In-House Web Development vs. Digital Agencies: Which is Better?

Are you looking to determine whether hiring an in-house web developer is more efficient than partnering with a digital agency? If so, this guide will help you make the best choice for your organisation.

If you’re supporting a website or Intranet that requires constant updates or is part of a larger digital marketing strategy, ensuring you get best-in-market return on your investment is vitally important.

From price model comparisons to an in-depth look at the value of niche skills sets and support agreements, optimise the way you resource your web development with these helpful insights.

You get what you pay for (if you have a contract and a deadline)

At times, inexperienced IT Managers can make the mistake of looking at the hourly rate a full-time employee (FTE) is being paid and compare that directly with what an agency is quoting to do the same job. In this instance the two services being offered are very different and cannot be compared if you haven’t taken the time to understand what you’re actually paying for.

For example, if you’re running an IT project utilising full-time employees, the overall cost of a project should be based upon how many hours it takes to complete a project, plus the ‘less visible costs’ of running a business. This should include superannuation, PC and desk space, as well as management time, all which need to be considered when evaluating the actual cost of a project. But what if a project runs overtime or is delayed by internal resourcing? Have you considered the opportunity cost which is being left on the table?

Contrast this with the agency model where the slightly higher cost of engagement covers exact requirements and mitigates risk on behalf of the client. You’re not only guaranteed a positive result for a price that won’t move with no surprises, but deadline extensions should be limited reiterating the benefits of agency engagements.

Niche vs. ‘Jack of all trades’ skills sets

When hiring full-time web developers, generally you’ll be looking for someone with a variety of skills and an appetite for learning new technologies. Unless you work for a very large organisation who can afford to hire a number of professionals with niche skills sets, your hire is likely to be more of a generalist. However, what do you do when you need to handle those challenging tasks that come up from time to time? You need a web development partner.

If you require a niche, highly technical task to be undertaken in the web development space, you’re definitely better off hiring an agency specialist to deliver this requirement. Not only will a specialist agency deliver your requirements faster, but the quality of work will be higher. In-house web developers are great when it comes to delivering ongoing daily tasks, but niche tasks are better left to agencies who have strict guidelines around accountability. Yes you can attempt these tasks in-house, but more often than not they will take longer and may not be delivered to exact specifications. The question is whether you’re OK with this?

In-house vs external web development support agreements

Put simply, if you’ve got a full-time web developer in your business, they should definitely be spending some of their time supporting your websites. That being said, if they’re too busy on a project or you need extra support but don’t want to hire another body, outsourcing your website maintenance and support is a great way to go.

OSE offer two types of support services in the web development space:

Another common reason organisations are outsourcing their website support on an ongoing basis is once they build their site there’s no longer a need for a full-time or contract employee. This can occur because an agency built their site and needed an internal expert, or the end of a project has occurred and work requirements have dropped. Either way, these reasons are becoming increasingly common as organisations look for ways to reduce spending.

The “comfort factor”

One of the more interesting factors which can help companies decide whether in-house web development or an agency is best for them is what we call the “comfort factor”.

The comfort factor basically describes how hungry an agency or employee is to impress. For example, agencies will generally be keen to impress because they know if they don’t you won’t hire them again. Agencies are also interested in industry awards and recognition, so it’s important for them to produce quality work.

Contrast this with in-house web developers and the reality is that at times you can receive varied levels of enthusiasm and quality of work. Don’t get us wrong, there are many excellent web developers who work in-house, but over time the passion for their work and motivation to deliver on time can lessen. However, if you have a team of dedicated web developers who love what they do and love your organisation, this shouldn’t be an issue.


If ensuring your web development project is delivered on-time and budget is your #1 priority, web development agencies such as OSE are an excellent option. When you engage with an agency you eliminate the chance of scope creep, add tighter restrictions around project timelines, and remove the chance of any nasty surprises.

If you’re looking to build a website and have not worked with a web development agency before, get in touch with the friendly team at OSE.

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