Feasibility of a narrow focused development firm


I am curious if there is demand for a development firm which specialized only on front-end development. Most companies that I know of offer wide range of services — front, back, mobile, native apps, gaming — and a wide range of technologies and services. My question is, if a company only offers client-side development (HTML/CSS/JavaScript + libraries, frameworks like Backbone / Aura etc) and build automation, relying on client or third party contractors for back-end development, will this be a reasonable offering?

Fyi, services offered would include the following:

  • Architecture audit
  • Front-end app architecture
  • Refactoring legacy code
  • Application development
  • Build automation
  • Test coverage
  • Support / maintenance

And we would rely on the following from the client:

  • APIs
  • Templating engine of their choice
  • Environment for us to run our front-end stack

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Development Business Model Consulting

asked Jan 15 '13 at 16:01
Mvbl Fst
144 points
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1 Answer


Specialist firms tend to exist to cover an area of expertise that other firms can't manage and while finding good front end developers can be hard this is because the market is saturated as anyone who can using strong tags considers themselves to be a UX person. This means you will end up competing with a large array of freelancers, full stack agencies, and design firms.

If you do plan to go down this route expect to be asked the question why? Why don't you have a backend development team, what benefit do you bring over a full service agency, what do you do that a full agency team can't?

I work for a small development agency, we are specialise in building payment systems its a unique selling point for us.

  • Why don't we have front end team? - We work with companies existing design teams to provide brand consistency and allowing us to keep to our core skill set. If the company doesn't have their own design team we have worked with several freelancers who have worked with us in the past and are use to our methodology.
  • What benefit do you bring over a full service agency - We bring knowledge not only in terms of coding in a secure way, but what legal issues surround payments as well as a bringing over best practices based on working only in this small niche.
  • What do you do that a full agency team can't - our team has a specialist members who are trained to perform PCI Audits, our system administrator formerly worked for a bank, as a company we have access to the legal information needed to setup and manage payment systems.

For us we have such a small niche that is a development, legal, best practice nightmare and made it our own we also banked on the fact everyone has to take money from each other. However we regularly lose out to full stack agencies and often it's because we don't have a designer or that the company wanted to build the project into a long term relationship.

Can you only offer client side services? Plenty of companies already do, providing you can prove you bring specialist skills most other agencies can't and they are skills people need.

But what is your unique selling point and what advantage is it to you, are you really specialising in a small niche or just leaving money on the table?

answered Jan 15 '13 at 17:59
Tim Nash
1,107 points
  • Hi Tim. Thanks for a comment. Yes technically you compete with freelancers, full stack firms and design agencies but really it's only full stack agencies, which imo usually are weak on the front-end. Also, I don't mean design at all. There is too many designers already. I mean front-end architecture and building widget-based web apps. Thing is, currently we work for an employer and every day do stuff that they present on HTML5DevConf workshops for example as like cutting edge technologies. We are in a very good place technologically, but would like to expand beyond just our employer. – Mvbl Fst 11 years ago
  • Problem is, you are going to be competing with people calling themselves designers/UX people front end devs and the average person hiring you will call you a designer. You need to get across that you don't draw wiggly lines without turning it into a negative, but while still bring a good reason to employ you. You need to tackle a fundamental problem why should anyone employ you? Just because in your opinion full stack agencies are weak on front end, doesn't mean there sales team will think or say so when they sweep the client away! – Tim Nash 11 years ago
  • Tim, maybe you're talking about clients who are not in development business at all. But clients like all my previous employers can definitely tell a "designer" from anyone technical, i.e. an engineer. Also, I am not talking about a one man operation - I am talking about a team. As far as fundamental problems -- technical debt is a fundamental problem, which no one really wants to deal with because they're swamped with new projects. Migration from old technologies to new is a fundamental problem. Setting up build and testing is pretty fundamental, too. – Mvbl Fst 11 years ago

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