More than 250 different website development agencies currently serve the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and at least a dozen of them offer some degree of Drupal CMS development services [1, 2]. However, few website development agencies specialize in providing end-to-end, results-oriented, Drupal-based website development solutions. Consequently, it can be challenging trying to find a website development agency that you can trust for your Drupal-based project. Any website development agency can build a website. Yet very few can create powerful web design for your business that uses data-driven methods to max out your websites’ potential benefit for your firm.

The bottom line is: your firm’s website should support the growth of your business, not the other way around. Choosing the wrong website development agency for your specialized project almost guarantees that your web presence will become burdensome and will ultimately keep your firm from realizing its full potential reach and revenues.

What to look for when vetting web development companies for Drupal CMS services

Most website development agencies in Minneapolis call their lack of service focus a strength. They try to differentiate themselves from the crowd by claiming to have more expertise and insight about a massive variety of services, including multi-platform web development, app development, web design, UX/UI design, digital strategy, etc [3]. The point that these firms miss is that, in today’s crowded web development industry, being good at a lot of different things does not make them competitive; customers have access to literally thousands of average service providers who can piecemeal together their web presence.

Instead, a competitive website development agency showcases exceptional work and a highly specialized skill set [3]. What’s more, competitive website development agencies treat those different elements of the process as parts of an interdependent digital ecosystem [4]. That means that the specialized skill sets they provide complement and inform each other in ways that piecemeal or independently developed services cannot. That is true for services developed by independent, non-collaborative teams within the same firm, too.

Consequently, a competitive website development agency for your Drupal 8 project should not just provide some good-quality Drupal 8 services as well as a handful of other disconnected capabilities. This “silo effect” (a lack of cross-team collaboration on multi-faceted web development projects) yields, at best, average results [5]. Instead, website development agencies should promise (and showcase a long history of) high-quality Drupal 8 services informed by and including other entangled elements of a successful digital ecosystem. This should include UX/UI design, digital marketing strategy, branding, content marketing and SEO strategy, as well as IT management.

Though it sounds like a lot, expertise and cross-team collaboration on your project is the absolute minimum you should ask for, and the least you should be willing to accept from your chosen website development agency. Moreover, the best Drupal 8 website development agency for your project will additionally:

1. Maintain strong collaborative ties with their clients.

Effective client collaboration plays a critical role in a web development project’s potential success [6]. Yet more than half of website development agencies say client collaboration is their greatest weakness and their biggest challenge [7]. The best website development agency in Minneapolis (or anywhere) for your Drupal 8 project will demonstrate the use of two critical collaborative tools:

● Drupal 8 Collaboration Functions. To remedy the problematic (and persistent) disconnect between developers and their clients, Drupal 8 provides industry-leading opportunities for client collaboration [8]. Consequently, an agency/team that demonstrates expertise in Drupal 8 CMS development should additionally know how to use those collaborative tools to their maximum potential benefit for your Drupal 8 project.

● Speaking To Clients As Equal Partners In The Project. Though not a Drupal 8 specific skill, using client-centric communication practices almost guarantees improved website performance with respect to clients’ specific business objectives [9]. That is because insufficient client-developer communication is the fastest route to misunderstanding. Essential communication practices include using language the client understands, discussing plans in terms of outcomes that are important to the client, and using two-way communication channels that the client feels comfortable and empowered using. Failure to communicate this way not only creates, but also contributes to and harbors long-term misunderstandings between the development team and the client. These misunderstandings ultimately cause dissonance between the development/design features and the client’s goals and are also often push a project over budget [10].

2. Have a broad portfolio showcasing their ability to expertly render their specialized service package across a wide variety of industries, business sizes, and sectors.

Because no two websites (or their development processes/goals) are the same, you should look for a website development agency that has a demonstrated capacity for success on a variety of projects in different industries and business sectors [11]. This should include in the service of a wide variety of business objectives [11]. In examining an agency’s portfolio, you should look for consistency in their project characteristics and outcomes. That is not to say that they should create the same web presence for each client. Rather, the best website development agency should be able to deliver the same high-quality results regardless of the parameters of a specific project. This demonstrates their expertise in service provision and also indicates that their client-developer communication channels are effective and flexible.

One of the most significant markers of consistency in website development performance will be the user expectations that are apparent in the site design and functionality [12]. This is because good UX (eser experience) design ensures that clients not only get what they want from the website, but are also proactively moved forward in the sales and/or conversion funnel because of it [13]. The best website development agency in Minneapolis (or anywhere) for your project should demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of how people interact with websites and always apply the best tools for engaging and converting visitors.

3. Always create mobile-responsive, leading-edge leaning websites.

The best website development agency in Minneapolis for your Drupal 8 project should also demonstrate a robust understanding of both standard and modular mobile responsive features in Drupal 8 [13]. Given that almost eight out of ten website visitors navigate away from websites that do not display correctly on their device, expertise in this area is critical to the success of your website [14]. Key mobile responsive features in Drupal 8 include:

● A Fully Mobile Responsive Theme Engine. Twig, Drupal 8’s theme engine, empowers the best website development agencies/teams to create mobile-first sites by default [15]. This is essential, considering that more than half of website traffic requires mobile responsive design [16].

● Responsive Images & Optimized Image Loading. The best website development agencies also leverage Drupal 8 ‘s new breakpoint mapping and image formatting tools to helps images load faster [15]. This is essential, considering that four out of ten mobile site visitors say they will leave any site that takes more than about 4 seconds to load [17]. For reference, the average site loading time is still almost 7 seconds [16].

Additionally, Drupal 8 drives towards the leading edge of website capabilities and design trends with every patch, update, and (presumably) future version release [18]. Both government and enterprise clients can expect greater security, more expansive database capabilities, increased site traffic capacity, and enhanced user experience when using Drupal 8. Design and capacity innovation is key, as the average website visitor decides whether to stay on or leave a website within 0.05 seconds of arriving, and 75% of them judge a firm’s credibility based on how modern/dated its website appears [19, 20].

4. Demonstrate expertise in highly technical services related to your specific industry or sector, or required for your project.

A website development agency doesn't have to have the capability to do everything. In fact, advertising the capacity to do absolutely everything can be a sign that the agency has failed to sufficiently specialize or develop expertise in any given service [3]. The website development agency you choose must have the capability to do everything you need for your project, so you can compete with your competitors and serve your customers to the best degree possible [21].

To that end, most projects require some niche service provision on the part of the website development agency. Your firm's needs, wants, and unique business objectives, as well as the standard best-practices of your industry, will determine what specialty product and service integrations your project requires. Though there are many guides available for what every website needs to be successful, there is few publicly-available industry-specific information to inform these decisions. Consequently, the best website developer for your project should already know (and know how to implement) the essential functions for your industry/market niche. For example, one of the fastest-growing cross-industry niche product needs is interactive map development and GIS integration [22]. This is especially relevant for government and government-affiliated sites. Drupal 8 is an excellent platform for mapping and GIS, though developers lacking expertise in this application will be unable to create anything beyond simple maps [23].

5. Follow results-oriented and UX/user centered development practices.

Working with an explicitly results-oriented website development agency is a vital part of achieving your business objectives through your website [24]. This is because it is no longer sufficient to build (and have) just a good-looking website; there are plenty of those available to users. Successful websites that generate leads, convert customers, build positive brand reputation, and increase customer loyalty must intentionally move visitors through the site. This is an intricate design goal that requires expertise in several different services, including web design, UX design, and digital strategy. Moreover, working with a UX/user-centered website development agency proves almost invaluable, as every $1 invested in expert UX development yields up to $100 in returns [25].

References:

1. https://clutch.co/web-developers/minneapolis

2. https://clutch.co/developers/drupal/minneapolis

3. https://www.workamajig.com/blog/differentiate-your-agency

4. https://www.smallprojectsbureau.com/understanding-the-digital-ecosystem/

5. https://blog.trello.com/tips-to-improve-cross-team-collaboration

6. https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:372747/s4012459_phd_submission.pdf

7. https://usersnap.com/blog/client-collaboration-in-development-design-survey-report/

8. https://opensenselabs.com/blogs/articles/drupal-development-roles

9. https://www.devlounge.net/strategy/7-ways-improve-communication-clients-developers

10. https://www.infoworld.com/article/3258799/the-secret-to-ensuring-your-software-project-stays-on-budget.html

11. https://www.perrill.com/12-things-to-look-for-when-choosing-a-web-design-agency/

12. https://designmodo.com/consistency-web-design/

13. https://drupalize.me/blog/201405/drupal-8-responsive-what-does-mean

14. https://www.ironpaper.com/webintel/articles/web-design-statistics-2017/

15. https://opensenselabs.com/blog/articles/drupal-8-mobile-responsive-what-store-you

16. https://www.statista.com/statistics/241462/global-mobile-phone-website-traffic-share/

17. https://econsultancy.com/blog/10936-site-speed-case-studies-tips-and-tools-for-improving-your-conversion-rate

18. https://www.isovera.com/blog/am-i-disrupting-you-your-drupal-innovation-lab

19. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01449290500330448

20. https://www.kinesisinc.com/the-truth-about-web-design/

21. http://westingarm.ca/support/designing-a-specialized-website-for-your-on-line-functions

22. https://nobelsystemsblog.com/gis-data-business/

23. https://www.drupal.org/taxonomy/term/187751

24. https://www.oskarseo.co.uk/5-steps-to-finding-a-results-oriented-web-design-company/

25. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/03/23/the-bottom-line-why-good-ux-design-means-better-business/#310f966d2396