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Four Options For Designing Your Next Digital Product

Ned Vaught
Company Storyteller
6th Dec 2022
5 min read

When it comes to creating a new digital product, there are four standard options you can pursue:

  • Build a low code/no code version of the product by yourself
  • Outsource overseas to an offshore (or “nearshore) solution
  • Recruit your own team and build the product internally
  • Hire a UK agency to build the product for you

Each of these options has benefits and drawbacks. Let’s go through them one by one. 

Low code/no code

The simplest and cheapest way to create a new digital product is to simply build it yourself using one of the growing number of low code or no code tools on the market.

No code tools are so common, actually, there’s a good chance you’re using one to help manage your business already. SquareSpace, MailChimp, and HubSpot CMS are all considered no code platforms.

You can also build databases, online shops, and even smartphone apps with no code or low code tools. Because they require minimal technical expertise, and can produce a finished-looking product quickly, these are often a great option for building a new digital product.

The problem is no code tools are often difficult to scale - something that becomes an issue if your new digital product is meant to grow, or be the focal point of your business. A no code application may struggle to cope with hundreds of thousands of users. If it can handle a huge amount of activity, the fees to run the app for so many people are usually exorbitant. 

Switching away from a no code application to a fully-coded one which can scale effectively is often extremely difficult or impossible. If you are building a digital product for a small group of people performing a simple task, no code can be a brilliant option. If you want to scale or build complex software, it will probably cost you much more than you save in the long run.

Offshore/Nearshore

If you need a fully coded application, but want to keep initial costs low, you might consider hiring an agency with offshore or nearshore workers.

Developers working offshore (a term which typically refers to Asia), or nearshore (which typically refers to other parts of Europe) tend to be much cheaper to hire than people with equivalent skills and experience in the UK. This can bring the overall cost of a project down, or can allow more features to be included in a project’s scope than if developers were closer to home.

There are downsides to consider, however. Besides differences in time zone and language, people in other countries have their own workplace culture and expectations that can lead to confusion and delay. 

Depending on the country and its particular labour market, there could be significant competition for the best talent, which can lead to unwanted levels of staff turnover. This can happen in any country, of course, but is much harder to anticipate and manage when your team is not local.

Still, despite the disadvantages, having a team located offshore can be made to work. This is especially true for very large projects, where hundreds of developers and designers are needed and the investment in time and energy to successfully manage the process makes sense.


Recruit your own talent in-house

If looking abroad for development and design talent seems daunting, hiring your own in-house team to create a new digital product might seem tempting. It certainly comes with one main advantage: having your own in-house team means having a lot of control over the design and development process. 

This level of control comes at a cost, however. Recruiting a talented team can be an expensive and time-consuming process, and this assumes you definitely know the exact roles you want to fill. Do you want a back-end developer with expertise coding in js-node or .NET? Should the front-end designer have experience with React? Will you need a UX designer?

Things get more complicated when you consider the shortage of developer talent which exists everywhere, but is especially a problem in the UK. Finding the right person with the right skills you need might take a very long time.

And then, what happens when the project is built - will you have new projects to keep the team you’ve just assembled busy? Also, be aware that the very best developers like building new products, but tend to find the ongoing maintenance work your new product will need less fulfilling. This can further complicate recruitment if you want a team to build and maintain a single product.

Working with a UK-based agency

We might be biased, but we think partnering with a UK-based agency has a lot of advantages. Instead of facing a major recruiting challenge, you can ask the agency to supply the exact talent you need when you need it. The challenges to smooth communication and workplace culture misalignment that can result from working with an offshore agency are also absent.

But what about the cost? Doesn’t working with a UK-based agency mean much higher fees?

It’s true that the hourly rate of an agency operating offshore or nearshore will be lower, but this doesn’t always result in a lower overall cost. 

The goal of any digital product development should be to build the right product, and build the product right. This means making sure the product you build is exactly what you need (which is often not the same as what you think you need at the start of the process). 

It also means creating a digital product that has robust software that can scale to meet any growth in demand without crashing or having to undergo an expensive rebuild.

Misunderstanding, miscommunication, and shortcuts can lead to massive costs that only emerge long after the build process is complete (usually when they are too late to avoid or work around).

The best agencies will also have access to technology which boosts efficiency. For example, at Rocketmakers we use an internally developed system called Orbit, which can knock weeks off of a project development time at the start of a project. When a project requires far fewer hours to complete, the hourly rate becomes less of an issue. Find out more about Orbit in our interview with Keith, our CTO.

And, of course, the best agencies are able to attract the best talent, and can match the right people on their team with the technology your product needs. You can also ensure your application is built to last, and won’t end up in a no-code “growth cul-de-sac.”  

Interested in hearing more about the advantages of working with the UK’s Digital Agency of the Year? Check out some of our projects or send us an email to [email protected] and tell us about your vision.