STANWOOD insights

How You Choose The Right Digital Agency

May 7, 2019 10:31:10 AM / by Karin Kleist

You have a great app idea, the necessary funding and a solid business plan. Congratulations! Now you just need to find the right agency to build your app.

choose the right digital agency


Asking your network for referrals and researching has left you with a long list of potential agencies. But what should you base your decision on?

It’s a bit like dating: there are many smart, good looking and nice people out there - but if the chemistry isn’t right, it won’t work out. :-)

Here are some tips to find your perfect agency match.


1. Be Clear About Your Budget

Talking budget right from the start might sound a bit harsh. But it will save you a lot of time and it will narrow down your agency list to the most likely matches.

Ask yourself: How much are you able and willing to spend on your app prototype? That’s the number you go into the talks with the agencies.


2. Be Concise In Your Briefing

The more detailed your briefing, the more accurate the estimations will be (hopefully ;-). Try to paint a clear picture of what you want the agency to deliver to you. Here are some questions that help you prepare for the first briefing:

- Is it a web app, a native iOS or Android app or do you need both?

- What level of user interface would you like? MVP, basic or polished?

- How should users be able to sign up to your app? By email and/or social media? Do you need multi-tenant accounts (common for SaaS apps)?

- What are the key features of your app?

- Does your app have a shop or payment integration?

- What should your backend look like? CMS, user analytics, admin pages, performance monitoring, etc.

- Do you need to integrate third party services?

- What level of security do you need?


Don’t panic if you haven’t figured out every detail yet. Good agencies will give you sound advice and ask a ton of questions to figure out what you need.

Be transparent with your budget from the beginning to make sure your budget fits the agency size - and the size of your project. Stanwood, for example, takes on projects from 50,000 EUR.


3. Don’t Narrow Your Search By Region

There is a high probability your perfect agency match won’t sit around the corner of your office. And that’s ok. App projects don’t need face to face interaction or daily sit-ins to work out. So don’t limit your search by region and spread your radius.

Stanwood for example is a 100% remote agency with developers working from all over Europe. And our clients come from all over Europe, too. We have face-to-face meetings, video calls, weekly stand-ups and a 24/7 communication channel in slack (a great remote working tool).

Nevertheless, think about time zones when you make your choice: good and fast communication is key for your project to work out. So choose a partner with a time difference that’s manageable for both sides.


4. Check For Market Knowledge And Case Studies

You’re going to develop a fitness app. So it won’t hurt if your agency had done some health and fitness projects in the past. Check their website, blog and social media profiles for case studies or just ask if they can share some recent projects with you. Understanding your target audience and market specifics is essential for creating a great product - and it saves time during the development process.


5. Reach Out And Assess The Replies

You narrowed down your list to a few promising agencies. Contact them and ask them for a quick chat to talk shop. Besides the “hard facts” from your briefing, pay attention to their communication skills (because communication is key for a successful project):

  • How quickly do they reply to your initial email? Answers on the same day or the day after are usually a good sign.
  • Do you speak the same language? Meaning, do they understand what you’re looking for? What kind of questions and comments did you get from them, how detailed were those? If you don’t get along in the briefing and negotiation process, your working relationship will probably be tricky as well.
  • How are their language skills? Many agencies hire from all over the world and have development hubs in other countries. That’s a good thing because they have access to the global talent pool. Nevertheless, make sure the team members you’ll work with speak excellent English to avoid misunderstandings and mishaps on the way.


6. How Do They Work

Every agency has a different toolstack, project management philosophy and processes in place. Ask them which tools they use, how you will communicate with each other, what their sprint cycles look like, how you give feedback etc. Their approach should be systematic and transparent so you feel you’re in safe hands at all times.


7. How Detailed is Their Pitch?

What did you get in return to your briefing? How detailed is their offering? How long did it take them to deliver their pitch? Did they wireframe your app or did they design some screens? Did they charge you for their initial work? What are the next steps? Usually, they’ll schedule an initial workshop with you and your product manager to discuss specifics and meet the core project team on both sides.


8. Ask For References

You have a good feeling about one agency but you’d like to eliminate the last nagging doubt. Ask the agency if they can set you up with a former client. Getting first hand experiences from former clients will give you an even better picture of how the agency works - and how they will probably work with you in the future. If they’re open to it, it’s a good sign. Ring the client up and ask about how the processes worked, how satisfied they were with the results, how good the communication was, if the agency hit time and budget and if they would hire them again in the future.


9. What’s The Pricing Model?

It starts and ends with talking budget. What do they charge for? How’s the acceptance process? How much time do they plan for bug fixes? Is it a fixed price model or do you pay per sprint/feature? Do you understand the payment plan? Is there an upfront sum and is it reasonable? Typically, the industry standard upfront payment is 20%-30%.


Now, we hope our short but efficient checklist helps you find your perfect agency match.


If you have any questions or need a second opinion on an existing offer, just schedule a free 15min consultation with our managing director Hannes.