Forrester Wave: Strategy Counts


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Great (or good) agencies don\'t sustain themselves without great strategy and great execution. Training and internal culture sometimes make the difference. Here is what Forrester said about WHi on my watch.

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Forrester Wave: Strategy Counts

  1. 1. TECH CHOICES October 6, 2005 Web Design Agency Scorecard Summary: WHITTMANHART Key Findings From “The Forrester Wave™: Web Design Agencies, Q3 2005” by Harley Manning with Nate L. Root, Michelle Amato, and Janelle Johnson EXECUT I V E S U M MA RY With headquarters in Chicago and its other offices concentrated in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, WHITTMANHART is more of a regional player than most other agencies in our rankings. But the firm’s roster of famous clients like Harley-Davidson and Procter & Gamble proves they matter on a national level. WHITTMANHART’s reference Web sites delivered consistently solid results in both our user experience and Brand Image evaluations. But it was the firm’s new standardized format for personas that impressed us the most. WHITTMANHART OFFERS A BALANCE OF USABILITY AND CREATIVITY WHITTMANHART is a medium-sized vendor with more than 250 FTEs in its design practice, and full- service offices in five cities. Its portfolio includes work for DSW, Gatorade, Ethicon, Harley-Davidson, Procter & Gamble, and UW Health. Forrester evaluated WHITTMANHART’s current offering against 18 criteria, including the overall scores of two reference sites evaluated using both Forrester’s Web Site Review and Brand Image review methodologies (see Figure 1).1 Overall, the vendor’s reference work is average in both user experience and Brand Image. The agency is an especially good fit for buyers that want: · Equal emphasis on user experience and Brand Image. The firm’s reference Web sites scored in the middle of the pack for both user experience and Brand Image.2 This made WHITTMANHART one of only two agencies to demonstrate equal overall competency in both of these major areas of design. Clients who want this kind of a balanced approach to their sites will appreciate the equal attention that WHITTMANHART gives to both its user-centered design practice and its experiential design practice. · Standout personas. WHITTMANHART recently reviewed its various persona formats and standardized on one that’s exceptionally strong. The reference persona supplied to Forrester was extremely efficient in terms of how much design-centered, rich detail it packed into a small space. Embedded hyperlinks exposed underlying research, yielding even more details for designers who want them as well as a convincing argument to stakeholders that the personas are valid.3 To see how WHITTMANHART stacks up against 11 other competitors, see the Forrester Wave™ evaluation of the Web design agency market.4 Headquarters Forrester Research, Inc., 400 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA Tel: +1 617/613-6000 • Fax: +1 617/613-5000 •
  2. 2. Tech Choices | Web Design Agency Scorecard Summary: WHITTMANHART 2 Figure 1 WHITTMANHART Evaluation Overview CURRENT OFFERING User research Conducts a variety of quantitative and qualitative research. Will sometimes supplement funded research initiatives with unfunded guerrilla efforts. Persona creation The firm has recently standardized on a common persona template across all its offices, including recent acquisitions. Personas in this new template are formatted as narratives, focus on enabling design decisions, call out key attributes and high-level goals, and evoke empathy with carefully selected details. In an unusual move, the entire narrative is written in the first person so that the text is, in effect, one long quote. This is surprisingly effective, even more so because the narrative is very concise and to the point compared with typical personas. In some cases, the firm creates interactive versions that link to underlying details. Persona application Uses personas appropriately throughout the design and development process. Post launch, personas guide purchase of search terms and site optimization efforts. Design process One of the more thoroughly documented processes, includes appropriate user research and testing at various stages. Skill sets Includes a full range of traditional creative and interaction design skills on teams. Insightful understanding of the role of specific “soft skills” in driving breakthrough creative and overcoming client objections. Collaboration abilities Standard set of tools and tactics for working with other agencies. Clients confirm the firm’s ability to collaborate effectively with a wide variety of other vendors. Cross-office consistency In 2003 and 2004, WHITTMANHART made a series of acquisitions that it is still digesting. The firm is moving forward with sound tactics for creating cross-office consistency and should improve steadily in this area over the course of the next year. User experience First site: 16 Second site: 16 Scores are based on a scale of -50 to 50. Brand Image experience First site: 6 Second site: 6 Scores are based on a scale of -12 to 12. Satisfaction of reference clients The average client satisfaction score is a 4.75 on a five-point scale. Source: Forrester Research, Inc. October 6, 2005 © 2005, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited
  3. 3. Tech Choices | Web Design Agency Scorecard Summary: WHITTMANHART 3 Figure 1 WHITTMANHART Evaluation Overview (Cont.) STRATEGY Clarity of vision WHITTMANHART is investing in a proprietary model to try and better understand how interactive communications work and uncover the attributes that lead to purchase intent. The firm commissioned a substantial piece of foundation research from Burke to fuel the model. Although the ultimate success or failure of this effort will have to play out over the next several years, the approach looks sound. More importantly, it addresses the fundamental shortcoming of most agencies today: difficulty in elevating usability to the same level of importance as creativity. Development of horizontal capabilities Areas of interest include mobile marketing tied to the Web; creating a single, cross-channel view of the customer across data platforms; word of mouth marketing; and marketing to minorities. Early adopter of Macromedia Flex platform for creating rich Internet applications like a business intelligence dashboard used internally, as well as for client projects. Development of vertical capabilities Primary emphasis on healthcare, CPG, automotive, and financial services. The firm’s strategy for growing within these verticals is to apply knowledge, skills, and best practices across industries, specifically cohort marketing, experiential marketing, educational marketing and globalization. Thought leadership Currently low on the radar of most companies outside its geographic footprint. This shows signs of changing due to a combination of rapid growth and plans to get out in front of the public with its new interactive marketing model. MARKET PRESENCE Billable staff as of Q1 2005 Full-time equivalents dedicated to its site design practice as of Q1 2005 estimated in the range of 101 to 200. Revenues (2004) Revenue from designing and building Web sites in 2004 estimated at less than $20 million. Revenue growth (2004 over 2003) Revenue growth for the Web design practice in 2004 estimated at more than 40%. Number of North American offices North American offices in five cities: Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia. Source: Forrester Research, Inc. Go online to download additional in-depth data and scores for this vendor and other vendors included in this Forrester Wave evaluation. October 6, 2005 © 2005, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited
  4. 4. Tech Choices | Web Design Agency Scorecard Summary: WHITTMANHART 4 SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL Online Resource The underlying spreadsheet for Figure 1 is available online. The spreadsheet includes more detailed data and scores for this vendor. This detailed data and scores for this vendor are also available online through an Excel-based vendor comparison tool that provides detailed product evaluations and customizable rankings. Forrester Wave Methodology We conduct primary research to develop a list of vendors that meet our criteria to be evaluated in this market. From that initial pool of vendors, we narrow our final list to those presented here. We choose these vendors based on: 1) product fit; 2) customer success; and 3) Forrester client demand. We eliminate vendors that have limited customer references and products that don’t fit the scope of our evaluation. After examining past research, user need assessments, and vendor and expert interviews, we develop the initial evaluation criteria. To evaluate the vendors and their products against our set of criteria, we gather details of product qualifications through a combination of questionnaires, in-depth interviews, Web site reviews, Brand Image reviews, demos, and discussions with client references. We send evaluations to the vendors for their review, and we adjust the evaluations to provide the most accurate view of vendor offerings and strategies. We set default weightings to reflect our analysis of the needs of large user companies — and/or other scenarios as outlined in this document — and then score the vendors based on a clearly defined scale. These default weightings are intended only as a starting point, and readers are encouraged to adapt the weighting to fit their individual needs through the Excel-based tool. The final scores generate the graphical depiction of the market based on current offering, strategy, and market presence. Forrester intends to update vendor evaluations regularly as product capabilities and vendor strategies evolve. ENDNOTES 1 Since 1998, Forrester has evaluated more than 600 sites with our Web Site Review methodology. See the March 11, 2005, Best Practices “Best And Worst Of Site Design, 2005.” Web sites must support both brand positioning and target user goals. See the June 9, 2005, Best Practices “How Brands Succeed Online.” 2 Both of WHITTMANHART’s reference Web sites earned identical overall scores for both user experience and Brand Image. Although this indicates a consistent general level of quality, a closer examination of underlying scorecards shows that it does not mean lock-step consistency on execution. For example, the first site offered unusually strong content whereas the second had shortcomings in this area. 3 Personas are behavioral models of target users that help guide design decisions and align stakeholders. See the December 18, 2003, Report “The Power Of Design Personas.” Not all personas created by leading agencies are equally fine. See the July 8, 2004, Quick Take “Web Design Agencies Show Persona Best Practices.” October 6, 2005 © 2005, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited
  5. 5. Tech Choices | Web Design Agency Scorecard Summary: WHITTMANHART 5 4 Major North American companies rely on Web design agencies for access to skilled resources, evolved design methodologies, and the sense of security that comes from vendor reputations for producing top- notch work. To assess the state of the Web design agency market and see how the vendors stack up against each other, Forrester evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of some of the largest agencies against 18 criteria. Three agencies — Critical Mass, Organic, and R/GA — emerged as Leaders. Included in this report is an interactive vendor comparison tool that provides detailed product evaluations and customizable rankings. See the October 6, 2005, Tech Choices “The Forrester Wave™: Web Design Agencies, Q3 2005.” Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR) is an independent technology and market research company that provides pragmatic and forward-thinking advice about technology’s impact on business and consumers. For 22 years, Forrester has been a thought leader and trusted advisor, helping global clients lead in their markets through its research, consulting, events, and peer-to-peer executive programs. For more information, visit © 2005, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Forrester, Forrester Oval Program, Forrester Wave, WholeView 2, Technographics, and TechRankings are trademarks of Forrester Research, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective companies. Forrester clients may make one attributed copy or slide of each figure contained herein. Additional reproduction is strictly prohibited. For additional reproduction rights and usage information, go to www.forrester. com. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change. To purchase reprints of this document, please email 37770