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Strong opinions matter, and why you should have some as an agency

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Justin Ahinon

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It's been more than a year, already, since I've started working full-time on Okupter. One lesson I've learned during this time is that your well-being as a founder, the success of your company, and the quality of work you deliver to your clients are all directly related to the strength of your opinions .

These can be technological choices, design decisions, or even the type of client you want to work with and how you communicate with them. The stronger your opinions, the more you'll be able to focus on what matters, and the more you'll be able to deliver value to your clients.

This post is about why strong opinions matter, especially in the context of an agency, and a few examples of opinions that we hold at Okupter.

Why strong opinions matter

Imagine you're a client looking for a technical partner (an agency, for example) to help you build a product in a specific industry. During your search, you come across a few agencies that all have a good track record, a good reputation and a strong portfolio. They all seem to be able to deliver the quality of work you're looking for.

How do you choose between them?

Now, imagine that one of these agencies have some bold thoughts about the industry you're in, and they're not afraid to share them. They have different opinions about the best way to build a product in your industry, they back them up with experience and data, they're not afraid to challenge the status quo, and they're okay admitting when they're wrong.

If you slightly adhere to one of these opinions, wouldn't you be more inclined to work with this agency?

This example can be a bit too simplistic, but it illustrates the point.

Strong opinions matter because they help you stand out. They help you attract the right clients by sending them a clear message about who you are, what you believe in, and how you work. They help you focus on what matters, and they help you deliver value to your clients.

This also works in the other way around. As an agency, you want to work with clients who share your values, who understand and appreciate your opinions, and who are willing to work with you to achieve a common goal. Strong opinions help you attract these clients.

A few examples of opinions we hold at Okupter

One thing that I'd like to clarify.

I never actually sat down and wrote these opinions. It's not something I specifically thought about (as in, let me write down our opinions). It's something that naturally emerged from the way we work, the way we communicate, and the way we interact with our clients.

It's something that we've been able to articulate over time, and that we're now able to use to our advantage.

Another thing that let me to this reflection, and inspired a lot this article, is the book "Sell with Authority: Own and Monetize Your Agency's Authority Position " by Drew McLellan and Stephen Woessner. I highly recommend it if you're interested in this topic.

We think that performance matters

As far as I can remember, I've always been obsessed with web performance. This naturally translated into the way we work at Okupter. Even the name "Okupter" comes from the Ancient Greek word "ōkúpteros" which means fast, "swift-winged".

We believe that performance matters, and we're not afraid to share this opinion with our clients.

We try to apply this opinion in every client project we work on. From the choice of technology and tools we use to the approaches we take to build and optimize the products we work on.

Actually, "performance matters" is one of the core values of our agency. It naturally translates into the other strong opinions we hold, and it helps us attract clients who share this value.

We're sticking to Svelte and SvelteKit

Okupter started as a blog.

About web development, performance and accessibility. Down the line, Svelte came out as the technology we were looking for.

Even though it is still a relatively new technology (when compared to React, Vue or other major frameworks), we believe that it's a great tool to build fast, accessible and performant experiences on the web.

For this reason, we've decided to stick and specialize in Svelte and SvelteKit for our client projects (and ours as well). We happily share this opinion with our clients, and we're not afraid to turn down projects that don't align with this opinion.

TypeScript all the way

During my time as a software engineer in agencies and product companies, I've seen first-hand the benefits of using TypeScript. Not only in terms of developer productivity, but also in terms of efficiency in deliverability, maintainability, and the quality of the products we build.

I've also seen the other side: the cost of not using TypeScript. The mysterious bugs, the lack of confidence in making big but necessary changes, the time spent on debugging and fixing issues that could have been avoided.

Because of all these reasons, we've decided to use TypeScript as much as possible in the projects we work on. When starting new greenfield projects, we highly advocate for TypeScript. And on existing codebases, we're not afraid to strongly recommend migrating to TypeScript.

We're also not afraid to turn down projects that don't align with this opinion.

Authentication should be simple, secure, fast to implement, and easy to maintain

This one can be a bit controversial. One of the first blog posts I wrote on Okupter was about how to implement JWT authentication in a SvelteKit app. It's also one of the most popular posts on the blog.

While this was a very great learning experience for myself (I believe in understanding how things work under the hood, even when they're complex), I've come to realize that it's not the best approach for most client projects. In most scenarios, it doesn't make sense to handcraft your own authentication system. It's tedious, error-prone, and it's not the best use of your time and resources.

Rather, we believe that implementing authentication should be simple, secure, fast to implement, and easy to maintain. We believe (in most scenarios) in handling over this responsibility to a third party.

And even within this opinion, we have strong opinions about which provider you should go with.

We've successfully used Lucia for authentication in many of our projects, and we highly recommend it.

A happy developer is a productive developer

This is a bit of a wrap-up of all the opinions we hold. We believe that a happy developer is a productive developer. We believe that the best way to build great projects is to have a great team of developers who are happy, motivated, and who are able to focus on what matters.

That's why when hiring, we look for developers who share our values, who are passionate about what they do, and who are not afraid to share their opinions.

Wrapping up

As agencies consider how to differentiate themselves, having the courage to develop strong opinions should become an imperative rather than an afterthought. Clients today have unlimited options, and we must give them compelling reasons to choose us as partners.

Through lively discourse, defend opinions with convince or let them whither. Give your teams license to challenge assumptions. And most importantly, inspect beliefs that remain standing with an eye for how they guide strategic decisions. How might they shape which clients you pursue or inform the solutions you create?

Agencies willing to do this hard work will emerge with clarity of purpose and vision. Teams will feel bought into ideas they helped forge. And clients will recognize your authenticity. In a sea of agencies professing they can meet any need, you’ll be the beacon broadcasting specific expertise. And strong opinions—forged through scrutiny rather than declarations—become a lighthouse steering the right clients to your shores.

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