Even the most bull-headed managers across the globe are going to agree to one thing – UX design is indispensable, especially when customer satisfaction depends on usability. And, Google keeps rolling out new updates to emphasize user experience. If you’re someone who believed in stats, design-driven companies have been surpassing the S&P stock market index by a whopping 228% over the last decade.
But, where would you find usability experts?
In short, there are thousands of highly-experienced UX design agencies making a killer living by perfectly balancing business goals and creation of flawless user interfaces. They even excel at conducting competitor analysis, market research, usability testing, and much more. Unfortunately, you have to pick one of them. How?
Don’t worry, here’s everything you need to select the right UX partner for your design project. Stop procrastinating and start reading. You’ll surely thank us later!
Why hire an entire UX design agency? Why can’t a single designer be more suited for the job?
Valid question, especially when hefty budgets are in the picture. It might sting you to think that you have to pay for an entire team. But, the answer isn’t as simple as you’d hoped. The short answer would be that it depends.
If your design project is a one-time job, one designer might do the trick and may hire the designer on a contractual basis. But, if you need a UX partner who would be able to work tight deadlines, deliver within a short turnaround time and also provide you with strategic business experience, joining hands with a UX design agency is the right way to go.
While it may seem like an expensive bargain, but partnering with an agency has its perks. For starters, you gain collective expertise and get to work with a fully-equipped design team. Another advantage is strategic guidance that you can get from senior practitioners that less experienced designers cannot provide. On top of that, agencies have the experience of providing solutions to clients in diverse industries and sectors.
What’s more? Onboarding an in-house designer might take several weeks. Qualified UX design firms start delivering immediately.
Now, let’s see the perks that an agency provides over freelancers.
Design agency or a freelancer: Who is the best UX partner?
Hiring a freelance designer can prove to be affordable for one-time projects, but long-term projects require consistency, stability, and a myriad of technological resources that an agency easily provides. To stay relevant, a design firm has to continuously adopt and adapt to the latest trends in UI/UX design. Also, agencies come with a team of designers who have in-depth experience in delivering designs of varying complexities.
Below we have explored the benefits of outsourcing to a design agency over freelancers.
When you outsource to a design agency, you get to leverage their collective expertise. Typically, a design firm works with experienced designers and can offer you a design team that is equipped to handle projects of any stature. You can also enjoy a wide variety of services. For instance, a freelancer might not have access to additional machines and devices for software testing. You may be charged extra by the freelancer to gain access to the required devices. On the other hand, an agency would have access to the latest, as well as, functional machines and devices in the market needed for testing applications.
To top it all, the entire design team in an agency is thoroughly vetted and also trained to have the desired technical expertise required for the success of your project.
Of course, freelancers also meet deadlines. But, the problem is that unless you hire a dedicated freelancer who would solely work on your projects, the person you hire might be simultaneously dabbling on other projects. Since there is only one person working, there might be delays in the project if some unforeseen situation presents itself.
Such is not the case with a design agency. Apart from major calamities such as the COVID-19 pandemic, well-oiled agencies are known to strictly meet deadlines. A major chunk of their reputation depends on it and this is what separates them from the other agencies. They’re able to do so because they have an extensive in-house team working with them. So, if one of the designers is unable to come to work on a particular, the work can be continued by another designer. This makes sure that the promised deadline is met.
Assurance of business continuity
Most professional agencies have an in-house team and they also have additional shadow resources. These shadow resources step in when there’s an emergency. Furthermore, agencies have backup options available at the disposal of their teams in case of system breakdown or Internet outage. These instruments are enforced by agencies to maintain business continuity. Such options are a luxury for freelancers and only a few of them are in a position to avail them.
Confidentiality & professionalism
You would want the specifics of your design project to be kept a secret or your competitors might steal your idea. When you are outsourcing to a professional design firm, you can count on them to draw up contracts that protect your project. Even the people working with the agency might have to sign an NDA to ensure that ultimate confidentiality is maintained. This is one aspect that might be totally missing with design freelancers because they’re strangers. The risk of confidential information getting leaked shoots up considerably.
Where professionalism is concerned, you may have heard of instances where freelancers vanish out of a project without intimating anyone. A number of freelancers lack accountability and this might be a major issue when you are trying to finish your project within a stipulated timeline. You need professionals and agencies are your best bet for that.
Tips for finding the right UX partner for your design project
The wrong UX partner can seriously ruin the chances of your design project’s success. Here’s how you can find the right one.
1. Preparation of a short brief of your design project
Before you contact a design agency, you need to create a brief of your design project, which would outline:
- The end goal of your project
- The overall budget
- For whom the application is for or what kind of audience
- The feature list that you wish to include in your project
- Your expected timeline when you wish to launch your application
If you can articulate your business goals and why you need a UX partner, it will be easier for you to determine the selection criteria. And therefore, the vetting and selection process becomes somewhat streamlined.
2. Evaluation of past experiences
It is a good idea to first go through the portfolio of a design agency. Glancing at the past work will help you in determining the skillset, work style, and approach of the agency, and it can be a crucial deciding factor. Consider the following points when assessing the portfolio:
- Design quality
- Number of completed projects
- Explanation of the process, as well as, end design goals
- The uniqueness of each project in the portfolio
3. Quality of communication
The professionalism of a design agency can be determined by the way it communicates with you. Ideally, a firm is going to demonstrate a high level of excitement and enthusiasm to work with you. If that kind of determination is not spotted, you might want to continue looking for other agencies to partner with.
Also, make sure to ask the agency the frequency with which they connect with their clients and the preferred mode of communication. After all, your involvement is required to ensure the success of the project.
4. Understanding of the design task and available resources
If the agency is enthusiastic about learning the ins and outs of the design project, it’s a good sign. An agency asking detailed questions and showing interest in knowing every aspect of the project indicates its sincerity to work with you. It also means that when the agency starts working on your project, the team has a complete understanding of the task.
Another important factor to check is the resources that are at the disposal of the agency. These resources include the team of designers and the experience of the agency with UX audit, user testing, user research, personas report, usability benchmarking, interaction prototype and wireframe design, user journeys, and final visual design.
5. Status of project management
The project management skills of an agency would determine how your project will be handled. Apart from asking the agency if they will be able to deliver within the stimulate timeframe, you need to find out how your project will be managed. For transparency and ease of communication, it would be better if they can assign a dedicated project manager who will be answerable to you. In the absence of a project manager, you will have to individually interact with each member of the team to understand the status of your project. And, this isn’t ideal as you’ll be interacting with a lot of people at once who will give you fragmented updates.
6. Check if quality assurance practices are in place
The final delivery of the project must meet your expectations. For this, the agency ought to have an assurance program in place to check the quality of work at every step while ensuring that the project is on track. Moreover, an agency should be committed to taking steps to handle issues that might invariably come up.
7. Set up a first date to seal the deal
Before making the final decision, it is advisable to meet or speak over the phone to understand if the design agency is the right fit for your project. It might be that the agency meets all your other expectations, but they’re steadfast and not willing to make changes or unwilling to include you as a part of their design brainstorming sessions. There has to be mutual respect for the partnership to work.
Qualities to look for in a UX partner for your design project
The foundation of a successful design project is a fruitful partnership. For a partnership to work, you need to look for the following qualities in a design agency:
1. A high level of understanding and empathy
A UX design agency must understand the needs of users. It is necessary to comprehend the emotions of the users before designing an application. Or, the application will end up being discarded since it doesn’t adhere to the wants and needs of the users and gives no regard to their sensitivities.
2. Hands-on researcher
The cornerstone of any successful project is research. Without researching the purpose of the design project, how it is going to be used, and for whom it is being designed, one cannot proceed. So, the perfect UX partner would be someone who makes the effort to understand the value of the application that you’re designing.
3. In-depth knowledge of wireframing
A UX design agency has to be great at building the framework of the application. For this, the agency’s designers must have a deep insight into wireframing and ways to create easy-to-understand information architectures.
4. Excellent communication skills
The ability to present solutions and explain ideas clearly is a must-have skill. Along with that comes receiving, as well as, giving constant feedback. Without good interpersonal and communication skills, these tasks would be quite difficult.
5. A problem-solving, can-do attitude
Like all things in life, design projects are fraught with unexpected obstacles and issues. You need to work with a UX/UI agency ready to eliminate difficulties and solve issues enthusiastically.
6. Experience and expertise
As you know, practice makes perfect. If the design agency has been a part of varied projects, you can expect faster results and better solutions to unforeseen problems.
The success of your design project largely lies in the partnership that you form with a UX UI design agency. It is the agency and its team of designers who will take the vision of your project ahead and turn it into a reality. So, do your due diligence!
If you are currently looking for a UX partner for your project, get in touch with us at Divami for a free consultation session.