Choosing a UX Design Agency for Your Startup

If your business does not have a UI/UX design department or has one that is too short-staffed to handle the influx of projects, you have probably been considering the services of a UX design agency and how exactly to choose the one that’s right for you. There are quite a few UX companies out there, but many of these will only provide you a subpar service just to get at your design budget. 

One of the first things many entrepreneurs consider is whether to hire a boutique design provider or a more solidly established UX design agency. If you are looking to hire a UX agency or a consultant, you are most certainly looking for a high-quality return on your investment. You should certainly be wary of paying a price that is too good to be true. Bargain prices often bring bargain results, and as they say, but cheap, pay twice. The problem is that many startup companies who find themselves in a position where they require UX design services don’t have a big budget to potentially afford a reputable company to work with. So what should these startups do?

When looking for the ultimate creative agency, here are some aspects you should consider to better refine your search:

Clearly Define The Specific Services You Need

Many startup owners realize that they may not know where to start when it comes to the design aspect of their business. As an entrepreneur making your way in the rough waters of the business world, you want to stand out from the rest and to have a distinguished identity, so your first intuition is likely to start with a logo or UI/UX of your product or service.

However, when you begin to truly consider the broader picture, you will realize that a UI/UX is just the tip of the iceberg in what your business will need. Depending on how far along your business is you need to think about things like a marketing website to portal customers to your business, as well as your company’s branding. 

You may need to convey a compelling brand message to prospective customers, so you will need to find a design agency with experienced and talented UX designers and consultants, as well as a solid copywriting team. If your product is digital, a digital agency that has a lot of experience focusing on design solutions and trends that will resonate with the audience that you are targeting. You will likely need to consider similar skillsets for a marketing website, launch videos for your products, and nearly other design assets you may require.

In short, UX/UI design varies greatly depending on the area of its application, so knowing what you specifically need for your business will help you fully understand your needs to the design team you choose to work with clearly.

Look for UX Agencies

One fact that startup owners need to comprehend right from the onset is that there is no one way to find a reputable UX design firm. If you are like most contemporary entrepreneurs, your first go-to destination when seeking answers is Google. While it is a fair place to start, the number of results you will find might overwhelm you, and you will still need to sift through your findings and reconcile what it is you need.

Knowing some more direct approaches can save you time in your search. There are several places where you can find an excellent UX design choice for your project. Here are a few great places to consider when searching:

  • Behance: This is a platform where designers can showcase their work by displaying to you their UI/UX design portfolios filled with graphic designs, illustrations, photography, and everything in between.

  • Dribble: This platform is similar in nature to Behance where you can search through portfolios of numerous designers.

  • Pinterest: This is a global conglomerate of boards with samples of work from some of the world’s best designers.

  • Creattica: This is an inspirational gallery where one can find designs for a wide array of designs including anything from web-based to print styles.

This is by no means a complete list of places to seek out designers. Another good method is to ask someone who you know who has had UI/UX work done for their company or their website, and they could provide you with some compelling feedback about who they used.

Things to look for in a UX Design Agency

Once you have done the research and narrowed down your list of possible contenders, you can begin focusing on the details of each one. Some important aspects to consider in your evaluation are:

  • Website: A UX design company that boasts the ability to provide professional design solutions would be expected to have a good looking, functional, fast, and user-friendly website. If you find this not to be the case, some red flags should be set off.

  • Portfolio: Check out the designers’ portfolios. Pay close attention to work they have done for clients in industries outside of yours as that will be a good barometer of the designer’s skill and versatility.

  • Dribbble/Behance Profiles: If the designer or the agency has profiles on these sites, it is a good indicator that they are a credible option for your company’s needs, pending your liking of their style.

  • Testimonials: As with any other promotion, no company will give you their shortcomings on their own website. That is their marketing mechanism, so it will always be skewed to only the positive aspects. That is why evaluating testimonials from clients is very important for the real test of legitimacy. Happy clients will always say something good about the agency, but these testimonials need to be from a source other than the company’s own website.

Your evaluations should not stop there. Even if the company checks out as reputable and reliable, the agency you are considering must have a work process conducive to your needs. Looking into their work ethic will help you determine if their UX/UI jobs and how they conduct themselves to align with your needs and expectations.

If a designer is not forthcoming with the information you need from them, that should raise red flags as well. There is no reason that a UX designer should keep this information from prospective clients as it only helps build an honest relationship. A good example of a design company with a meticulous approach to design projects is the San Francisco based “Clay.” They begin with user and competitor research, as well as a very diligent discovery process. This results in various documents to help serve as the basis for any future UX and UI projects with their clients. This helps set goals, understand clients, and gain helpful insights that lead to satisfied clients who are provided with high-quality design results.

There are many methodologies and project management tools out there, so approaches different design companies will take will vary. The key takeaway is that a design company should engage more in their products than just keeping a spreadsheet with due dates, time logs, and the breakdown of design roles.

Making a Decision and Building a Relationship

Once you have done your diligent research and have decided on a UX design company you would like to work with, you need to reach out to them and let them know that you are looking to hire them for their design services.

The relationship you build with the agency should start before the formal design contact is even in place. Your goal is to help the design company provide you with the result that you are looking for. To give you that result, the designers must understand clearly your project’s needs and your expectations from them. Ideally, you will begin working with a team of creative, talented consultants and designers, while they score themselves a new long-term client.

If you have a new idea about your project, you should always be open and forthcoming with the design agency about it. However, if you are looking for additions or alterations, be aware that they have to manage their resources and timelines as well, so there should not be an expectation that they will do this for you for free. The two sides should view the relations less as an employee/employer, but more like a partnership where everyone is working together to achieve the best possible results.