Organizations must strive to offer world-class products and services to retain their competitive edge. The overarching need is to ensure delightful user experiences. You may create a product with cutting-edge technology, but you still need to inspire customers to use it. Enveloping the product’s functionality in a friendly, serviceable UI framework is essential. Businesses must engage with design professionals proficient in contemporary UX techniques.
The UX design cycle encompasses several tasks: collection and analysis of the requirements, the definition of the user journey, structuring of UI and interaction controls, creation of appropriate content, and usability testing. You’ll find specialists handling these functions in UI/UX design studios and large companies that continually launch products. However, does every business require a fully equipped UX design team in their employment? Not really. But what they cannot truly afford is the lack of a sound UX strategy.
Organizations can enhance their UX capabilities in several ways. To understand the possibilities, let’s start with a few questions:
- How indispensable is the need for a dedicated UX specialist?
- Are there other alternatives to hiring a full-time UX designer?
- What factors are essential for an informed decision?
These questions are broad in scope, but they present insights into the need and the implications of the choices we make. We’ll now discuss these in detail.
The need for UX specialists
UX is as much an art as it’s a science. Creative skills must be combined with business acumen to fire the user’s imagination. UX design encompasses several aspects: underlining elements that captivate and hold the user’s attention; hiding the complexities beneath the user interface; facilitating intuitive leveraging of the product’s capabilities; kindling customers’ interest and paving the way for a rewarding engagement. UX specialists research to gather customers’ expectations, interact with stakeholders to integrate organizational demands, select and incorporate best-fit UI elements, and optimize the product’s usability.
Though the concepts are fairly straightforward, designers must know how, where, and when to apply them to create the required effect. UI/UX design studios employ people with specialized skills, but individual businesses need to consider a few factors before making a hiring decision. This is particularly true of companies trying to modernize product design strategies. A typical response is to get someone who’ll do everything related to design–a person who can ideate and transform the company’s vision into reality. An ambitious youngster may see this as a unique opportunity to work on a multifaceted role and hopefully become a design leader in the future. Sadly, it doesn’t quite work that way for the company or the individual.
From the company’s viewpoint, it’s hard to identify a single person with the right blend of experience and relevant skill sets. Talented people are expensive to hire and retain. Can you keep them motivated with a steady stream of projects? On the other hand, if the needs are going to increase, will the hired designer be able to handle it all?
Feedback is crucial in the design process, and it helps fine-tune the product to perfection. A person working solo will find it challenging to collect and assess opinions from diverse stakeholders. Sure, the business team’s feedback can be sought, but they’ll mainly be concerned with the requirements. Can they evaluate the user flow, information architecture, and interactivity elements? Usability testing can unveil some pointers, but this happens late in the design cycle. Going back and making corrections at this time might be more expensive in terms of time and efficiency than, say, a peer review at an earlier stage. The inability to complete a single project in time can impact other, possibly more business-critical ones.
There’s a larger imperative. If your organization is keen to benefit from contemporary UX strategies, you need design thinking embedded in all processes. This involves objectively evaluating current methods, identifying gaps, and re-orientating multiple teams toward common UX goals – in short, evangelizing UX-centric practices. A single person with regular design projects may not find the time for such initiatives even if they have the required interpersonal skills.
What are the alternatives?
UX design projects are best handled as a team, with a senior person providing the direction and vision and other members working toward a common goal. An organization can enhance its collective UX competence in three ways:
- Build an internal design team: This may be the ideal option — a team in your control will surely be handy. An in-house group can contribute to multiple projects, seamlessly collaborating with stakeholders and eliminating communication bottlenecks. If you decide to build a team, look for complementary skill sets for rapid development and consistent results.
- Hire a UI/UX design agency: Engaging an external team of professional designers can spur refreshingly new ideas. UI/UX design companies keep pace with the latest trends, ensuring your designs benefit from practical, proven techniques. You can harness their specialist skills, ensuring better planning and execution of the design workflow.
- A mixture of the two: In some cases, you may want to keep a part of the design work handled by full-time employees while delegating the rest to external designers. This best-of-both-worlds approach ensures you still have a trusted resource to manage internal interactions while getting the work done by the hired agency. The full-time employee could take the role of the design leader, steering the company’s projects and coordinating with the external team. Alternatively, you could employ designers who’ll work under the mentorship of an external specialist.
How to find what’ll work for you?
Each organization has to evolve a unique UX strategy to tackle its needs. This requires a careful review of various factors, such as the company’s size, nature of products, and the competitive landscape, besides the budget.
The following factors are helpful in determining what’s best for your business:
- The anticipated workload
Assembling a design team must be aimed at addressing current and future requirements. Is it to fulfill a one-off need, or do you have a long list of upcoming projects? This is important because once you have resources in place, you’ll need to keep them meaningfully engaged. Otherwise, their morale suffers, and your efforts go in vain. Sometimes, once there’s a design expert on board, everyone in the company wants a slice of their time. Will the designers (and you, as the business leader) be able to manage unplanned demands? If you’re building a team, ask if the team size and skill sets will fit in with changing needs. The workload must justify the resources, not the other way around. If you have occasional projects, partnering with an external UI/UX design company may make sense. You may still choose to hire a full-time design leader who’ll set the agenda within the company while liaising with the agency.
- Do you already have the resources?
If your company has been creating products for a while, you might already have some UX know-how, but it’s probably scattered across the teams. Each employee is aware of what enthuses the customer, but their understanding is limited to what they’ve observed. The marketing team knows what customers require; guide them to visualize it through a UX lens. The developers know how to make the product work; ask them to incorporate the user’s expectations by brainstorming with sales and support experts. Involve all key stakeholders in usability testing and discuss their feedback with product developers. With the right amount of hand holding, your current employees may be able to create better UX designs collaboratively, even in the absence of a dedicated UX team. As the needs grow, you may consider getting a UX leader.
- The cost/benefit question
Any option you choose may lead to additional expenses. The cost, in all likelihood, can become the conclusive factor when all other things are equal. Building a UX team on your own is a relatively long-term arrangement. If your development road map is lined up with several projects, you may be tempted to consider assembling a dedicated team. To make a prudent decision, ask if the projects warrant dedicated resources. Will there be concurrent projects to manage? Will there be lean periods between projects when the team will be idle? Once you’re satisfied that it’s a wise thing to recruit a team, assess the kind of people you’d need. What’s the size of the team? Will there be a design leader? Will it be a senior person working solo, coordinating with an external agency? Who will be the other members, and what’ll be their role? Use industry benchmarks to calculate the cumulative expenses and evaluate them against other options. If the conditions do not favor a full-time team, list the projects and get cost estimates from specialist UI/UX design agencies. Be sure to include project timelines and milestones when you seek their feedback. How does this option stack up against others?
The sure-fire way to make better decisions
Your approach to acquiring and maintaining UX design resources must be based on logical analysis and rigorous assessment of options. Assess the current and future needs. Draw up the budget. Will a single designer be able to handle the work, or do you need a team? How will you keep them occupied after, say, a year? Will you need a design leader today or when the needs grow? If your projects don’t warrant full-time employees, how to identify an external design partner? Will there be a dedicated internal resource to coordinate with the agency?
Acquiring UX-centric design capabilities is a pivotal need for businesses today. How you tackle the challenge will dictate the success of your products and the organization.
Looking for top-notch UX ideas that deliver? Talk to us. Ours is a young UI/UX design studio driven by a passion for excellence. We love building new-age design strategies for businesses keen to benefit from futuristic thinking. With our customer-focused approach, agility, and positive attitude, we fulfill the exacting needs of global organizations. Our services span the entire UX spectrum, addressing the unique challenges and expectations of startups, mid-size companies, and enterprises.