The end of the calendar year is always a thoughtful and reflective time around our office. We consider the highs and lows of the past months, brainstorm ways to improve upon the work we’ve done, and inevitably spend some time considering whether our day-to-day approach has been in the service of bigger-picture goals. The cozy, snowed-in moments lend themselves to existential contemplation. So, when we read Magne Ilsaas’ post on the Post Status blog, “The WordPress Enterprise Paradox” last month, we got pretty excited.
One of the topics that consistently reoccurs is what it means to be a “WordPress agency,” and then wondering if we should refer to ourselves as such. We’ve seen so many different creative agencies come and go — all of them for different reasons, and all of them leaving clients wondering where to turn next. It’s generally accepted that (for agencies under the “advertising agency” umbrella, at least) the average agency-client relationship lasts a little over 3 years. But the 3-year mark is about the point where we start to get really comfortable with clients, so the thought that the average client drops out just about when things get really fun is disappointing to face!
The pandemic found us really doubling down on our desire to avoid the clichéd agency-fizzle-out — everything felt so unstable that we found immense comfort in the long-term, supportive relationships we’ve established with clients as well as vendors and contractors. There’s no doubt that the institutional knowledge that we build over years results in higher efficiency, easier support, and faster and higher-quality project work for everyone.
Do you really need a WordPress agency?
If you already have a WordPress site that needs help, you’re probably going to go looking for a WordPress agency. After all, you need someone who’s comfortable “under the hood” and knows how to problem-solve those unique challenges that WordPress can present.
But as Ilsaas points out,
[there is] an over-emphasis in WordPress agencies on short-term engineering solutions to the exclusion of long-term business solutions. What’s often left out is design, user experience, and most of all the capacity to play a strategic advisory role in partnership with clients […] we need to become more than developers and designers. We are now business advisors, thinking on behalf of the companies we work for.
There are a lot of website development agencies using WordPress out there, with shiny portfolios showing off the pretty, modern sites they’ve recently built. You can very quickly identify if their design aesthetic and their approach to UX vibes with your vision for your brand. They might even have video content that introduces you to their team or describes what it’s like to work with them on a website build.
What’s harder to represent in a portfolio or in video content is what the experience of a long-term relationship with that agency will actually be like.
Hang tight for just a second — should you be reading this first?
Should you be using WordPress, or another platform?
We love WordPress, but it might not be the best choice for building your website. Get our advice on how to choose the best website platform for your specific needs.
Prioritize website strategy over website development
When you’re looking for someone to help you with your WordPress site — whether it’s a from-scratch build, a transition away from a different platform, or a redesign of an existing WP site — you want to make sure that you’re not just hiring a development shop. You’re best served to hire a partner — whether it’s a freelancer, a consultant, an agency, a firm, a company — who’s both ready to be in the trenches with you long-term and who has a solid, reliable network to help you cover all of your digital bases, now and in the future.
Owning a business website that actively supports your lead generation and revenue-building efforts is a long-term project. The best and most useful-to-you business website is one that you or your team will interact with on a weekly basis — publishing content, creating lead capture forms or pages, interacting with site visitors, and building new functionality to improve or automate business processes. The goal of creating and owning a business website is to end up with a useful-to-you tool that helps you accomplish your goals over the long-term.
Choosing a website partner — whether it’s for a big project like a build or for ongoing help with software updates or content publishing — should always take the long-term into consideration. If you choose a more traditional, project-based web developer, that’s okay! There’s a ton of value in working with someone who’s development- or project-focused; you can get a professional, high-quality site launched very quickly. But it’s important to make sure that you’re also working with someone who is willing to get to know your business, understand your goals, and strategically advise you well beyond the 6-12 weeks that the build or redesign takes.
It’s true — we really do love website support
At Berry Interesting, we do love a good website (re)build. We get to play with our favorite tools and discover new ones, we get to see new photography and graphics, and we get to solve new and interesting problems! But what’s most satisfying to us (and perhaps this makes us a bit weird) is the ongoing work to keep the website well-maintained and at-the-ready so that when you go to use your custom-built tool, it’s 100% prepared to be there for you.
You should be able to focus on what you do best — actually running your business, instead of troubleshooting a broken plugin, recalling how to use the formatting tools when publishing your latest blog post, or figuring out how to connect your eCommerce store to a shipping provider’s rate API.
We wholeheartedly agree with Ilsaas’s take:
The best solutions can be made when we take our WordPress knowledge and developer skills and use them to create sustainable platforms and design systems that align with business strategy, user needs, and digital marketing.