Spec: may the force be with us and the common sense with you

A whiz who will be able to help you get your ideas together and who will answer all questions that cause you insomnia for seven nights in the row. Therefore, what you do is write a terse e-mail to a digital agency about your idea. Sometimes you may keep yours shoulder to the wheel and write the Request for Proposal with the description of all features, goals and so on. You're self-satisfied, because you know that you'll receive an offer which will be prepared by experts and tailored to your needs. Of course free of charge. If you like the idea offered by the agency, you will choose them. In any other way, you'll looking for another agency – in the end, there's a free market and everybody has to fight for the client. You also think that the more thought out idea is and the more details you will receive at this stage, the better. Let's just stop right here.


I'm really sorry, but I don’t have good news for you. It's not how the free market works. Just imagine situation like that: you want to eat a hamburger. You dream about baked beef with cucumber, crusty bread and crispy lettuce. So you go to a few burger houses and eat one hamburger from each of them. You choose the one which tasted the best and pay only for it. The rest are not worth your money. It's funny, isn't it? You know that nobody would agree to that. Because it's about trust. Perhaps this particular place was recommended to you by a friend, you’ve read a good reviews about it on the Internet or maybe you have eaten there before, so you trust that it will be as tasty as always. It's the same in the IT industry. Trust and good research are what matters – not the work that is done before the signing of the agreement.

Let's watch this short video that explains everything:

Frame-maker says "customers like the quality of work I do". Exactly. The lady in the bar adds that trust is really important. The argument "if we collaborate now, I will outsource more and more in the future" doesn't work. If you will, that's great, but if won’t... ho-hum. What I’m trying to say is that we should respect each other’s work from the beginning and we have to pay for the knowledge that we don’t personally have. Many people are doing this and they're happy. Check the reviews.

I know, I know... a large number of customers are thinking now "But why?! Some companies do that. I need to know what I am paying for". But is creation of a concept before the signing of the agreement and writing long spec really good to the client? And for you? No, it isn't. Let me tell you why.

Why should you give up?

Let's think about it. Is it good for you when experts that should work on your website (developers, graphic designers, project managers, UX specialists) are dealing with creating complex offers – specifications – instead of doing what they should do? No, it isn't. If you were this company client, I'm sure that you wouldn't want your project to be protracted by a graphic designer just because he/she is doing "quick" layout for a million other customers.

In addition, website is not a piece of cake, it is a process. Before we start the process, we have to consider the entire concept, talk with the Client, brainstorm some ideas think about architecture of the information and learn as much as possible the company. It takes time, but without that we are unable to make a great product. Creating spec at the offer or layout phase misses this goal. Because neither you nor the agency know which tools will be used to create the perfect project, you need to meet, talk and conduct workshops. In the other way around, everything that was created before will be unusable and,as the client, you will bear unnecessary costs, which will be added to the final settlement.

"But others do it"

Yes, they do. There are even those who try to catch a customer by showing pretty graphics. However, other aspects should be more important for you: focusing on the development process, expertise and paying attention to the usability. You can check out the quality of design in the portfolio, but it's not supposed to determine whether you will start project.

However, if you are still adamant I have one more thing to say. If you are looking for an out of the box idea, want to create innovate project or simply change something in your project, do not hope that you will get it at the offering stage. Creating ideas, specifications and graphics before signing the contract is very expensive for the agency, so it won't be based on craziness orinnovation. Typically, agencies are looking at everything what you already have, do a sketchy research and offer something similar. They will not, after all, risk losing the client, on whom they have spent time, but who hasn’t paid a dime.

In our industry it is rumored that clients, who don't ask for a spec at the offer stage, really exist. They are like a Holy Grail for any agency. We fortunately had the pleasure of working on this kind of projects and, what is important, both sides were satisfied with the final effect. There is only one reason behind it – it was always along-term cooperation. If you make a good choice at the beginning, put your trust in the knowledge of agency's employees, learn about their portfolio and check out if they understands your business and goals (belive me, you can do this without asking for concept!), you will collaborate with this agency for the many years. Like an old married couple, you will recieve the cup of tea even before thinking how much you wanted it. Is not the way it should look like?

No one want you to buy a pig in a poke


"What's next?" you'll ask. No one tells you to buy a pig in a poke. No one recommends it. You need to know why you should choose one agency and not the another. Sure thing. It is known as an "evaluation of the project". When you come to us with many ideas, but you don't know what to do with them, we want to help you. For this purpose we conduct evaluation workshops, where we discuss your project. Together we explore your ideas, learn about the target, do the in-depth research of the competition, define user's path and think about UX. At this stage we are also looking for the technologies, choose tools that will be used, advice you the solutions and look at the project from a marketing point of view. After evaluation there are no secrets for us (or maybe just a few), so we are able to provide indicative costs and determine the initial schedule. It's really important for us to make you feel comfortable and that you know what costs you can expect.

Thanks to evaluation, where we define communication rules and what roles all of us has to play in the project, you can get to know us and find out how we work. And what we always want is to be partner for you. Should you pay for the evaluation? Yes, you should, because it is our job. But thanks to paying a small amount at the beginning, you can be sure that we will use that time in a good way, not hurrying and not downplaying your inquiry.

In conclusion, the investment in experience of the team and standing up on evaluation (instead of focusing ondesign and concept) results in a long-term, peaceful cooperation. Just remember: trust, verify and talk, but don't require too much. You don't want the free project from architect before building the house, so don't require that agency will create the buckshee project before developing the website.

You can also find this article at MamStartup.pl

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