Like other companies that are considering a website redesign, you are probably faced with the decision to manage it in-house or outsource website design. A website redesign managed in-house can save your company 50% or more, but that cost savings can ultimately cost your business dearly if not done properly. Is managing your own website redesign a smart decision?
You're probably grappling with that question now. For that reason, I've attempted to provide an unbiased viewpoint given my experience on both sides of the table:
- While at Circuit City in the late '90s and early 2000s, we did several incremental redesigns in-house, but hired a large agency to help with our 2003 website redesign even though we had a web design team of six people.
- At Crutchfield in 2005, we redesigned the website in-house.
- Since 2007, our team has designed websites for companies of all sizes, including working alongside in-house teams and other agency partners.
As you can see, I've been on both the client side and the agency side, understand both, and write here from those experiences. Here are some considerations to help make your own decision about whether to do it all in-house or outsource website design.
In-house versus outsourced website design
The choice to redesign your company website in-house or outsource website design makes a difference in the cost of your website redesign. If you design your website in-house, out-of-pocket costs will generally be lower, while outsourcing your website design tends to be more expensive.
According to data published in HubSpot's report "The Science of Website Redesign," 44% of companies worked with an agency partner while 33% handled a majority of the website redesign in-house. The average cost of an in-house redesign is $30,106, while the average cost of an outsourced project is $69,576 (60 businesses participated in this survey).
Is outsourcing worth the extra cost?
How to decide if you should outsource website design
Evaluate your internal resources
Take an honest look at the people and skill sets at your business. Are the necessary people in place to create a successful website for your business? Can they do it on the desired timeline? Here are some of the types of people that you'll need on your team to create the most effective website possible.
- Marketing leader with heavy digital expertise who can guide the digital strategy, ranging from defining target audiences and their specific needs to defining key success metrics from a web analytics perspective. This is a person that can take company revenue and growth goals and translate them into visitor and lead targets, then can articulate exactly what's needed from a tactical perspective during the website redesign to accomplish those goals.
- Skilled web designer who understands that web design is more than artwork. This person/people will need to know how your ideal customers use the web and how to design a website that is easy to use and find information. This person also needs to understand web conversion and how it relates to the buyer's journey, and needs to understand your ideal customer and their behaviors.
- Talented web developer who knows how to produce clean, efficient code, incorporate a content management system so you can easily update your website, and knows how to code a website for today's many screen sizes. Page speed is critical for good SEO, so you'll need someone who's "up to speed" on how to optimize websites for performance, too. Since you want your website to generate new business, the developer will also need to know how to connect the website up to a CRM so your sales team can follow up on leads and track them through the buyer's journey.
- Skilled copywriter that can write using your brand tone, has a firm grasp on your company's unique selling proposition and can organize information in such a way that makes navigating the website a snap. This person also needs to know how to write for search engine optimization. You might not already know that content is the most overlooked part of a website redesign. Are you planning to use existing website content? You'll likely need to edit existing content at a minimum.
- Project manager that can take control over timeline and budget while effectively managing input from various stakeholders in your business. This person has to be a skilled communicator that's willing to be a customer advocate and is willing to skillfully push back on decision makers when appropriate.
- Other skill sets you might want to consider, such as a videographer for filming and editing web video that you'll embed on your company website. If your website is particularly large or functionally complex, you'll want a quality assurance tester involved in the project. If you don't already have a library of company stock images (ones that were taken just for your company by a professional photographer), then you may need a photographer for your project.
Can an in-house "one person web team" do the job properly?
Some small- and medium-sized businesses we work with have a dedicated web person or webmaster to handle their website. While these people are skilled enough to make updates to the website, designing and building a website from scratch requires both creative and technical competencies. Finding a person that does both design and development well is exceptionally difficult. Creativity and technical abilities require two different sides of the brain.
Good graphic designers might execute a beautiful web design with high artistic value, but the technology aspect will suffer. A web developer might write wonderful code but the design will be utilitarian at best and hard to use.
It's also important to note here that a "graphic designer" might not know the ins and outs of designing for the web. A web designer will know how to adapt designs to different modern screen sizes and design for usage patterns that are common to experiencing a website on a screen.
A project the size of a website redesign will pull your in-house resource off other projects completely, so if you're going this route, plan on them being otherwise unproductive for months.
If your business has a one-person web team you might consider making that person the project manager and outsourcing your web design project. Outsourcing to a team of professionals will give you several skillsets that know how to work together to get results.
Evaluate time commitment
Once you determine if you have the necessary talent in place to successfully redesign your website in-house, the next hurdle is how to take a person or team off of other projects and devote significant staff time to the project. A website redesign is not something that can be done "on the side." It's a project that takes focus and a significant amount of staff time. Even if you decide to outsource website design, the project needs to be a priority and people need to be allocated to the project at different review points.
Analyze past projects to understand if your staff has a track record of delivering projects on time and within budget.
Outsource to offset gaps in skill sets
After you evaluate the abilities of your staff, you may find that in-house resources would be well-suited for part of the project but not others. If this is the case, you might want to consider outsourcing part of the project. You may have a great project manager but lack design talent. You may even have a generalist that can design a website, but no one to assist with the initial website strategy and planning.
What area is your team weakest in? This might be a good part to outsource.
Note that some web design firms will not accept just part of the work. Many are structured to handle the project from start to finish and make recommendations at every step of the way. Check with a design firm first and be up front with them about your need to outsource part of the project.
Outsource web design if you need a fresh perspective
In both the client and the agency role, I've seen a lot of value in the fresh perspective that outsourcing your web design can bring. Working with a marketing firm to design your company website can cause disruption in how you might normally design and communicate. Your marketing firm isn't trapped in a "that's the way we've always done it" mindset. They can think like your customer in ways that you simply can't. They can see your business and your products/services like a real customer would, and ask the same questions that your prospect might.
There is such a thing as being "too close" to your products and services. When you work at a company, you tend to forget the questions that people new to your product or service might have. An outside opinion helps to stimulate new ideas that your website and content could benefit from.
Outsourcing to multiple agencies
Most web design agencies don't want to work alongside other web design agencies on a project. They typically will have different processes and ideas for the project, which could cause some conflict. To avoid this problem, we recommend selecting one agency to be in charge of your project.
You do, however, need to involve other agency partners in your website redesign project. If you're using a PR firm, for example, the web design firm needs to understand the PR strategy as inputs to the website design project.
If you do bring in more than one agency or multiple freelancers to complete your project, make sure their individual roles are clearly defined. You should always have an in-house employee act as project manager and point of contact.
Whether it's done in-house or by an agency partner, there are a lot of factors that affect the timing, effectiveness and cost of your website redesign.
Thinking that your website redesign is "free" because you have your own employees working on it is a fallacy. The opportunity cost of pulling them off internal projects can be costly, and internally-managed projects can have a tendency to drag on because subordinates have trouble advising and nudging their managers to make decisions in a timely way.
Outsourced website redesign costs are much more predictable because agencies have a reliable, repeatable process and do it every day. You'll often get more creativity and insight from an outside agency that can see your products or services as you can't. They can set up the website so that it deliberately generates leads for your business.
Costs of in-house website redesigns can quickly get out of control if you don't adhere to a budget and schedule.
Which is right for you?
Other Website Design Outsourcing Resources
- 12 Things That Differentiate the Best Web Design Companies
- 4 Questions You Must Ask When You Outsource Your Website Design
- 3 Reasons the IT Department Shouldn't Handle Your Web Design Project
- If you'd like to talk through what's involved with outsourcing your website design, let's talk. We can help you figure out if it's a good fit for your company (hint: it's not always a good fit). Here's how to contact us if you'd like to have a discussion.
How Whittington Consulting Can Help
Your company's website should be among your company's greatest assets. Our website redesign service empowers companies to attract and convert more new business opportunities. Whittington Consulting can redesign your company website to achieve lead, customer and revenue goals. Start here by requesting a consultation.
It's your turn
Has your company been through either an in-house or an outsourced website redesign? What were your experiences with the project? What are some other pitfalls that companies considering a website redesign need to be mindful of? Please share your experiences in the comments below.