You probably already know all the blessings of Jamstack, and you’re on your way to choose and hire a reliable agency to get things going.
Depending on who you are – a small company with a single website, or a startup, or a digital agency that needs a long term partnership – an excellent Jamstack agency should:
- understand how your business works, what are your key objectives, and how Jamstack can accelerate them,
- help you set up success metrics to get you closer to the outcome you desire,
- come up with a clear and appealing plan of action,
- help you with the smooth implementation and release.
But, shouldn’t they be just good at coding? Isn’t that enough?
Well, it’s enough if you have experience in working with agencies and developers, but in that case, you already know what to do, and maybe you don’t need this guide at all.
In another case, you must remember that coding is easy. But a good understanding of what should be done is not.
So if you clearly know what needs to be done, and how to make that happen, all you need is just a developer skilled enough to execute your plan.
But if you don’t have such an experience yet, we recommend you to spend some time and get prepared to find a truly reliable partner, as there are many challenges waiting on the way.
Let’s go over it step-by-step.
Challenges of building a website with Jamstack Agency
It’s tempting to just send an inquiry and wait for the best price, but it’s only a good idea when you are willing to invest even more in managing the entire project yourself – including motivation.
But more than that, what you should be ready for (and we recommend avoiding) is:
Lack of end goal and objectives understanding
If the agency thinks that all you need is just a fast website, this may be dangerous ground.
If you run an online business, there is a high chance you will miss a lot of opportunities to build a truly great digital foundation and a real lead generation machine.
The agency doesn’t have to be an expert in your field, but they need to be willing to learn fast and to understand how your business works. Finally, they should be able to help you build a website that will gain visitors and transform them into clients.
In other words, they need to be able to translate your business objectives into technical requirements.
Mind that lack of understanding can also lead to the endless fixes that keep coming out on the way and in many cases you will be the one that will have to pay for it.
Finally, you may even have a problem getting the website up and running at all.
This is especially embarrassing when you run, or work in a digital agency, and you constantly have to explain delays and missed deadlines to your client.
Costs coming out in the middle of the project
It’s really hard to get a perfectly executed plan, especially if it’s complicated, or you need to stick to a specific budget. Yet it’s not impossible if both sides are dedicated and engaged in the planning process.
In other words, it’s really important to be aware of what can come up on the way.
Most often, whenever you want to change something in theplan, an inexperienced agency will say:
- Sorry, you didn’t mention this feature before, so we will have to double charge it
- This is out of scope, so it will cost three times as much
- The project is too advanced for such changes, we will have to rebuild our price proposal
And although it sometimes true that clients like to change their minds in the middle of a project, and the agency cannot do much about it without adding extra costs, an experienced agency knows how to build a scope of work that will minimize such risk, and yet keep the project agile enough to adapt to changes that may come out during the process.
They just simply know what kind of questions to ask before they even write a single line of code.
That comes with years of experience.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that each and every plan will face such challenges. Perfectly planned and executed projects do exist, but they are extremely rare.
What I mean is that you still have to be ready to face changes and challenges if they come.
And it’s extremely useful to have someone truly experienced on your side, to handle them without huge financial surprises.
Lack of clear priorities
If an agency is unable to understand where you want to go, and build a clear plan of action, they won’t be able to set up clear priorities either.
And as you probably know, priorities are super helpful when unexpected things happen.
If the project goes with the plan from the beginning, that’s obviously great, but when any problem, or issue occurs, without clear priorities you may face huge delays that are coming from unplanned meetings, more plans rebuilding, cost revising, etc, etc.
In short, an additional effort that could be avoided.
Lack of internal processes
And what it all comes down to, again, is experience.
An experienced agency that is willing to learn from mistakes, probably already has a great number of challenges on its record and was able to build processes around handling them.
But it’s not only about the challenges. They also have well-established practices in each and every project phase, sprint, or even point of contact, to keep you constantly updated, informed, and comfortable with the project.
In other words, they just know what to do on each step, in pretty much every case.
If they don’t, that doesn’t have to be totally bad. Just be aware of that, and be ready to spend more time, effort, and commitment to be the one they will learn on. It’s probably going to be also cheaper. You know, we all had to start at some point.
Misunderstanding of the cost of Jamstack website
Although we love to think that building a Jamstack website is the best option for every single business there is, we are also humble enough to admit that it’s not entirely true.
Maybe your website doesn’t need all the blessings of modern technology. Maybe it’s perfectly enough to try something simple and cheaper at the beginning and still get good results.
However, if your business relies (or about to rely) on your website performance and stability, and the cost of being down for a day or a few is too high to risk it, Jamstack is the thing you need.
And that, of course, comes with the price, as by building a Jamstack website, you are about to use the best of modern technology, and you will need qualified React developers to make it work well.
It’s much harder to build a business next to a partner you cannot really trust.
Especially when he is about to take care of technical stuff as an expert, and you don’t want to check and verify each and every step he takes.
So. How to find such an agency that will make you feel much comfortable and ultimately, deliver what your business need?
Let’s get prepared.
How to get prepared?
Ideally, you want to get the Jamstack agency on a call.
To make sure you won’t waste your (and the agency) time, we prepared a 5-step process you can follow to prepare yourself for such an interview.
Step 1: Specify needs and budget.
First, note down features and functionalities you want to have in your application, or your website.
If you don’t have any features in mind yet, it will be helpful to prepare a list of websites that makes you inspired, and have similar functionalities you would like to have.
It can be also helpful to make a list of the tools and platforms you would like to integrate, like CRMs, Google Analytics, Tag Manager, Hotjar, etc.
If you don’t have them, you can always ask the agency for recommendations.
Listing features and tools are also helpful while specifying your budget.
Before starting any project, it’s great to be at least roughly informed of how much money you are able to spend.
If there’s totally nothing that comes to your mind, see what the agency is able to offer.
How much a Jamstack website costs?
Of course, the cost depends on the complexity. If it’s just a simple static web page, you may pay around $5k – $10k for it.
If next to that, you would like to plan a UX, UI, and designs, be ready to spend around $10k – $30k – depending on how big the project will be.
Finally, if it’s a big and much more complex project, the cost can be around $20k – $100k+.
Of course, the budget will be also revised by an agency, and during the process, it may occur that some options may have a different cost than you have predicted.
On top of that, making a good list of features and adding something we call “priority points” (from 1-10 for example) will help you decide which things absolutely have to be implemented, and which you can save for later to cut the initial development costs. It’s a bit like building the MVP.
In some cases, a good agency will give you a ballpark estimate or even an initial fixed price for the project. But if you expect the project is going to be more complex, you may want to consider other options, like time and material, but that should be also suggested and reasoned by the agency.
Step 2: Check the website of the Jamstack agency.
Agency’s website contains a lot of useful information you can use while preparing for an interview. Especially you should focus on:
- Agency’s specialization – mind that Jamstack is a quite new term, and it’s not so widely popular (yet). Because of that, it may be a better idea to look for Gatsby or Next.js, or other Jamstack technologies on the company’s website.
- Size of the agency – even if the project is relatively small and one developer is enough, you don’t want to be dependent on an agency with one or two developers on board.
- Localization – check if the agency’s time zone covers your time zone, at least partially. Decide if the potential time difference will be too much of a problem or not. It’s also convenient to be able to fix law issues easily, f.e: to avoid copyright issues.
Step 3: Check the agency’s portfolio.
Dive into an agency’s portfolio to look for projects involving Jamstack technologies. Check, if some projects are similar to yours. Even better if the agency did some work for companies in your niche – they will understand you better right from the start.
Step 4: Read reviews and testimonials.
Believing an agency’s word is risky. The better way is to check reviews and testimonials on portals like Clutch.co or even call or ask past clients directly. Don’t be afraid to ask for an honest opinion.
Step 5: Prepare a list of questions.
If you are satisfied with things you found out so far, it’s time for the last step – a list of questions. Such a list should consist of general and a bit more technical questions. It will help you decide whether an agency is trustworthy and skillful, or just about to start learning to be.
Questions to ask a Jamstack agency
Here’s a helpful list of questions, and a small explanation of what you should expect.
Competences, collaboration, and quality assurance questions
How to make sure you will get what you want?
Good partnerships are not afraid of difficult questions.
The ones below will help you understand what you can expect from the agency while working together and how they approach quality and delivery assurance.
Competences & Collaboration & QA:
- How many Jamstack projects did you do so far?
- Do you outsource your projects to other companies, or do you do them all by yourself?
- How quickly can you kick off the project?
- Will you provide maintenance/support after the project delivery? How much does it cost?
- Do you provide any guarantee?
- How do you manage projects? What tools do you use? What are the processes?
- Can you take care of UX and design as well? (If you need them)
- Will the source code be our property?
- What CMS will you recommend for my website?
- How can we hand over the designs smoothly? What info do you need from us?
- Are we going to work with the same developers during the whole project?
- What do you do when we are not satisfied with the work of your team members?
- If you change a team member, or he gets sick, how do you make sure that the new one will perform with the same high quality?
- Will we have a Project Manager?
- What kind of important meetings will we have during the whole project?
- What does the payment schedule look like?
Understanding your business:
- Have you worked on projects in our niche? Could you provide examples?
- How can you reason choosing Jamstack for us?
- Would you recommend any specific technologies (tech stack) to us? Why?
- Which business metrics should we consider as the most important? And how can we measure them?
- What measures could we use to make sure we are going in the right direction?
Without any Jamstack development experience, asking technical questions may be challenging.
However, in this case, if you want the Agency to be a trustworthy partner, you don’t have to check their technical knowledge, but you may want to see how they explain technical stuff to others, and that’s all you need for now to gain some trust.
To help you with that, we’ve prepared some questions that could uncover possible threats.
1. How do you approach ensuring website and the code quality?
At Pagepro, for example, we make sure everything is named correctly and readable (variables, functions etc) so the code is self-descriptive.
We also use TypeScript which is somehow making sure we won’t accidentally break the code when we change something.
We also do code reviews before we push it further, so you can’t merge the code that is not approved by others.
And finally, we use linters – a static code analysis tool used to flag programming errors – so each and every developer working on the project is using the same principles and standards.
2. Do you provide any documentation we can hand over to other developers if needed?
At Pagepro, we do provide documentation, and we update all the documents each time we change something important that includes extra work or requires making the project work correctly.
3. What is the difference between Next.js and Gatsby.js? Which is better for me?
Gatsby.js and Next.js are two of the most popular tools used to build static websites.
They are both the top choices in Jamstack development, and both are great to build superfast and SEO-friendly pages. However, the difference between them lies deeply in the project requirements.
To get a great overview of the main differences, you can watch our video below:
Or, you can read our blog post on differences between Next JS vs Gatsby to have them copied and written down during the conversation.
4. Can you explain how the decoupled (or a headless) approach works, and how it is different from the traditional approach? Which could be better in my business case?
Decoupled (or in other words, headless) is a concept really close to Jamstack, especially in the ecommerce world.
It’s a concept of disconnecting the front-end layer from the back-end layer and syncing them with each other.
It’s worth asking the agency what kind of headless project they did, and which platforms they used on the backend.
Read more about the headless ecommerce approach.
5. Can you explain how Jamstack is affecting the SEO and User Experience? How can it translate to my business case?
All that Google wants from you is a lightweight, easy to scan website with clear and simple user experience.
And static pages are giving you just that.
Read more about the impact of Jamstack tehchnologies on SEO and convertion rates.
Other general and lighter questions
These are totally light questions, but you also may find them helpful.
1. How long did you work on your longest project?
The size doesn’t matter – your project might be small or complex. What matters is if the agency can build a long-lasting business relationship. If the answer is yes, it means that they probably can manage projects of all sizes.
Also, working on long-term projects usually requires putting out many fires during the development process. If that’s the case, the agency won’t be surprised by anything.
On the other hand, they won’t make promises they can’t keep because their experience helps them decide what’s possible and what’s not.
2. Can I ask you for a code review?
Junior developers don’t do code reviews – it’s a task for senior developers. Because of that, this question is a tricky question to check if a particular agency has some seniors on board. If yes, that’s what you want.
Also, asking for a code review is a form of a short way of checking technical skills instead of a long technical interview.
3. Do you take part in any open-source or community activities?
Pagepro, for example, is partnered with Gatsby and Netlify community. We are also constantly helping and share knowledge with other communities around Jamstack.
And by the way, who doesn’t like working with passionate people? If developers working in a particular agency are passionate about their job, they will probably contribute to your project as well as they contribute to communities.
Such activities involve:
- Open-source projects
- Conferences and events
- Sharing knowledge with the world (blogging, posting on social media, etc.)
5. Can you send me profiles of your developers?
It’s a way of checking the skills and experience of developers that might work on your project. You will learn more about their technical qualifications, portfolio, and other helpful information.
However, don’t make it the only step. We all know CV can be boosted to meet your demands. CV should be a good point of reference while asking more questions. Not the answer itself.
6. Can I talk to some of your previous clients?
Reading reviews and testimonials and relying just on them might be deceptive. Therefore, it’s a great idea to talk directly with previous or actual clients of the agency. It might help you understand better how the agency works or if it might be a great fit for your project.
Questions you can ask:
- Why did you choose this agency?
- What can you tell about code quality and documentation?
- Are you satisfied with how they managed and executed your project?
- What’s their English level?
- What were the weaker points of this cooperation?
- How do they work under pressure?
7. What did you use before Jamstack, and why did you make a switch?
It’s an important question that will tell you whether they are using Jamstack because it’s on the rise or because they see the real value in it.
These questions give you a great chance of choosing the right Jamstack development. However, we also prepared some additional tips which can be a part of further verification because making the final decision.
- Check technical skills twice – if you are not entirely convinced, don’t be afraid to ask for a trial week or some real-world code examples. The other option is to ask for a technical interview with a developer that might work on your project.
- Verify provided information – don’t believe in everything the agency says. If you can verify information in some way, do it. For example, talk directly with previous clients or check official certificates.
- Talk with at least a few agencies – even if the first interview went great, schedule at least a few more. It will give you a better overview of the average rate, information about realistic expectations from the agency, and a list of standards and best practices.
If you are a knowledge seeker that constantly wants to know more to make better decisions, we recommend the following articles, so you will get to know Jamstack much better:
- Why You Should Build a JAMstack Website?
- Benefits of JAMstack Development
- Is JAMstack the Best Web Tech Stack for 2021?
- Why Use JAMstack for eCommerce in 2021?
- JAMStack FAQ – What? Why? And Why Not?
Or you can just…