When to outsource web work

Your in charge of your organisations website. It has become moderately successful and now you have a decision. Do you hire a full time web designer or outsource to a web design agency?

In many situations the decision to develop in-house or outsource is not down to you. Either an internal team already exists, or you are forced to outsource because you cannot fund in-house staff. However, occasionally you will have a choice. How do you decide between developing your website in-house or outsourcing to an external agency?

Lets take a moment to compare the choices.

Illustration of two people holding placards. One reads 'Vote for IN' the other reads 'Vote for OUT'

Using an in-house team

Using in-house staff provides a number of benefits…

  • Internal teams are more cost effective for long-term projects and ongoing maintenance.
  • Because in-house teams work within the business they can understand organizational objectives and target audience, better than an external agency.
  • An internal team is committed to evolving the website over time. They are constantly looking for ways to improve the site.
  • An in-house team is able to promote the website internally and ensure it does not become neglected.
  • Because an internal team is not juggling multiple clients they can (if well managed) be more responsive than an external agency.

Outsourcing to a web design agency

However, outsourcing can also bring some substantial benefits…

  • Outsourcing is more cost effective for short projects where the expenses of hiring, salary, training and equipment would be prohibitive for an in-house team.
  • An external agency brings a fresh perspective that institutionalized in-house teams cannot offer.
  • External agencies have a broader perspective of the whole industry, rather than what is happening within a single company.
  • An external agency needs to constantly ensure it is cutting-edge to stay competitive. This ensures that the quality of work is consistently high.
  • Because external agencies tend to be larger than in house teams they have more specialized and highly skilled staff.

The choice

There are good reasons to go with either approach. It comes down to two things, the length of the project and the funding available. If your website needs constant development and will evolve on an ongoing basis then an in-house team may be more appropriate. Of course, supporting an in-house team can be expensive. There are the initial costs of recruitment and equipment, as well as the ongoing expenses of salary and training. For shorter development projects the benefits and cost savings of outsourcing may outweigh the convenience of an in-house team.

In reality, the decision isn’t between internal or external. There is no reason why you cannot combine both approaches. For example, an external agency could be used for development work while ongoing maintenance could be handled by an internal web editor. Equally, you could do the bulk of development internally, but bring in external agencies for specialist work such as search engine optimization or user testing. This hybrid approach works well because it combines the strengths of both in-house and external.

This is an extract from Paul’s book – The Website Owners Manual