Illustration by Esmile Studio.

11 Questions You Need to Ask a Digital Agency Before Working with Them

Written by Joaquín Gatti for Elevate.

It’s no news that we’re surrounded by digital products we use on a daily basis. Some make it past the first three years, some don’t. There are many reasons why products may fail or succeed, but when creating your own app, web, or working with IoT, you want to make sure you’re on the second situation. When you don’t have the necessary knowledge in-house, you must resort to outside help.

Our 10 year experience creating digital products has allowed us to elaborate the ultimate guide for you to choose the right partner to work with based on both client and product needs. When looking for a potential partner, make sure they can answer the following questions:

1. What is your product creation process?

Why? Because you must have a proven plan that works when building a product that real people will use and enjoy every day.

First of all, the objective of what needs to be built is the most important aspect of the product. Clients need to provide agencies with clear product & business goals.

At Lateral View we think that a product will almost never be 100% finished. Most of the companies we work with have a hypothesis to test and that means that there must be time to work on the feedback that we get from users or to process the information that the data analysis team provides.

Every area works together in order to make a product come true and take care of every detail. Marketing, design, development should not be isolated areas but teams that maintain a fluid communication with each other and that have their objectives and tasks really well organized.

During the creation process there might be shifts regarding the target the product aims at. When this happens, agencies must be ready to face the creation process turn and restructure the process in order to get the best possible outcome. We usually recommend doing a 5-day Design Sprint with our team to find what’s the most important objective or task we want to cover in the first phase of the product we are building.

Want to know why Design Sprint isn’t bullshit? Read this Elevate story.

2. Who have you worked with in the past?

Why? Because you must make sure that whoever you choose to work with, has experience dealing with several challenges. Creating a product doesn’t just mean to write code or be a great designer, it’s also having experience working in teams, knowing how to build something great and is also learning from mistakes. You don’t want anyone to make mistakes on your product, you are looking for the solution.

At Lateral View we’ve worked with either startups that were looking for seed investment and needed to create an MVP or companies looking to take their product to the next level. This gives us flexibility and a better understanding of the market.

3. What do your clients say about you?

Why? Because you want to have real references of who you’ll be working with for the next couple of months/years!

It’s important as a digital agency and as a client to have a set of verified reviews. In our case, we have gathered real data using Clutch. They conduct phone interviews with previous and current clients, getting objective and verified comments that they add to the agency’s profile. We want our clients to know what to expect from us and references ought to be transparent.

4. Do you work with user research and user testing?

Why? When looking for a digital agency that focuses in human-centered design you need to be sure their team knows the product’s target. User research and user testing are the key to success in today’s digital market.

The digital industry is really competitive nowadays. Everybody knows that. When building new products, developers and designers need to offer experiences that are the perfect match for the users’ needs. At Lateral View we are always ready to get into the users’ shoes and work on research and testing. You need to polish usability and the whole UX in order in order to add value to your product.

5. What is your technology stack and development process?

Why? Building a digital product is an investment that should generate long-term revenue. Sometimes, when your product is new you’ll build a something that will help you get started, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about how it’s built.

At Lateral View, we’ve created very our own process that’s easy for every teammates and clients to understand. We make sure that all our code is available to anyone in the team, we commit to test our code before publishing it to a user visible version, and we’re open to feedback that will impact the way we do things. Since our code follows a known standard approved by our leading members, making changes on the code is easy because we have a clean architecture from the ground up.

Also, we strive to put the business first by attempting a Lean approach in every project that we work with. We are an agile company, which means that our development process was deigned around techniques that helps provide business value in short periods of time. Learning while we build is very important to reduce the failure threshold.

6. How big is your company?

Why? Because diversity leads to knowledge and because you want to work with a team that has real experience building products that interact with the real world.

As a company we’ve seen startups rise and die (sometimes this is inevitable), however we constantly grew. We are always looking for new people to work with, people that understand our values as a company and that share our vision. Why does it matter to have a diverse team? Because it helps us build better products. One of our policies is to have a weekly sit down with the entire team to debate on issues or progress that someone has made in each of their projects. This helps us solve problems or communicate findings that are important to the entire team!

7.How many projects are you currently working on?

Why? You don’t want to be one more sticky note in the “To-Do” column.

You’re looking for a partner to help you create a product, that’s why you’ll need the agency’s attention as a team and you must respect each other to make this happen. At Lateral View we are also looking for exciting new projects to work on because in the end our portfolio is proof of our value as an agency. Being intelligent when choosing our clients means we have the same interest in our clients’ success. We want your product to succeed as much as you!

8. What’s your experience working with remote companies?

Why? Let me put it this way, why do you think that top talent just must be close to your office?

Along with technology and Internet, came a destruction of communication barriers. This also means it became easier to work with other people that doesn’t necessarily work close to you in an office and maybe not even in the same city as you are. For that very reason, we’ve been preparing ourselves by building a process that allows us to work with our teammates and clients without worrying about time zone or location. Have we succeeded at this? Yes! We’ve worked and we’re currently working with companies in the US, Europe and Asia offering remote consultancy. We plan our meetings, we make commitments, we make the most out of communication tools and (most importantly) we reach our goals.

If you are interested in this topic you might want to read our story: The Future of Work is Remote.

9. How do you ensure you’re up to date with the latest technologies?

Why? Because you don’t want to be tied to outdated, unmaintainable technology.

At Lateral View, we work with the latest technologies that are proven and approved widely. We don’t like to work with outdated technologies because we cannot remain indifferent to innovation. No one will support old tech afterwards. Also, we don’t want to ruin your business with new tech that no one has really used nor knows if it actually works. We are in continuous search of knowledge which help us stay up to date in the tech stack that each of our teams use to develop the product that we’ve decided to build in the most solid and robust possible way.

Besides, you really want to work with people who are eager to experiment and learn new things. That’s why since we started Lateral View, staying up to date with every technology, framework or methodology has been part of our core philosophy.

10. What’s your hiring process like?

Why? Your project is the next big thing and for that you need to partner up with a team who knows what they’re doing.

We take very seriously each candidate that applies to one of our open positions, so we try to find out if they do have what we are looking for. Once in the interview process we ask them personal and professional questions, because both aspects are extremely important to us. We think that tech skills can be learned or taught, but we’re quite sure that we cannot teach anyone how to be a good teammate. After a technical and english exercise, we introduce them to the team and offer them a position. The process may be a bit long, but it’s what it takes to find out if there’s a match between us or not. Last but not least important, we ask our team to be part of the interview too.

11.Does your team work inhouse?

Why? You don’t want to work with an agency that knows nothing about technology or trust your project to freelancers you don’t know and that are not used to working with the rest of the team or maybe even as a team.

Behind every successful project there is a top-notch team! At Lateral View we’ve created the processes mentioned above to make sure that we are the team we’d choose if we had a huge project coming up. Our experience has lead us to open up headquarters in Mar del Plata, Barcelona and San Francisco. We’re proud to say that we know everyone in our company and that we grew together to be able to provide a top quality service by creating end-to-end products.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 344,974+ people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.