Today I’m going to call out one of the biggest problems that I’ve seen in the web agency space.
This is the pattern that I’ve seen I repeated in many places, and something that should cease immediately.
Instead of collaboration between web agencies on joint projects, oftentimes we see the siloing of different agencies, and the lack of communication between them on projects.
For everyone that doesn’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to when a client hires a design agency, a development agency, and SEO agency all for the same project. But more often than not, these three agencies will never speak to each other during the entire process.
This type of agency siloing is weird and and unnatural.
Most importantly, agency siloing bypasses the opportunity to share information and knowledge.
Agency Collaboration is Currently the Exception, Not the Rule
Agency siloing is nothing new. It has its roots in the waterfall method, where different parts of a design and development team work on their parts of the project without speaking to each other. When the design is done, they “throw it over the wall” to the development team. When the development team is done, they toss the project to the content team.
This makes my heart hurt whenever I see it happen. These different parts of a team have specialized knowledge that they could share with the other teams. And when that information and knowledge is not shared, the project suffers.
For example, let’s say a client is launching a new website. Let’s also say that the client has hired three different agencies for design and branding, one for development, and one for content and SEO.
What’s most likely to happen is the design agency will build a beautiful looking site based on their creativity. But they may not consult with the development team to see if their design can be executed in a way that loads fast in browsers. As you know, page speed is very important for user experience, conversions, and SEO.
Another result of agency siloing: designs created without talking to the content agency will need to be modified, because the content that they are creating doesn’t fit the page templates. (This happens way more often than you think).
When designers and content writers don’t work together from the beginning, everyone creates work that doesn’t fit what their counterparts are doing.
You need three legs to make a table – or a website – stand: content, design, and development.
We also believe the more communication on the web project, the better. This means open, proactive communication between all the agencies that are working on the website. It makes no sense to intentionally silo everyone off from each other. Together, by pulling their knowledge, the separate agencies can do much better work by sharing information and collective knowledge with each other. This leads to a better client projects.
Why Don’t Agencies Communicate With Each Other on a Tag Team Project?
What are some of the reasons that agencies may be siloed off from each other? And what are some ways that they can avoid this scenario, and take initiative to make a positive difference in the project?
One mindset that we need to change is that each step of building a website is a separate, unrelated layer. That is patently false.
It’s too easy to think that you can design and build a website, and just throw some content or “SEO sauce” on it later. But in the real world, aesthetically pleasing design and quality site content work together. They don’t function as two separate things.
In fact, the entire purpose of design is to enhance the message. It does not overshadow it. Design and experience work in conjunction with content.
Design is very important to SEO, as is user experience (which usually belongs to the development team).
But beautiful design without great content will never attract the clients’ customers.
Likewise, a slow loading site with a beautiful design and great content will never do as well as a fast loading website with great user experience.
And truly, a site with great content, but with poor design, or inferior speed and UX will not be able to compete with sites that have all three.
This begs the question, how do we convince our clients to get all their agencies to work together? And, more seriously, how do we convince ourselves that other agencies have something to bring to the table that will be useful to us?
Agency Owners Must Take The Initiative to Collaborate
One thing we can do as agency owners is to take the initiative when it comes to communicating with other agencies. When clients approach us about a large project, we should be the ones to suggest collaboration, communication, and the sharing of ideas.
Not only should we be suggesting collaboration, we should be suggesting that we break the walls down, and remove all silos. Let’s share the knowledge that our agency brothers and sisters have to give us.
I say, let’s approach agency collaboration with an open mind, instead of insecurity. We will not lose our place at the table by inviting others to openly join us.
Most agencies realize that they are not full service, and can benefit from the expertise of others. It only makes sense to be proactive about learning from others and letting our clients benefit from that situation.
Will this mean more meetings with the client? Undoubtedly, yes. But if that’s what is necessary to have everyone on the same page from day one, then that is something that I welcome.
Does it mean that projects go on a little bit longer than normal? Perhaps. But it’s probable that our shared collaboration with other specialized agencies will ensure that we aren’t making changes at the tail end of the project. By getting on the same page from the beginning, everyone is moving toward the same goal, and working with the same mission in mind.
How Will I Collaborate Tomorrow (If I’m Not Doing It Today?)
When the web started in the mid 90s, it was possible to know everything there was to know. We called these people webmasters. These people could set up a server write the code to make a page run and do everything else that was necessary to make a website possible.
In the 20+ years since the onset of the web, web design and development has gotten exponentially more complex.
It is no longer possible for any one person to be an expert on everything. And even in the agency world, there are only a handful of agencies that have the resources and experience to be experts at a multitude of disciplines.
Let that small handful of agencies be full-service agencies. For the rest of us specialist agencies, let’s work on collaborating with each other.
Ultimately, this is about making our client projects more successful, and our agencies better equipped to navigate client projects.
In the immortal words of a great poet, we’re all in the same gang. Let’s embrace that attitude.