Hey, it’s just a subjective evaluation! Why?
Let’s make it clear first. Compiling a 'top' list of any kind always raises mixed emotions. Things get even more controversial when you actually rank people. As if that weren't enough, what if the list maker is part of one of the listed companies?
Who cares about such a list, then? Is there a value or a point to selecting top picks, you may ask. Well, I believe there is. Otherwise I wouldn’t have come up with this write-up, would I?
What makes a good agency really… a good one?
Let’s consider it this way. The Polish market is already saturated with many competitors. The agencies’ world is slowly becoming like one giant forest. So many firms are calling themselves “an agency”. All offering professional web design and development services. All showing off the great, big name brands they work for. Finally, all claiming to deliver… quality.
Many articles have already covered and analysed every single criteria to pay attention to when choosing the right web agency to work with. To name a few, it’s a common belief that any decent agency should always be able to show an impressive portfolio and present recent work (not just design previews for a tender they didn’t win). Many believe we should also pay close attention to the number of employees, including their specialization, years of experience or even the legal office address (real business premises with fixed opening hours make clients think they are dealing with a tangible, well-established company).
I’m going to add one more important, quite often missing, factor. This is the agency’s own (internal) product and application. A product that was not just developed but got promoted and made many people actually start using it.
Good clients search for the beef.
You may succeed as a subcontractor customizing WP themes or excel in slicing services that keep you busy with small or medium size psd2html projects on a routine basis. You may also be wonderful design boutique creating stunning interfaces and having third parties integrate them. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against that, I think specialization is a good thing. What I’m trying to say is that the requirements for an agency are higher than that.
Among all these agencies claiming to be the best I’m missing one thing: successful applications they have built, launched, marketed or even constantly nurtured (developed and improved). An application that lives a life of its own. An application that is popular, catches users' attention and becomes an important tool in their daily web activities.
Build an app. Market it. Show off.
There is nothing more valuable than lessons learned from a product you launched on the market (call it a startup if you wish).This is the moment when you can prove you’re real digital strategists. Challenge yourself with a creative marketing campaign that will give you thousands of UV and awesome PR. Build strong relationships with journalists who will eagerly review your product and get excited on receiving your press notes. Iterate on interface by solving usability and UX problems your users report. Make real money. Talk with real users. Help them. Do business.
Well, isn’t all that what we require from the average web agency?
I considered these reasons when building my list of the top 5 best agencies from Poland. I tried to include agencies who have proved themselves with something more than just being a solid development house or design boutique. These agencies have successfully built and marketed useful applications that millions of Polish people use.
The Top 5
Web agency from Poznań, operating internationally. I’m one of the international project managers here. Founded in 1999. In the first years of activity they focused on front-end development (with emphasis on accessibility and web standards). Quickly extended their skills into bespoke app development (Django and Drupal). Advocates and heavy users of open-source solutions like Wordpress, Magento and the aforementioned Drupal.
In 2010 launched own app, GoDealla . Name inspired by Godzilla, the Japanese monster. Soon after the launch, the application became a market leader and the most popular daily deal aggregator in Poland. Transforming this app into a fully commercial product turned out to be priceless experience. The product lives its own life, makes money and thanks to its popularity and sketchy, cartoon-looking layout, lures new clients to the agency.
Merix on Facebook
Merix on Twitter
Successful agency which has always been associated with usability and user experience. In 2005 they launched a community application (Vitalia.pl) for people interested in healthy living and wanting to lose weight. The business model assumed selling personal diet plans based on a subscription fee model. Investment returned after a couple of months. They built a significant user database and now partner with top online content publishers in Poland who generate priceless buzz and PR worth more than the average marketing campaign.
Symetria on Facebook
Symetria on Twitter
Currently highly involved in the Polish start-up scene. Alongside the typical commercial activity of the agency, they develop many interesting internal projects. One of them is MamStartup.pl. With the quality content they produce, the educational role of this website is hard to evaluate.
Among all the other projects they have built, there are some worth mentioning. Freszki.pl is one of the first decently functioning CSS Galleries in Poland.
In the very first years of their activity Autentika were involved as creators of the "Polish LinkedIn". GoldenLine.pl (www.goldenline.pl) was the very first, successful and largest professional network in Poland.
Autentika on Facebook
Polish Ruby on Rails agency with an international twist. The company, managed by two resourceful women, can boast useful CRM software – Base. They started app development in 2006 and successfully continue to produce good-looking applications nowadays.
Mike Butcher from TechChrunch summarized them nicely: “No other business.. exemplifies both Poland and Central and Eastern Europe’s emergence as a tech powerhouse to me than this young company."
Applicake on Facebook
Applicake on Twitter
Netguru is another example of a solid Rails web development team from Poland. Thanks to the experience gained from building many online startups, like Flaker ("Polish Twitter") or Humanway (successful recruitment app), they’re able to support clients with real business advice and technical service.
It would be rude not to mention Netguru’s commitment to organizing events and conferences such us Shopcamp, Democamp or Targi eHandlu.
Summing up. All the above mentioned examples prove one thing. There is no better way to promote your brand than a fully working, popular product that generates positive buzz and promotes you as a creator. People are always curious “who’s behind that website?”. Let them find you this way.
Netguru on Facebook
Netguru on Twitter