Terms Of Trade: Digital Product Agency Vs Web Development Agency

At some point, a successful business comes to the grips with the fact that its online presence requires some solid reinvention. This can be done on so many levels and in such a wide variety of ways, it often becomes catatonic. Getting off the ground at this point is almost impossible without some proper guidance and professional help.

IT For Business Development

Now not to be a woo-woo pedaler, this is not some secret knowledge or anything. It’s about dealing with enough bullshit to know good from bad and riding you of all the unnecessary things you might encounter submerging yourself into the digital competition.

Sticking to the business development goals means passing on all the shenanigans of the bridging industries to concentrate on what you do best – running your company. The competitive and extremely sensitive online industry has the potential for countless amounts of loot if you know where to go. With the internet being the #1 source of incoming data, there has never been a better time to foster the efforts to perfecting the online public image of whatever you are doing.

Why Transform Online Presence?

Unfortunately, spreading the word is not enough. It’s a shark tank and you clearly have to know what you are doing. So let’s figure out why the hell would you jump into that tank in the first place:

  • Your business doesn’t get the desired (or potential) exposure. You might be running a local pizza place and have your every other client reporting that’s the best goddamn pizza they’ve ever tasted in their life, but if you are not revealing that information online, you are missing out. Letting people know and share about your craft is the way to reach as many people as possible and have them build your following. Answer: you need someone to take care of your website/software.
  • Your business needs to stand out from thousands of the alike. This is common, you are doing a great job, but are not the only one out there. In this case, your dedication and commitment, paired with a smart strategy might work for you. Like Jiro Ono, the owner of the best sushi place in Japan and thus, in the world, “Sukiyabashi Jiro” meticulously polished his craft to become world famous after 50 years of hard labor. Answer: you need an SMM strategy. The iconic Jiro Dreams Of Sushi documentary did it for them.
  • Your business grows and you want to be prepared. Missing out on opportunities due to the inconsistent infrastructure of your website is not only bad business, but it’s devastating for your business reputation. Having a website or software that has scalable potential, but is resource-efficient is the wise way of staying ready without being an extravagant prepper. Dollar Shave Club exploded on the market not being prepared for the traffic their viral video generated. Nevertheless, they did recuperate and readjust for the new environment. Answer: you need a strong analytical ground, qualified to manage your web resources.

This is where the pros come into play. Before we go any further, let’s clarify, which type of companies you can hire to revamp your online presence.

Digital Product Agency

The fancy title unveils perhaps the broadest spectrum of IT related services. Derived from the pure website development, digital product agencies gradually absorbed the most promising breakthroughs in the industry to have them become part of the modern digital M.O.

What’s A Digital Product?

A digital product is that exists to fulfill digital transactions. This includes tangible goods, services, retail, and augmented production.

Digital product agencies cover the entire ground and by doing so, they can be your ultimate source of all things technology and online marketing. As Brad Stone puts it in his book called “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos And The Age of Amazon”:

“In a world where consumers had limited choice, you needed to compete for locations. But in a world where consumers have unlimited choice, you need to compete for attention.”

Digital agencies have it figured out. They chop the decision fatigue at its root – why would you need to go looking for multiple connoisseurs for different tasks if you can have one company do it all with equally good results? Like Amazon for IT services. Sounds good and feels like rids you of all the hassle dealing with different personalities, workflows, timezones, legal stuff and so on.

Services Digital Product Agencies Provide

  • Product Strategy. Includes conception, planning, building the entire set of practices for design, development, release, marketing, maintenance, and support, update implementation, etc., related to whatever digital product it is.
  • User Research. Due to the interactive and individual properties of digital products, it makes perfect sense that you know exactly who you are catering to. Jeff Bezos quote from the same book: “Great merchants have never had the opportunity to understand their customers in a truly individualized way,” he said. “E-commerce is going to make that possible.”
  • Design. All the aspects of visual and experience design: UI/UX design, visual design, art direction, and visual Identity.
  • Technology.  Technical implementation of the product, including the web and mobile development, software development, computer engineering, QA, machine learning, and all sorts of technological manipulations on the product.
  • Analytics & Optimization. The vice grips don’t let go after the launch. Digital product agencies know how to promote, commercialize, and advertise your product. They often move straight to SEO guidance and optimizations after the product is out.
  • Infrastructure. This is still muddy waters to me, but I believe what infrastructure development means is building all types of branching services and means supporting the main product.
  • Business consulting. If building a digital product, promoting, and updating it is not enough, a digital agency can dip its toes into the heart of your company – its business operations. Technical proficiency and overall knowledge of the game enables them to provide business guidance.

So, on the one hand, you’ve got this extremely diverse, polyfunctional colossus capable of solving any technical and non-technical problem and challenge your business has in front of it.

On the other hand is the niche-special, focused, limited-duty, almost boutique-ish experience in a web development agency.

It’s worth noting that one of the ways of reaching the inclusiveness often associated with digital product agencies is delegating some technical parts of their projects to the third-party web development agencies. Multiple times over the history, we’ve been approached by major companies that needed some specific services. It is generally done within the broader project and requires a great deal of integration. As opposed to a single team, executing the entire technical task from cover to cover, much more supervision is necessary for such an approach. At the same time, if you will be dealing with the focused specialists eventually, do you really need a middle man?

Web Development Agency

First, let’s back off a little bit. The three common problems we just mentioned above, one way or another lead us to the understanding of the importance of a strong online representation.

You are not redefining the way you run your business, you are not looking to get a sick logo, or inject thousands of dollars to Google AdWords right away. What you do is – you think of the better way to present your achievements in the most favorable light, stressing the skills you have today and the opportunities you provide for your customers.

Once again, you are looking to establish your momentum, not chase the pipe dream.  

I can’t help myself from falling to the Kill Bill analogy again. How cool is it that Uma Thurman went to find Hattori Hanzō to get one ultimate sword, rather than going to Nick Cage-type lord of war to get a kit of various pieces?

In other words, you know what you are doing and you know why you are doing it. Your specific tasks might require a specialist. That’s what a web development agency is. A specialist.

Services Web Dev Agencies Provide

  • Web Application Design. Includes UI and UX design after an extensive research of the industry your business operates in and the set of requirements for it. The output is cut and dried – the working prototype, representative of the final functionality. From mood boards to wireframes, to graphic design, to prototype – all in continuous iterations and feedback considerations.
  • Mobile  Application Design. Covers the visual and the most important part of your mobile application. The visual appeal and usability are the most important factors in the success of a mobile app. Concentrating on those means polishing the way an app is perceived by users and thus increasing the count of happy customers.
  • Web Application Development. Setting the design in stone by building a strong back-end system with scalability and efficient resource consumption. Responsive UI development or front-end to provide smooth and pleasant performance and usable experience. The benefit of having the prototype reflected to a tee in the front end is only reachable when there is a synergic team with members focusing on the equable tasks.
  • Mobile Application Development. The same app might look and feel differently on different platforms. This is due to the specifics of those It’s important to hire a team capable of leveraging the advantages of every single mobile platform they develop for. The variety of devices available is also a factor which makes the mobile development segment of a development agency a standalone department.

As you can see, the high-level list of services provided by a web development agency is way shorter than that of a digital product agency. But there is a twist to it. Like I said if you are looking to cover as much ground as possible, a single-source digital partner might be a good idea. You’ll have them take care of everything, but it’s up to your own risk that the coverage might be shallow, though very broad.

But in case you need a deeper immersion into one specific aspect, it’s better to find experts for every single aspect. In our case, if you feel like lacking better online presence, a web dev agency is your expert.

Jack Of All Trades Vs Master Of Some

To pinpoint the main existential difference between a digital product agency and a web development agency, let’s take a look at the frameworks of them.

Running a versatile digital product agency means having all your troops in constant preparation for battle. But what is the battle never comes? A good management would mean dismissing those troops to concentrate on those in the heat of the battle. A great management though would be in creating the condition under which the idle troops would be engaged. In our case, this means if your company needs a website and you hire a digital product agency to take care of it, out will most likely be lured into utilizing the rest of the services this very agency magically provides. Again, nothing wrong with that, you might end up in a win-win situation.

My concern as a representative of a grassroots company is in the lack of the character-building surveillance of your own business. Any executive would tell you that some mistakes made at some point have become milestones in their business lifetime and they wouldn’t trade it for the momentary success. Perhaps, investing more time and energy in the deeper and more prolific research of one aspect and then moving on to the next one is the way to get an edge on the competition and prove yourself as a solid business.

Marcelo Garcia, multiple world champion and one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the world said it best:

“It’s better to have one good side than two bad ones”

The Add-on

The result of your work with either a digital product agency or a web development company will be the actual product. But the product only starts once the work is done. If you are dealing with a complicated solution, you want to make sure your users will get the point and figure it out. However, they will require help and the more compelling and adequate your help is, the better the experience. Here is a story by Ferry Vermeulen about how you can create a user manual for your entire startup with a reusable template and a set of tools anyone can use:

User Manual Template Case Study: Startup Creates a Compliant Manual