eCommerce Web Design & Development: In-House or Agency?

Whether you’re starting from scratch as a new eCommerce business or looking to make better use of your existing store, investing in your site is vital for taking sales to the next level.

There are two main strategies you could use for investing time and money into your eCommerce operation. Employing an in-house developer, or hiring a specialist agency. The option you choose depends on your business’ individual needs, the products you sell, your plans for the future, and any restrictions you might have.

Here are the pros and cons of both in-house and agency strategies:


An In-House Developer

An in-house developer or designer will be employed directly by your business to work on a daily basis, building your eCommerce business and helping you sell online. Taking this approach has both its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your business’ situation.


The Pros

Employing a developer or designer full time gives you access at any point in the development process. You’ll be able to meet with your designer daily for detailed updates and have input whenever necessary.

In House Developer

They’ll be able to tweak aspects of your website like product descriptions at a moment’s notice, product graphics and artwork for your pages and adjust your navigation and categories.

This means you’ll also have a greater overview when it comes to the design process. Having an in-house developer allows you to monitor the progress of your projects more efficiently and be reactive with how you develop your site. For example, you can quickly test different page designs and features without having to communicate with a 3rd party.

Also, an in-house designer or developer will be able to gain a strong understanding of your business’ brand and ethos. They’ll be working with your team every day, getting exposed to your ideas and strategies. This makes it easier for them to reflect changes of strategy in their work.


The Cons

However, there are some down-sides to using an in-house strategy.

Having one in-house designer means you won’t have access to a range of expertise. For example, your designer may be great with web technologies, but not so great at SEO or content production. There is a wide range of skills needed to create a successful eCommerce business, and one member of staff is unlikely to possess them all.

A single developer may only have expertise in a certain platform. You’ll need to hire a professional capable of working with your chosen web platform, and one who has past experience of it’s interface, programming language and capabilities.

Hiring a developer may also be more expensive if you don’t require them full time. Once your initial project has been completed, you may not want to make as much of an ongoing financial commitment. This means you could be paying for time that you don’t actually need.

You’ll also have all of the responsibilities that come with having an extra employee. So you’ll need to draw up a contract, invest in the hardware they’ll need and account for any training they may also need.


Hiring an Agency

Hiring an expert agency brings with it plenty of advantages and could be a smarter move for gaining access to experience and expertise. Here’s why an agency may or may not be a good choice for your eCommerce business:


The Pros

Using an agency gives you access to a wide range of expertise. Unlike with an in-house team, you’ll likely have access to professionals who specialise in everything from development to SEO and design to social media marketing.

Agency

Great agencies will also have excellent relationships with eCommerce platforms. For example, we at Statement are Shopify Experts, so have direct contact with the platform’s developers for up to date information and advice.

Shopify Experts

Hiring an in-house team capable of all of this would also be much more expensive, and would be a big recruitment effort. You’d have to ensure that you hired exactly the right member of staff for each position and build a strong team from scratch.

In hiring an agency, you are getting a highly professional team tied to a well defined contract. You can set clear goals for your chosen agency and easily measure progress towards them. A good agency will be open and transparent, giving you clear insights into how your eCommerce project is progressing or performing.

You won’t have the responsibility of managing a team on a daily basis.


The Cons

Hiring an agency could be more expensive, depending on your needs. If you need a developer available at a moment’s notice, any time of the working day, an agency may be less financially viable.

This also makes an agency the slightly less flexible option, although a good agency will still listen to your changing needs and be able to adapt.

If you want greater control over every aspect of the development process and the ability to offer input all the time, an agency might not be an efficient choice. Hiring an agency is about establishing a relationship and developing trust in the agency’s expertise.


The Right Choice for Your Business

So how do you decide which options would be the best choice for your eCommerce business?

Right choice

Think about any time and budget constraints that you have and assess which route would best suit these constraints. If you’re focusing on building a business, and don’t have the time to invest in training and growing your own team, hiring an agency may be the best option.

On the other hand, if you have the capital and time to put together your own experienced and skilled team, this may be the better option for your business.

You should also consider how much support you’ll need on an ongoing basis and whether the ‘been there and done it’ experience of an agency could be valuable for your fledgling business.

Will you need to be changing integral aspects of your eCommerce site on a regular basis? If you’ll need artwork designing, page designs tweaking and custom sections building for promotions and events, having someone in-house may be beneficial.


In Summary…

There are great advantages both to hiring an agency and employing your own in-house team for your eCommerce business. Consider the needs of your business and how they are likely to develop as you grow, and you should be able to make the choice that works best for your business.

What to find out more about what an agency can offer your business? Just get in touch and we’d be happy to help.

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