your web app is also in how well it is coded. A web development agency may ensure this by adopting a philosophy to maintain your application as it scales, such as TDD so that changes can be integrated without half the site unexpectedly breaking. A web design agency, on the other hand, might instead pump resources into refreshing aesthetics without addressing technical debt [link to post] that’s stagnating the website’s performance.

And this isn’t to suggest that things like your logos, buttons, and your overall UI aren’t important – they are – it’s just they are one piece that contributes to a holistic web strategy that prioritises certain aspects based on what’s important to your business. This is why a good web development agency will work alongside web designers to solve UI and UX problems

“We have visuals from our design agency, but now we need someone to build it”. This is something we have to confront often at Purr, and sadly sometimes the designs simply aren’t right

How come? Because a web design agency isn’t going to be considering the implications of the designs on the performance of your web application – your most important asset. So why should you involve a web development agency from the beginning? It means that instead of brainstorming for weeks about micro-interactions that make a negligible, and possibly detrimental, difference to a website – you can have technology experts consult with web designers from the beginning and push back when there are going to be performance issues or issues with reaching a deadline within your timeframe and budget.