All good things come to an end.
Well, most, anyway. As the owner of a top Edmonton web design company since 1993, I know some relationships were seemingly meant to last forever, and others eventually reach a point where it's in everyone’s best interests to part ways. I’ve been blessed to have several clients who've stuck with me for decades, and those are the great successes. But sometimes, for very legitimate reasons, there comes a time to call it a day.
Here is when you know it’s time to break it off with your web design company.
1. The Thrill is gone. Not to suggest that every day has to be packed with adrenaline and constant high-fives when working with your web design company, but genuine enthusiasm and excitement about your vision are essential. I am continuously excited about my clients, because I believe in what each one is working for. If not, it would be unfair to represent them in such an important role.
2. They're Just Not That Into You. Your business is your livelihood, and you depend on its success. If you‘re looking for marriage and your web design company is out for a fling, it’s not going to work.
3. You've Grown; They Haven’t. As your business grows, it’s natural that your needs change. You have become more sophisticated as a customer. Maybe last year a one-page website was fine, but today you need an e-commerce store and an inbound marketing program. Not every web designer is equipped to take you to the next level, especially if it’s a high one.
4. They've Grown; You Haven’t. Likewise, if your web design company has become much larger and more specialized, other parts of the relationship will have changed. It’s likely their fees will have gone up: employing information architects, senior project managers and software engineers is expensive. If your needs have remained simple and don’t justify the cost of a high-level team, it may be time to let go and look for a smaller web design company or freelance designer-developer.
5. You've Slowly Drifted Apart. Whether it’s through one of you taking a new direction or staff turnover, most businesses change over time. What started off wonderful can gradually become tarnished or neglected. A good heart-to-heart is sometimes all it takes to get everyone back on course, but more often a clean break is the best solution.
6. You Can’t See Eye to Eye. Achieving a good match means aligning your business vision with a web design company who really “gets” you. It’s not imperative to be finishing each other’s sentences—complex ideas should reasonably take some discussion to fully articulate—but it ought to become easier over time, not harder, to work together.
7. You’re the Only One Who is Trying. Your relationship with the web design company is a two-way street, and requires excellent ongoing communication and devotion from both client and agency. If the effort you’re investing is not being reciprocated despite your clear direction and follow-through, it’s time to end it.
8. A Million Little Things. We’ve all been in that relationship when the cosmos speak clearly that it’s just not meant to be. It’s important to accept one another’s human imperfections, but when things go wrong repeatedly, whether due to messy project management, vastly different communication styles or a cosmic misalignment, pay attention and kiss one another goodbye.
9. You Were Never Right for Each Other Anyway. Maybe you both rushed in like the proverbial fools without asking enough questions, or perhaps the differences slowly revealed themselves, but the chemistry just wasn't ever there. Business relationships are complicated, and it happens. Sometimes you’ve got to admit irreconcilable differences and move on.
10. They Cheated. Clients and agencies can have varying definitions of a conflict-of-interest situation, and it’s important to make yours clear. It’s possible that your web design company focuses on your industry as part of a niche market. For example, the firm may specialize in the hospitality industry or work for most of the city’s real estate agents. It stands to reason that a web agency with deep expertise in your industry may work with your competitors. It’s fair to ask, and to state your boundaries. Usually it comes down to the firm’s ability to differentiate your brand and maintain everyone’s confidentiality. You may have even selected your agency because of its great work for your competitors and proprietary industry-specific web apps. But if you’ve learned through the wrong channels they’re in bed with your sworn enemy, or worse, are being loose with your trade secrets, it may be more than the relationship can bear.
In some cases, salvaging your relationship might be possible. If there is still good chemistry, and both parties are willing to identify and make the necessary changes (it is seldom one who is entirely at fault), you might be able to start over. You both have a significant stake in the relationship, and there are many stories of clients and agencies who have forgotten past transgressions and reunited to do their best-ever work. But if your gut says to cut your losses, listen.
Finding a New Partner
You can’t afford to rebound from one failed relationship into another, so take the time to identify what qualities you are looking for in your next web design company. Here is a popular article for finding the best match for your needs. Start by having a coffee with your prospects, and be open about past experiences. Learn how the new agency works, and discuss how you can make the transition in the most civilized manner. Find out if they are able to work with your existing code and have experience in the platform upon which it was built.
Getting Your Stuff Back
Beyond professionalism and ethics, there are practical reasons to be diplomatic in cutting ties with your former web partner. No one should be insulted if you lay it out with honesty. Request access to your web domains and all the digital assets that belong to you, including graphics, images, code and source files. It is reasonable for the outgoing firm to charge its normal rate for the time it takes to gather and supply these to you. If you are moving hosting, your new web company can advise the smoothest way to do it.
Rebuilding Your Life
If your website needs significant upgrading (such as if it is not mobile-friendly), expect your new firm to recommend a full redesign. It’s not pleasurable to decipher another developer’s code, especially if it is badly documented, inefficient, or plain sloppy. Ideally such problems will have been identified, along with a plan, before making the switch. This is an opportunity to do everything little thing right, from your branding, content strategy and User Experience to how your site performs in search.
View it as an adventure, and be prepared to give it your all—just as you will expect the same from your new web design company.
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