We have this conversation with clients a lot and the truth is, there is no black and white answer, nor a one-size-fits all solution. We find most product teams will outsource their UX/UI design at some stage of their journey - when they’re starting out and aren’t ready to hire; when they need to increase their design capacity; when they have particular challenge that they need specialised expertise to solve; or when they need a fresh eye or take on their product.
Here are some things to think about, based on our experiences over the last 13 years…
The Benefits of Outsourcing
Access to Specialized Skills
One of the big advantages is having access to a pool of highly-senior, specialized designers who stay up to date with our fast-moving discipline. Product design studios usually have a diverse team with extensive experience, which can lead to quality design solutions, faster. They also often have collective experience across a range of industries, which can bring valuable knowledge transfer to the table.
Although outsourcing UX & UI can feel like a big ticket item, it eliminates the need to hire, maintain and manage an in-house design team. Clients can also have access to top-level expertise that they may not be able to afford or access internally.
Product design agencies should be hyper-focussed on outcomes, deliverables and hand-offs. This can result in faster project turnaround times, allowing clients to launch their products or services more quickly.
Focus on Core Competencies
You do you! By entrusting external design specialists with a project’s UX/UI design, clients can allocate their time and resources to other critical areas of their business, such as product development, sales, marketing, operations and support.
Clients can scale up or down their design projects based on their product roadmap and speed requirements. An outsourced design team means resources can more readily available, without the challenges of hiring or downsizing an in-house team.
Design fatigue and continuity
Design Fatigue comes into play when a designer has been working on a single project or brand for an extended period and their enthusiasm naturally wanes. If you’ve hired a designer internally, chances are that their efficiency may decrease over time and/or they’ll depart with their IP, potentially leaving you with a difficult gap to fill.
An outsourced design studio will be able to mitigate against this by bringing new, fresh designers onto projects before design fatigue sets in, ensuring continuity, knowledge transfer and ongoing Design System maintenance.
What to be aware of when outsourcing
Communication is key
For an external UX/UI team to be truly effective, they should be seen as an extension of the core product team, with direct access to the key internal stakeholders and decision makers. This ensures that decisions can be made quickly by the right people, and the project’s momentum keeps rolling.
It’s doesn’t have to be either/or
When managed well, internal and external designers can have a great, collaborative relationship. When they work together as a team, more gets done, faster and better. Similarly, when the project goes into the maintenance phase, your external team may actually encourage you to hire internally, with them in a supporting role.
Every feature has design and development implications. Make sure that whoever is running your roadmap brings business, design and development into the same conversation so all of the dependencies and considerations are ironed out before the work begins.
Make your design team part of your development QC process before you push live. They will be able to easily spot errors in the front-end development and will work with your developers to resolve them before launch.
Choose the right partner
When deciding who the right partner is for your project, assess their previous work and make sure that the level of complexity they typically solve aligns with yours, and that their design style is what you’re after. Most importantly, you need to feel like you have good chemistry to ensure a great, long-term partnership.