Have you ever wondered why some apps catch your attention at first sight while you instantly ignore their counterparts? Or, maybe, you have noticed that strikingly similar marketplaces can have a different level of popularity. Certainly, such digital representations of businesses online serve as hooks for potential clients while others, no less easy to use or creative, lack likes and conversion. That’s right: VISUALS ARE VITAL! No wonder: the first impression of your enterprise is made based on your web design in 94 cases out of 100. It’s 2021 - it no longer matters if you are a restaurant owner, an advertising agency manager or a tailor: if your website/app is not up-to-date, attractive and user-friendly, you are not trending.
So, that’s STEP 1: You realize that you need a good GREAT digital product to gain customers’ attention.
STEP 2: You start weighing your options for creating or updating your platform ranging from “what the hell - I’ll try this free designing app and fashion something myself” or “I remember Noah has Photoshop on his laptop. Maybe, he can still do me favour” to “Let’s hire someone on that network you saw”. Indeed, you can go all lengths if your start-up has just been launched, you have a limited budget or you simply don’t get it why designing an app can cost thousands of dollars. We’ve seen such cases. And we’ve helped to solve the problem once the damage is done by such dead-end decisions.
So, STEP 3: you decide to hire an expert. And that’s where you start right: only a professional designer (or the whole team of multi-area experts) can juggle visual elements and development opportunities, analytical skills and marketing approaches to create a perfect cocktail that makes interaction with your company’s web-resource leave a long-lasting and memorable after-taste.
However, bear in mind that at present it’s no longer the design itself that matters. If what you aim at is creating a product that would correspond to your customer’s behavior, be both useful and usable, you need a UX (user-experience)/UI (user-interface) designer. To fulfil their cutting-edge mission, designers have to be real experts not just in visual design, but also information architecture, user research, cross-platform UX, prototyping and much more.
Thus, this guide intends to make the process of choosing your designer as pain-free and proficient as possible. Once you study it in detail, you will know about:
- pros and cons of outsourcing,
- cases when you should definitely engage remote workforce in design,
- how to choose and evaluate designers,
- and, finally, what not to miss when you have already selected the right person for the job.
In-house employment vs outsourcing: what to consider
Once you’ve made a core decision to hire a designer, the next milestone is to figure out whether your business requires an in-house or an outsourcing employee. While the COVID-reshaped market has made remote work almost every company’s routine, there are still some issues you need to keep in mind and we are here to help you weigh your options.
What concerns in-house employment, the advantages are:
- easy management and communication;
- constant control;
- corporate culture.
At the same time, such features may appeal to those who:
- have enough time and funding to develop their teams by extending them with a full-time designer and
- do not seek to dive into a wider (global) talent-pool since ih-house work lacks the latter.
In addition, such a permanent workforce requires constant upgrading and upskilling as well as a “squad” containing a more varied selection of experts apart from designers themselves to fulfill the aim of genuine UX-UI design.
On the other hand, business process outsourcing offers you more opportunities with:
- reestablishing your company aims and prospects;
- adapting to (or later, adopting) new business models, approaches and processes;
- engaging professionals from other, totally different spheres to help you spice up your projects.
However, the real deal breakers are
- cost-efficiency and
- unlimited access to professional UX-UI designers/teams all over the world.
Certainly, there are red flags you shouldn’t miss while reassigning your work to an outsourcing partner:
- do not fool yourself that an outsourcing team requires no effort to integrate since communication in such a blended model should be even more planned and engaging;
- keep in mind cultural and time zone differences to make your cooperation efficient and tolerant;
- forget about hiring a team from another part of the world if you are a micro-management freak or a fan of the company culture idea since that will put the brakes on the business processes and outcomes.
We suspect you already have a vital question in mind:
So, when should I definitely outsource in design?
Here’s what our designers at LinkUp Studio can advise you judging from 7 years of cooperation with customers on an outsourcing basis. The ABC of the initial stage of your decision making process could be as follows:
A - when you want to Attract remote workforce who has that very expertise you lack. After all, statistics shows that as of 2018 52% of companies implementing IT have already engaged outsourcing.
B - when you need to Balance your finances and explore the possibility of remote and in-house workers cooperation. When it comes to outsourcing, it’s all about flexibility both in wages and the size of your teams.
C - when your company needs more Clients and you see it’s the visuals that can help. Just think about it: according to recent studies a successful UX design makes your conversion rates rise up to 400%. So, why not let the real experts help you enhance your business opportunities?
So, if any of these options (if not all of the above) suit your needs, go for it!
Certainly, there are more factors to be taken into further consideration like the scope of your project, the financial background and the time limit (wait, we’ll discuss them in detail later). What’s important at this point is to understand that the major drawbacks could be administrative features and advance investments. However, those are definitely the risks worth taking.
OK, I need an outsourcing designer, what’s next? or Agencies vs freelancers - possibilities and pitfalls
So, you’ve come to the decision to try outsourcing services and you doubt who to employ: a freelancer or an agency. Even if you have a general idea of advantages and disadvantages of both options, don’t rush to scroll down - we have some valuable insights for you.
In either of these cases rates will still differ based on the designer’s location, experience, and skills. Certainly, hiring a freelancer is a cheaper option. In addition, you may access a bigger talent pool since you can find almost any expert from anywhere. However, bear in mind that the pitfalls of such a decision could be lack of control (therefore, more management resources); sometimes lower level of responsibility and punctuality. So, if you need a few tasks done well and you are short of money but do not care for time limits, you may dare hire a freelancer. However, always remember that lower prices may also indicate lower standards.
What we stand for in LinkUp Studio is that agencies have more to give you. Literally, more as in “more people, more varied experts working on your project, more effort and opportunities involved”. Since hiring an agency implies hiring a whole team of professionals: not just designers, but business analysts and developers as well who are already tuned to operate as an entity. Yes, the rates may (or may not) be higher for such a 3-in-1 option BUT that also means more advanced levels of expertise and management.
If you need more examples of what makes an agency stand out dramatically, here’s what working with LinkUp studio as an agency provides for:
- offering quality complex solutions in a timely manner;
- access to a whole team of experienced (and reliable) workers who are trained to integrate into your existing team;
- in-depth approach towards your brand;
- avoiding complicated and time-consuming HR issues.
Therefore, an agency is obviously a better choice if you need an elaborate project done in time by a professional dedicated team who will be easy to reach directly, understand your aims, share your values and efficiently adapt to changing business requirements. No amateurs, no missed deadlines, no low-quality products - that’s what it should feel like to have a part of your team overseas.
Got it! So, who exactly am I looking for?
It’s about time to give you more specific features an outsourcing designer should possess. To track the person you need, we are here to give you a detailed “portrait” (and bust the most popular myths about choosing the right candidate).
- Creativity is no longer a luxury. That’s right. It’s a must. To appeal to the customer’s emotions and senses, being simply attractive is not enough. You need to be original. And that is the task of your designer. But don’t get carried away with those who present themselves as talented. Talent is doing something in one’s own exceptional way. Creativity in design should be doing unique things to represent the client, not the creator.
- The tools of a professional UX/UI designer include: … Wait! That would definitely be easier to have a list of programmes and just put ticks to see if he/she is good. But that’s not how it works. Every experienced designer does have a set of tools they use but their actual types are a matter of preference and suitability for certain works rather than a strict requirement to follow.
- Ask yourself what type of product you need and search for a specific designer. If an outsourcing agency offers you a domain expert for your particular app or platform - enjoy further cooperation. If you are told their designer has universal skills in any business area or type of design, remember - you need a professional, not Jack of all trades.
- Ask for a portfolio and study how relevant a designer’s works are. The latter may be exquisite but totally different from your vision and ways of execution. If it’s possible, try to search for their previous works online and find out if the latter are still used and how efficient they are. Also, it’s rather helpful to ask the designers about their works that might not be accessible due to non-disclosure agreements. Such cases are not a rarity for real professionals so it could be another source of valuable information.
- When it comes to skills other than related to design itself, you may want your designer to know marketing as well. Otherwise, the visual attraction of a product may be of higher priority to them than the real purpose of the project or a brand as a whole. Visual elements should serve to communicate your ideas, make you more accessible and a good designer will make sure the message is correct.
Do you want your project to be treated as a matter of high priority? Definitely. However, when you hire either a freelancer or an outsourcing agency, chances are you will not be their only client. Therefore, that’s what you are looking for in an outsourcing designer - a professional who would be able to juggle multiple tasks and clients with equal efforts and expertise involved.
- Last but not least. And quite in time since it IS about timing. Before you hire a designer make a quick test if that is the person who is on the same page with you timewise. Try discussing any issue via e-mail or any messenger and check how long it takes for them to respond. That would be your marker of the speed of communication and - eventually - getting the results of your cooperation.
If the list seems too long to handle, think of it as the manual to keep your company prepared in case of any unexpected issues while selecting your future employee. Therefore, our “manual” couldn’t be too thorough for helping you make a well-grounded decision that would boost your business opportunities.
Right. Any more points to think through?
Once you have set your mind on a particular outsourcing agency, be sure to keep a few aspects in mind to make this selection process as fool-proof as possible.
First and foremost, (we suspect, you have already come to this conclusion yourself) - it’s not all about rates. Yes, you know they vary depending on location, skills and experience.
However, you are right to guess an outsourcing designer or a designing agency should not be judged by the cost itself. What you need is cost-efficiency. Low-quality software, breached contracts and budget overruns are just the top-three among the problems you will have to deal with once you decide to save a penny. Compromising in such cases is not worth the risk of losing time and settling for mediocre outcomes. This will only put you further away from your aim to satisfy the needs of your company and customers. Our best advice on this point would be to set a budget to make this demanding process more structured and predictable.
One more thing concerning financial matters is that even in case of a settled budget be ready to negotiate and make adjustments. Fixed guidelines are helpful. Fixed prices are a dead-end scenario.
Now let’s move on to less obvious issues. Evaluation and estimation. Certainly, everyone understands you need to plan. But how important is planning if your aim is to outsource? Even more essential than with in-house workers! Once you choose a reliable designing agency, they will make sure no grey areas are left before they start working on a project. Being specific is the key element to successful cooperation. You will need to deliver a bunch of details like the type of the project, functionality, features, deadlines, milestones, and costs. Note: the scope of the project should also include the stage at which you intend to involve an outsourcing designer. For instance, if they skip the research process, the price will be lower. At the same time, never underestimate the designer’s participation in every part of the project. Otherwise, saving money may cost you lacking valuable solutions.
Never fool yourself with expectations of accurate dates and costs. Yes, it is smart to ask for ballpark figures concerning the deadline but it’s also smart to be ready for rough estimates. 10% ambiguity may occur due to possible risks, lack/inaccuracy of data provided by you at the initial stage (see previous paragraph) and quality of work. In addition, it’s a good idea to ask both for a time range and probable calendar dates of delivering the results to see how much time a day/week is dedicated to your project.
One more tricky insight: experience ≠ actual skills and competence level. For instance, designers at LinkUp studio can truly boast of priceless knowledge, expertise and outcomes acquired in just 7 years of successful outsourcing partnerships in a variety of industries and fields ranging from consumer or financial services and real estate to media and entertainment, retail and healthcare. So, never judge a book by its cover as well as never judge an agency by its age or size.
What’s truly a must almost in every project (especially, with prospects of a long-term cooperation) is a trial task. The latter should be concise but definitely in line with your future tasks. Why bother and waste time? Not to waste time later. What if an outsourcing designer is perfect on paper but has a completely different vision of what you are looking for? Design can be rather subjective, so you need to start small and check if both the outcomes and interaction with a particular person are comfortable enough and correspond to your standards of work. On the other hand, do not expect such a trial project to be free unless you hire an amateur. In case of cooperation with an experienced agency, it is fair to be charged for a minor but good-quality product.
One more vital issue is to evaluate the level of competence when it comes to balancing the customer’s demands and introducing authentic ideas that would contribute to the project success. Thus, the climax of an initial stage of shaping your project with a designer (or the whole UX/UI team) could be their questions concerning the project. The latter are the true markers of their professional skills. If they want to know more about your business processes and the final outcomes - that’s the right person/team for the job. Again, if you are asked whether the buttons at your website should be round or square - you have met regular performers of the tasks you provide, not creative executives of your dream product. Casting is troublesome, so if you have candidates that seem to be unsuitable - that probably is true, don't let them steal your precious time.
Finally, never neglect legal issues. Who is the owner of the outcome product? What are the security protocols? Does the agency use licensed fonts and images? What are the cancellation terms? You need to think of all these things to avoid being left with low-quality designs or experiencing your agency going AWOL.
To make sure you are absolutely armed to win this round, here are our final quick tips from LinkUp Studio team:
- partnership and communicative culture are as important as outlines: misunderstanding can create barriers and lead to a failure;
- evaluate soft skills just as precisely as the designing skills: you have to enjoy your outsourcing relationship;
- sometimes (especially, if you are new to this area) be ready to give your outsourcing designers a carte blanche in creating your dream app/website/platform. After all, you’ve turned to them for assistance: be ready to trust their gut.
Has this been helpful? Resourceful? Enlightening? We hope these are final questions you have in mind after studying this guide. A fundamental idea could be hiring an outsourcing designer is always a great opportunity when it is perceived not just as an immediate solution for vague tasks but as a major tool to enhance your business processes.