So, you’re looking to hire a UX team? That’s a great start because it actually proves that user experience is a priority in your company.
Hiring an appropriate UX design team isn’t an easy task. As many multi-star reviews you may see, or testimonials you may read, finding the right design team specific to your business needs is going to be tricky. So, here we are, listing out the most essential UX design skillset you need to look for to ensure that your partnership is a good fit.
UX Design Skillset to Look for in a Team
UX design is at the core of successful product development. The right team is the one that possesses the UX design skills needed to take your project to fruition. It would be expected to conduct research related to your industry, your users, and sometimes your competitors as well to design a product that is functional, desirable, and user-friendly. They can also provide support in the form of sage and professional guidance regarding UX design consultations.
Let’s get started with understanding the information you need to gather to answer the question, how to find the best UX design agency?
How do we gauge their UX design skills or design aesthetic?
Gauging the capabilities and potential of a UX design agency is the primary priority, and this covers visual design skills as well as performance output. To do so, start off by asking them to share details of the different kinds of projects they’ve taken up, the problems they’ve managed to identify, the methods they used to solve them, and the relevancy of their solutions. View the screens they’ve created to observe the design patterns such as spacings and layouts. Make the best use of your judgment and sensibilities to observe the flow of information and if the navigation is simple to understand.
It of course doesn’t end here. Visually appealing design is not the ultimate benchmark of good user experience. The goal of UX design is fulfilling business goals while keeping user needs in mind. Every project has established metrics to ensure that the users and the business are both happy – so ask for concrete examples such as time taken for task completion, or workflow improvements, etc. as these KPIs reveal the actual impact of the design and thus help in making a holistic assessment.
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Healthy collaboration is vital to the success of a design project. How does the team fare in this regard?
Communication skills are an absolute essential for design teams. And, this is not just about the tools they use (yes, having Slack/Basecamp groups is great), but you need to pay heed to their style of communication, the frequency, and enthusiasm they show. Honestly, this is difficult to analyze, as pre-sales conversations tend to be more effusive and proactive. What you can do is ask about their style of functioning, the frequency of relaying updates, and points of contact.
Design is a collaborative process. It is also highly iterative, so rest assured that there will be a lot of back and forth about approaches being taken, information being sought, and refinements needed. Therefore, it is important during your initial interactions to gauge whether your communication styles are suited for a collaboration that will last for a few months at least.
In case your conversations allow for it – do make it a point to observe how they handle counterpoints and their style of push-backs. Disagreements are an inevitable part of all projects and you have to make sure that these do not jeopardize your partnership. As a design team, you can expect them to take a stand in favor of the design process and technicalities and not just be yes-men at the cost of the output.
Do they possess the ability to grasp the requirements of your project?
A capable design team will show tremendous curiosity about the project. This will be in the form of in-depth questions, requests for details, and will attempt to gather as much as they can about the business. While this may seem exhausting, it can be seen as a team that likes to immerse themselves into the project to ensure appropriate outcomes. It is also an indication that the team is doing its homework to see if the project is a good fit for them as well, and that they are up to the task, instead of causing issues, post onboarding.
Therefore, pay attention to the questions they ask, and the interpretations they make of your issues. Guide them if they seem to be going off-track. The design process begins with research exercises. Any team that jumps right to showing you prototypes, especially in the absence of research data is not doing things right.
Project management – understanding how your project will actually run
Project management is a skill that is essential to the success of a design project. Considerations in this regard would include whether the project would be delivered as the agreed schedules, the frequency of progress updates, and provisions for delays if any. The design team will be expected to provide you a detailed outline of the project’s progress, step-wise. You can also expect information about the UX design team structure and their members’ profiles.
Make sure you gather information about technical aspects such as their usage and expertise with contemporary software such as Sketch, Figma, Adobe, etc. You may also verify their style of documentation – the way they go about naming and storing files, version control, and maintain design libraries – this will tell you a lot about the team’s organizational skills.
Design teams can function in 2 ways – centralized and decentralized. The former is where all the design requirements from different products/teams/modules come to one team, whereas the latter has each designer being assigned a module/product. Depending on the scenario, designers should be able to adapt to the requirement and function efficiently within that composition.
What is their version of the design process? Do they have what it takes to deliver a user-driven experience?
Each design team has its own approach to design and has a functional UX process in place. The key to ensuring that their process has substance, look for a research-driven approach. A major chunk of the design effort isn’t dedicated to making the actual design, but to gathering user requirements, outlining business goals, and creating workflows to identify lagging touchpoints. It’s a clear red flag if the team is eager to showcase their design skills without honoring the creative process that leads to it. A user-driven experience finds its roots in a research-led design approach, so, check the team’s credentials in skills such as UX research, UX audits, user testing, journey mapping, prototyping, and usability testing.
Domain expertise – how to take a stand on that?
Enterprise projects are known to be process-heavy and domain-specific. A UX redesign or overhaul of these applications is mostly about gaining more flexibility, bringing it up-to-date, and customizing features. So, domain expertise is always going to be a brownie point. But the real issue remains – is it an absolute essential to have? The answer to that is, no. While it may be a good-to-have quality, it should not stop you from picking a team that exhibits competence in all other areas discussed above. Unless, of course, the scope of your requirements is such that it calls for prior experience. For instance, the healthcare industry has some rigid, government-mandated compliances such as HIPAA and HITECH. Healthcare UX is a niche branch and there are dedicated agencies that possess the necessary expertise and knowledge to handle such projects. So the best way to go about this is to analyze your requirements and take a call to prioritize domain expertise.
It isn’t easy answering the question of what makes a good UX design team, as there each project is unique and requires different skill sets. That said, the primary quality to look for is empathy. Find a team that makes an effort to truly understand your project, identify the right problems, and devise solutions based on them, rather than the ones with the fanciest portfolio or the biggest brands as clients.
The primary quality to look for in a UX design team is empathy.