4 pointers in a not-so-objective take on why setting up an In-house UX design team is not so rewarding as it sounds.
Great! You have discovered that UX design is a profession. Something that is worth doing and too specialised to be executed as a side-job by your backend developer. So now your mind is in doubt whether to:
A: hire a permanent UX designer in your company (In-House)so you have that skill available at all time or…
B: set up an external relationship with a UX design company (Outsource) that might not always be available or…
C: hire a freelance UX designer to temporarily upscale (Upwork).
Finding it difficult to choose? I have worked on all sides of the table. Here are some thoughts and tips on option A versus option B from personal experience:
- For the money
For the sake of a clear story, I will agree on the basic motivation that in the end, we all want the best user experience for our product. Glad we agree on that. What follows is the second-best motivation to possibly integrate something into your company that is outside your core business: money.
Yes, it seems cheaper to pay a monthly salary and to have that person at your services full time than pay an hourly rate for an external party for the equal amount of availability. External rates nowadays vary from €90,- to €200,- per hour. Sounds more expensive than the internal employee, but as an employer I can tell you that adding pension, training, vacation, sick leave, hardware etc.etc. you end up with a double salary. Read on and find out why, in the long run, more aspects influence the value for money.
2. Availability and scalability
A good agile process with a continuous delivery demand should have a UX designer in the working loop at all times. In practice, the design is done before development. Creating a high workload in the beginning and decreases towards a quality control role until it is released. Followed by a new high design demand when new parts are picked up.
This sine function of the workload is difficult for companies to cope with. They might have too little amount of people at the beginning or too many people later on. The latter allowing sales managers to enter the stage and demand the UX designer to magically “upgrade Powerpoint designs.” External parties have more options to increase bandwidth on short notice — running multiple designers in parallel — and even shift in expertise!
3. Expertise and experience.
By hiring your first in-house UX designer you bring a new expertise to your company. This person is educated and experienced in designing great customer experiences. A skill that is constantly subject to new trends and innovations. If the company does not provide a continuous opportunity to keep track of these new developments, I predict this person is unable to keep your product experience at the top level for the long run. Often resulting in demotivation of that person due to lack of personal development. Because it is in people’s nature to want to grow and evolve in what you do.
Outsourcing UX design projects to an external specialised party will plug your company into a pool of people that have an obligation to be the best of their profession. They are organised as a multidisciplinary group that shares knowledge and experiences on a wider scheme of skills. From user research specialists to art directors and UX strategists. They all bring their latest experiences from other projects to your game. Remind you, trust and good NDA agreements are indispensable ingredients to the relation.
4. The creative mindset.
Warning: Often the transition to incorporate a new skillset into your company demands a shift in the creative mindset. Having a specialised UX person for the first time can cause these kinds of dialogues:
• Product Owner: “Welcome, here you have access to the developer backlog. Now design a great experience without changing what we have already built.”
• Developer: “Cool, so you deliver the colours and images!”
• Sales Manager: “We never talk to end-users. We must not risk them thinking less of our half-finished products. You’ll manage with our own experience.”
From a designer’s perspective there is challenge to create a mindset from the inside in which creativity and solid user centred design processes are supported by the whole company. Sacrificing time and effort, just for a better user experience is requires an internal drive. For companies it is less scary to work with 3rd party creative processes. That way they have an ‘external excuse’ why things might need to change.
Conclusion: The partner trend.
I am not stating In-House will never work, but with the ever-growing skill set surrounding UX design (Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, voice-control, etc) it has become a profession that is simply too big to incorporate into most companies when it is done right. That is why big companies rather establish a long-term UX expert partner relationship than build and nurture a new department from scratch. Welcoming an external perception that is not influenced by internal politics and an outside-in instead of of inside-out view. Eventually combining external UX evolutions with a firm understanding of the company.