Looking to select a new interactive design agency? A new report from Forrester Research offers an assessment of the current landscape. 

The report, called the Interactive Design Agency Overview 2012, was released earlier this week from the research firm. Its key takeaways include the observation that design agencies these days, to keep up with the times, have expanded their offerings to include mobile and tablet apps, social sites and communities as well as websites -- a landscape Forrester calls “the splinternet.”

Pricing Models

The report also notes the range of agencies, with some also offering in-house expertise in interactive marketing, usability and application development, in addition to web design. Forrester recommends that companies looking to hire a new agency assess the experience, skills, tools and processes needed for the project at hand, and then match possible agencies through those attributes.

As the “splinternet” has required design for an increasing set of complex consumer behaviors, pricing models have multiplied as well. Forrester said agencies reported that a traditional time-and-materials pricing structure is being joined by fixed bids, revenue sharing and other kinds of partnerships.

But, even as the many digital touchpoints with customers continue to grow, about a quarter of the 97 agencies surveyed said that 70 percent or more of their revenue last year came from designing websites.

While the majority of agencies claimed to design mobile and tablet apps, only smaller agencies can sustain their entire business today based solely on those service offerings.”

Most of the agencies said their web design projects ranged from US$ 100,000 to US$ 500,000, and the average value for native app design projects was between US$ 50,000 and US$ 100,000. A dozen website design projects, and one native app design effort, were priced at US$ 5 million or more.

Caveats for Buyers

The report also includes some caveats for buyers. It said that “agencies struggle with usability, in part due to inconsistent application of user-centered design processes,” although most firms cited design research and usability testing services as part of their core capabilities. Forrester suggested potential clients speak with previous clients and view usability techniques used by agencies, such as personas and journey maps.

The report also cautions that potential clients should assess the tools, processes and history that a design agency has in collaborating with others, including internal staff as well as external partners.

The small interactive design agencies surveyed for the report included Beehive Media, Blink Interactive, Catalyst, iMedia, Think Interactive and White Horse. Midsized firms included AKQA, Blitz, designkitchen, Huge, iCrossing, Organic and Siteworx, and the large firms included Critical Mass, Digitas, G2, R/GA, Razorfish and Wunderman.