Outsource Design Work: Pros, Cons, and Challenges

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There are so many product owners who had some hard time trying to find a good designer to join their teams, at some point start thinking about outsourcing all that fuss to an agency. Are you one of them? Read this before hiring outsourcing an agency to evaluate all the pros and cons.

Pros

Less time on hiring

One of the very common reasons why companies look for an agency is obvious: they don’t want to waste time (and resources) on hiring and onboarding a new team member. It takes time to check hundreds of CVs to find good candidates, interview them, explain the specifics of work… 

And even after that, there is a risk that the designer is not very professional or doesn’t fit corporate values. And imagine you need more than just one designer?

When working with an agency, picking the one you like most doesn’t take too much time: all the references and case studies are available. And what you get is a team of professionals who know what to do and how.

Saving money

Each new team member means more office space, new social security expenses, software, corporate benefits, and so on. With an agency, you don’t even have to think of all this. Of course, there are agencies that will cost you more than your own team of good designers, but you can always find something that is more suitable for your budget. Outsourcing design work allows you to find professionals from other countries, where average salaries are lower.

Makes big projects feasible

As it often happens with design, there is a big task, for example, developing a mobile app for iOS and Android that has to be done in short terms. To do the job, you will need several designers, but after the launch, you won’t have the same volume of work for all of them. Hiring a team of in-house designers just for few months is quite inconvenient, so a design agency would be a perfect fit in this case.

Cons

By now, it may have looked as if outsourcing UX design to an agency is the best option. However, there are some disadvantages as well.

Lack of brand and audience knowledge

So, you make research, pick an agency with an awesome portfolio and great team, you start working… What can go wrong? There is a perfect match except for one thing: they don’t know your users. 

To truly empathize with the users, you have to work on the same product for a while, collaborate closely with the team, conduct research. Understanding the audience can be even harder when the designers come from a different country than your market is.

Communication issues

Often when you work with agencies, you only have direct access to the account manager. The rest of the team working on your project you can only see at meetings. That’s not very convenient when you have lots of small questions and comments (which happens a lot). Most agencies limit direct communications with designers to a certain limit in order to boost productivity and organize the internal processes.

Privacy concerns

Of course, signing an agreement gives you some protection, and of course, having an in-house designer does not protect you from every privacy-related issues. Yet, there are many companies who feel that outsourcing certain parts of their work is too risky: and there are reasons for that.

Challenges (and how to overcome them)

Even if all the disadvantages of outsourcing do not scare you and your decision remains firm, there are still some pitfalls that you have to be aware of. We’ll give you some advice on that.

1. Choose the right one

Although working with agencies saves time for hiring, in the end contracting an agency is also not a 5-minute task. Agencies do their best to promote the business. Lots of design talent is invested in those impeccable landing pages to make each agency look great.

To make the right choice, ask for real recommendations. Not just those generic reviews on the landing pages, but possibly people you know. If you can’t find anyone, try contacting their clients through LinkedIn, or check trustable review websites like Clutch.

2. Organize the workflow

You have to think of your preferred way of organizing work even before contracting an agency, and then adjust to their habitual workflow. To avoid further misunderstanding, there is a good practice to agree on the way you would manage the projects:

  • Schedule the regularity of the meetings
  • Define the software you will be using for project management and communication: Slack, Trello, Notion?
  • Find one person in your team who is responsible for contacts with the agency

3. Make your expectations clear (for yourself first of all)

Before even talking to agencies, sit down with your team and write objectives, deliverables, deadlines, expectations, and so on. Define the criteria that you will use when choosing an agency and make sure that all the team is on the same page.

Write a detailed brief. This is the first thing to bring to designers and it will become a basis of the agreement. Getting the brief done right will save you lots of time and energy in the future.

4. Provide all the necessary information to the agency

It is better to give all the info in advance than to share it in pieces on the designers’ request. Prepare a detailed description of the user persona, all the visual style guides, business objectives, history, values, create a moodboard — the information is never too much.

5. Give thoughtful feedback

Many agencies state that delays in project delivery often happen because clients take too long to give their comments. Make sure your feedback is timely and consistent: remember about the brief and try to explain clearly what you like and do not like about their work.

Conclusion

Outsourcing design has two faces. You will find out if it fits your company only after trying once. However, you can increase the chances of successful collaboration with a design agency. Want to learn how? Check out this detailed step-to-step guide on how to outsource design work.

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