Comparing agencies is tough. Different agencies often have different sized teams, work samples, and processes (especially when it comes to estimates). And this makes putting them side-by-side tricky; it feels like comparing apples to eggplants.
While we can’t make your “who do I work with?” decision for you, we can give you all the information you need about us. That’s what this post does.
It’s an overview of what working with us looks like, including outlines of each major phase, what those phases have looked like for past clients, and links to check out their stories in more detail.
Here are the big phases you’ll find below:
- Paid strategy: Know where you’re going before you set out
- Building your product: Branding, product design, development, and related
- Iteration: Make ongoing improvements at a quick pace
Keep in mind, each project is unique, and you’ll likely only need some of what we outline below. That’s normal. Our goal isn’t to give you a “one-size-fits-all” process here, it’s to show you a few different paths your product could take.
P.S. For an even deeper dive into what our recent work has looked like, check out our collection of case studies.
Strategy: Know where you’re going...before you set out
The Big Idea: Our first step of any project is strategy. This is where we build a project plan, establish priorities, and dive into essentials, like your customer and business goals.
Typical timeline: 4-5 Weeks
Typical cost: $10,000 - $15,000
Every one of our projects starts with a paid strategy session, and that’s something our clients get excited about. Why? They know our strategy sessions routinely save founders thousands of dollars and months of effort.
Instead of jumping straight into a project with many unanswered questions, undefined goals, and poor customer understanding, we figure all that upfront. That means, by the time we start designing and building your product, we know exactly what we’re trying to do, why, and how.
Our Roadmapping Session with Krit was worth its weight in gold...The knowledge we took away from our Roadmapping Session saved us from making major product mistakes.
Why do a paid strategy?
Some agencies don’t charge for strategy. They’ll either do it for free or roll the cost of it into a larger project estimate. However, there are a few problems with those approaches. Namely:
- The agency’s understanding of your vision, customers, and business is, at best, limited. This means they don’t have the full picture in mind when they craft your estimate.
- Strategy often falls to the bottom of everyone’s to-do list — it becomes something they tackle when they’re out of brainpower, or right before they have to send it over — when you don’t set aside dedicated time for it.
This is why we don’t provide free strategy or estimates. We charge for a separate, upfront strategy session.
We do this to sidestep the issues above. But the primary reason is this: without all the information we gather in strategy, we don’t have the clarity we need to deliver an accurate estimate.
So, rather than rushing to put together a proposal based on assumptions and guesses, we take time to understand your business, goals, customers, and context. Put another way, we respect your time and vision too much to take a shot in the dark.
But what goes into “strategy”?
Strategy looks one of two ways for our clients. Both options include:
- Discovery. Several strategy sessions with our team where we ask about your business, market, customers, goals, and more.
- User interviews. Your team provides some introductions, then our team interviews 5-6 of your best customers. After the interviews, we provide notes and insights.
- Scoping. You’ll meet with us to discuss our findings from the user interviews. In the same meeting, we’ll talk through our recommendations for designing and developing your product.
- Research & planning. Our team will put together a detailed project plan, thumbnail sketches, and several estimate options.
- Presentation. We’ll present the plan and discuss your options with you. We’ll also do one round of revisions if needed.
If you already have a product, strategy will include everything above plus a user interface audit. Team members will go through your product and identify high-priority user experience improvements and low-hanging improvements. We’ll review these with you in the scoping session, where we also talk through our user interview findings.
They forced me to think about our product from the user’s perspective.
- Andrew MorrisFounder at GreyNoise
Keep in mind strategy is also a chance to “try out” working with us at a lower price point than a full project build. It’s also an opportunity to see how well we work together before you commit to a larger project.
Most clients do choose to continue working with us after strategy. If that’s a decision you make, we’ll head into the next phase — building your project.
Building your product: an overview
The Big Idea: Accomplish your project goals and establish a reliable foundation you can build on for years.
Typical Timeline: 4+ months
Typical Cost: Projects that include product design and development start around $75,000. Check out our Services page for more pricing guidance.
Clients typically come to us with a specific goal and project in mind. Thanks to strategy, we now have a clear plan and timeline for achieving that goal.
Building your product is a big phase, and it includes many steps. Those steps are outlined below. But first, here’s an overview of how we work. This description applies to every step you’ll read about next.
Overview of how we work
- Mostly agile: We work in two-week sprints and prioritize shipping small, continuous progress over short intervals. However, we also work off a defined project plan (that’s where the “mostly” part comes in).
- Collaborative: We meet with your team at least once per sprint, more if needed. These meetings are a chance to review what we’re prioritizing and working on, as well as an opportunity to talk through any potential or existing roadblocks.
- Iterative: At each step, you’ll have a chance to review our work and suggest revisions.
- Transparent: You’ll have access to a shared Slack (your team + our team) for the entire project.
- Organized: You’ll have a dedicated project manager who is your point of contact for all project details. We also have established processes for almost everything we do — from gathering your feedback on designs to checklists we use when we deploy.
- Available: In addition to a trained project manager, you’ll have access to a technical lead who provides advice on technical details.
When I look back two years from now, we’ve taken what Krit built and we’ve built upon it rather than starting from scratch.
-Mike Murray, Founder and CEO of Scope Security
Building your product: potential steps from start to finish
The exact steps and services we offer vary from project to project. For example, some clients need and want branding, whereas others have an established logo and color palette we work with. Likewise, some clients are interested in working with us on design, whereas others would like us to craft designs and build them out.
Again, there are numerous ways a project could look, so what’s below isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. It’s more of a rundown of your options and what those have looked like for past clients.
Here are the potential steps your project could include:
- Product Design
- Website design
“They understand products, user experience, and design, and that’s what is really important here.”
— Andrew Morris, founder at GreyNoise
You receive: Multiple branding concepts to review. Once you select your favorite, you’ll also receive a directory of logo assets, plus a style guide, that any developer or designer can use.
If your company doesn’t have an established brand and style guide (or if you’re not happy with the look you have), we can help. We craft identifies for brands who want to fit into a niche, stand out from a crowded marketplace...or a bit of both.
Here’s what working with us on branding involves:
- Discovery. We work with you to nail down brand sliders (see image below), descriptive terms, and a competitive matrix. These help us establish a direction for your brand and spot opportunities in your market landscape.
- Moodboard. We’ll gather visual inspiration from you to understand where you’d like your brand to end up. Then, based on this board and our own brainstorming, we’ll sketch out as many concepts as we can.
- Refined concepts. We’ll take the best concepts and start refining them. We’ll narrow the options down to a list of 3-5 concepts we’ll present to you. Meanwhile, we’ll also start crafting a color palette and primary colors, which we’ll apply to the narrowed-down concepts.
- Presentation. We’ll present our top 3-5 concepts to you and listen carefully to your feedback.
- Revisions. Based on your feedback, we’ll revise the top one or two concepts until we land on a final version both teams love.
- Asset creation. We’ll generate a directory of finalized logo assets (PNG + SVG) for production use. These include mockups, icons, and variations in black, white, and full color.
- Style Guide. You’ll also receive a style guide, or “house rules” for your brand. This is a small doc outlining the final logo and color palette with color hex codes, as well as some guidance on how to use those elements.
You receive: An interactive and high-fidelity Figma prototype you can explore and comment on in real-time. You’ll also receive a design system and access to all raw design files.
..their design is forward-thinking and forward-looking and therefore it makes us look better.
-Ted Gruenloh, COO at Sentinel IPS
Just like you wouldn’t make every decision about designing a home at one time (you don’t determine the layout and the hardware finish at the same time), you don’t make every decision about designing a product or app at one time. You start with the foundation and blueprints and then move into more detailed decisions from there.
The “foundation and blueprints” equivalent in product design are user flows and wireframes.
User flows are where we map out how your customers will move through the product. It’s a bit like determining the layout of a house: Where do you enter and exit? How does one room connect to the other? Are the bathrooms near the bedrooms or is the only one in the basement (let’s fix that)?
Defining user flows also helps both teams figure out the different types of interfaces and screens a product will need.
Whereas user flows determine things like “we’ll need a dashboard,” wireframes help answer “where do alerts, incidents, and anomalies show up in that dashboard?”
Wireframes answer “what goes on each screen?”
I want to pause here because it’s important you know we don’t answer that question in a vacuum. We don’t sit around in an airy office space, kick up our trendy sneakers, and invent the layouts of each page. Good design isn’t determined by how sleek an office is; it’s determined by how well the designers understand your customers, goals, and business.
So, for every step of product design, we rely on established inputs like strategy, research, customer interviews, and your goals.
For example, when we produced Scope Security’s wireframes, we regularly consulted with Scope’s team and engineers, plus incorporated information we gathered in the strategy session and customer interviews.
After both teams agree on how users move through the product (user flows) and what information goes on each page (wireframes), we create mockups.
Our mockups are what’s called high-fidelity — they’re so detailed, they look like the final product. We even make our mockups clickable (in a Figma prototype), so you can tour the entire design and see what happens when you click a button.
Expand the frame above to explore the full-size prototype.
We create mockups based on all the inputs we’ve gathered so far. Everything from discovery, user flows, and wireframes. We often pull together moodboards at this stage as well.
Moodboards are one way designers gather inspiration and define vision. Usually, they look like a collection of styles and images the founder likes. Think of it as a design map. It helps everyone align around where we’re going.
This is important because what a designer imagines when you say “moody” or “light” may be entirely different from what you imagine. Associating specific visuals with nebulous descriptors helps resolve this.
For example, when we were working on the GreyNoise visualizer, Andrew Morris told our team, “I need something beautiful that doesn’t look like a website.” He wanted texture, negative space, and something that didn’t remotely look like most sites out there. On top of those parameters, he self-describes himself as a stickler for visuals and admits, “I was basically giving them a lot of weird requests.”
Andrew thought creating a moodboard to organize those requests was a bit, well, hokey. But ultimately, he trusted our process and discovered we use it for a reason — when we sent him mockups, they were exactly what he had in mind.
“The very first mockup Austin showed me was the exact thing we went with...I was like, WHOOAAA THAT’S IT!!”
— Andrew Morris
Occasionally, we’ll also do a bit of exploratory research around specific elements when we create designs.
For example, the Scope dashboard needed visuals that looked more like healthcare than security, appealed to a wide audience, and displayed high-level ROI. This design challenge called for some visualization research.
One of the final visualizations we used is below. It’s simple, intuitive, and perfectly fits the aesthetic the client wanted (something that looked more like healthcare than traditional security).
“It’s been great...we got exactly what we wanted.”
— Mike Murray, Founder and CEO of Scope Security
You receive: A marketing site designed to convert your target audience and showcase your product.
Many security sites are attractive and packed with jargon that’s tongue-tying for even industry insiders. We can help you build something better.
If you have an existing product and need help showcasing it on a website, you can use our expertise in conveying technical information to build an online experience tailored for your customers.
Working with us on website design looks like receiving:
- Content: Showcase your product’s value in a clear, compelling way.
- Sitemap: Intuitively structure your content, pages, and other information.
- Wireframes: Plan out what information should appear on each page.
- Mockups: Receive high-fidelity designs and assets that any developer can work with.
You receive: The base components for your product. We provide the “outline,” your team pulls it all together. (Best for teams with UI engineers.)
A Sandbox is a bit like an outline for an app. Meaning, we build all of the components, but it's up to the UI engineers on your team to create the actual pages and hook everything up. So, a sandbox is best for clients who have UI engineers but want some help speeding up work.
When you receive a sandbox, you receive a single page that contains all the design elements you’ll need, built out in code. That way, your team doesn’t have to worry about creating these from scratch or fiddling with their appearances. They can take what we produce and run with it.
You receive: Vetted implementation of designs on the frontend. Backend and full-stack development, too, if you want it.
Depending on your team’s setup, we can manage front-end development or full-stack development.
- The front-end option is best for teams with capable backend developers who want support implementing designs on the front-end. We handle the full implementation of designs; your team handles the backend APIs.
- The full-stack option is best for teams with limited backend resources or for those who need additional support. In this scenario, we handle everything from design to APIs.
Once we got the first beta up and we had that data flowing, that’s when we realized, ‘This was the right decision.’ -Chris Gathright, CTO at Sentinel IPS
For more details on what development frameworks (i.e. Vue) we use and why, check out our infosec product stack.
Iterate: Make ongoing improvements at a fast pac
The Big Idea: Receive continued design and/or dev support while you grow. Release improvements every two weeks.
Typical Cost: Starts at $12,000 per month
Who is a good fit for ongoing support?
Clients who are a good fit for our iteration services typically have at least one full-time engineer on staff.
Keep in mind, we don’t offer support to keep you on a line or in our spreadsheets. We offer this because we love helping teams grow, and some teams need extended support before they can bring design and development completely in-house.
We used Krit to get the headstart that allowed us to get to a place where all the basics are covered...Everything I vetted is awesome.
— Mike Murray
How does it work?
Ongoing support works and looks similar to a product build. You retain a dedicated project manager, we work in two-week sprints, and we collaborate with you often.
The main difference is this: instead of determining priorities once upfront, we evaluate them at a regular cadence of every 1-3 months. We rely on customer feedback and any quantitative and qualitative insights we’re seeing in usage data to shape priorities.
“We’ve had the best possible experience we could’ve hoped for.”
— Chris Gathright
Questions about any of this?
If you’re curious how your project would fit into this process or have any questions at all, Andrew is only an email away. Send him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.