4 Things to Consider When Purchasing Design Agency Software

Every business is different, and therefore every business has different software needs, but there are some things that are generally good practices when choosing software or software vendors to work with. You can use these principles when choosing ad agency collaboration software, project management tools, accounting software, or even when considering whether it’s worth it to buy new hardware!

High-Level Overview

When choosing a software to work with in-house, always consider the following four generic aspects (we will get into details for each later on in this document, just hold tight for now):

  1. Needs
  2. Security
  3. Cost
  4. Credibility and vendor compatibility

1. Needs

Examine your current needs and your current processes and workflows. What do you currently use to solve your needs? Is it a single product or multiple ones? How effective is your current system? By asking yourself these questions, you will gain a deeper understanding of what you will need, and whether a change is even required. Once you figure out your current state, envision your needs in one, three, five and ten years. Will your needs change much? Are the options you’re looking at scalable enough for these future demands? Think about the number of staff and expected volume of work. By “taking a peek into the future”, you may identify new requirements and insights that wouldn’t have been apparent if you did not go through this exercise. By considering your future, you will be making better decisions today, and most likely save money and effort.

2. Security

As we all know, security is a big factor in every technology related decision. Security is a very broad term though that may mean different things to different organizations. Security needs depend on what you do, the number of employees you have, the type of data you work with and many other factors. At the very least you will want to consider the following security related features in any product you consider:

User Related

  • Does the product provide separation of data between user types?
  • Is it easy to disable and enable user access to the system?
  • Do you need to delete a user or simply disable them?
  • Is data related to a user readily available when a user is disabled?

Password Related

  • Can you set your own password complexity rules?
  • Can you force a password change across some or all user accounts?

Session Related

  • Can you determine the duration of a valid session?
  • Does the product use SSL (secure socket layer) for all of the communications over the internet?

Login Related

  • Does the system block a user after a specified number of failed attempts?
  • Does the system present a user with a more challenging security question after a specified number of attempts?
  • Does the system allow a user to retrieve their own password if they forget?

3. Cost

Cost can be deceiving at times. There are three types of costs to consider when purchasing software:

Upfront Cost

This depends on the number of licenses you need and the cost per license (same goes for software as a service). There are sometimes setup and training fees, but I tend to think of those as part of the upfront costs.

Upgrades/Maintenance Costs

This is the cost to keep the product up to date. Some models (like software as a service) include that cost as part of your monthly commitment. Other models require you to purchase a maintenance account. Usually, This is the cost to keep the product up to date. Some models (like software as a service) include that cost as part of your monthly commitment. Other models require you to purchase a maintenance account. Usually, desktop based software requires that you purchase an upgrade at a discounted rate from time to time.

Hidden Costs

This is the one that catches us all from time-to-time. By definition it is hidden, so unless you think about it in advance it will usually catch you by surprise. Hidden costs may include:

  • Hardware upgrades you may require to be able to run the software on your existing equipment (upgrade memory, CPU, larger hard drive).
  • Hardware purchase – sometimes a piece of software requires its own server to run on.
  • Other software purchases – purchasing one new software may require you to upgrade other software packages that you are already using.
  • Incompatibility with other software – sometimes purchasing a new software package means that you completely need to change your workflow, and therefore purchase other new software to take care of those new processes.
  • New staff hiring – some software requires new staff to be able to support the new technology. This can either be a new staff member to your team or indirectly by outsourcing some of your IT to a third-party who takes care of it for you.

4. Credibility and Vendor Compatibility

  • Before purchasing software, investigate the different product offerings. Go over each provider site in detail, as a Website can tell you a lot about who the provider is.
  • Read what others say about the quality of service.
  • Go over version logs (sometimes it will be posted on the web site). Make sure that the product is in active development.
  • Investigate how long they have been in the market.
  • Check out who the target audience is for the software you are looking at. Does it match what you do?
  • Encourage your team members to try the software before you buy or ensure your vendor has a money-back guarantee. The last thing you want is to spend the money, commit, and get pushback from your own user base.


As you’ve read, getting a new software system added to your work environment can be a complex process. Do not take it lightly. Examine your current needs, as well as your expected future needs, and do your homework so you understand what you are getting.

Cheryl Chung

Cheryl Chung

UX / Interaction Architect

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