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September 27, 2022

Recruiting a UX Designer vs. a UX Agency: a 3 round competition

To drive your business forward, you need to constantly improve the user experience of your services. If hiring professionals is an obvious step, there is still one crucial question that remains to be decided: should you hire a UX Designer or a UX agency? Is it better to do everything in-house by dealing directly with the recruit of your choice or is it better to buy a turnkey service conducted by a specialized external team? 

UX designers tend to be positioned in all areas, but if we take the case of Ferpection: we have chosen to focus on the design and research phase. Will a one-man band have the same results in UX Research as our specialists? The debate is real, and while the issues and personal preferences of a company's decision-makers weigh in on the final choice, there are some key arguments to consider before entrusting your future expansion to either option. So here is our 3 round competition to help you elect your champion between salaried UX Designer and UX agency.

Round 1 | Sustainability. UX in-house or external provider: What is the most sustainable solution?

Internalizing your digital development by hiring a UX designer is tempting. Knowing that user experience is a constantly evolving issue and that the effort to be made in this direction must be permanent, we might as well bet on the long term and recruit an expert in user experience, right? That's not always the 

Advantages of hiring a UX Designer

Bringing in new skill set to join a large-scale project is very appealing. An employee dedicated to your specific UX design needs will be involved in the overall performance of his employer and will possess a true corporate culture, in line with the values and objectives of the company. With time, he will probably become a considerable asset to the team and will be able to the company go further and reach their goals faster.

Disadvantages of entrusting your UX to an employee

In theory, opting for internal talent concentration seems like a good long-term strategy, but in practice, it's not so simple for 2 reasons:

1. The turnover of UX Designers is frequent

When starting out, UX designers, generally present themselves as a Swiss Army knife, able to manage a user experience project from start to finish, from conception to production, through creation and planning. To top it all off, they also provide maintenance to the project. But as their expertise grows, they tend to want to focus on the aspects they like best and therefore specialize. The call of freelancing then becomes very attractive for them, especially if they are good. They often resign from their jobs to become entrepreneurs. And you need to find a replacement again.

2. To stay innovative, you need new blood

In jobs that require creativity, it is imperative to maintain a good level of stimulation. Reaching a cruising speed, however comfortable, suggests a slowdown. Someone who knows his job by heart and does it well loses the passion. This is neither good for the well-being of the employee nor the health of the company that employs him.

To think that simply by recruiting a salaried UX Designer, one will start a virtuous loop of growth for many years, is therefore utopian.

How can a UX agency be a sustainable solution?

Conversely, by using a UX agency, you eliminate these two risks. With its pool of user experience professionals, a specialized company ensures that creativity will always be there. Of course, it will be necessary to brief your provider on the ins and outs of your business, but once that is done, you will be able, if such is your wish, to unload the continuation of the project entirely. What will ensure the durability of the collaboration will be, above all, the level of satisfaction of each party, since there will be no obligation between each mission. Isn't this the best way to build lasting professional relationships?

Round 2 | Efficiency. UX Designer or UX Agency: who is more efficient?

Would you prefer to listen to a one-man band or a full philharmonic ensemble? Calling on a UX agency means having access to specialists with extensive knowledge in different areas of user experience.

The pooling of brains

By opting for the UX agency, you could potentially benefit from the expertise of professionals with skills in human and behavioral sciences, computer science, arts, marketing, etc. They practice the professions of:

  • Product Designer
  • UX Researcher
  • UI Designer
  • UX Strategist
  • UX Writer
  • UX Architect

The emulation created by this type of teamwork is phenomenal. This is a very high level of brainstorming that is bound to be much more effective than a UX Designer thinking alone, no matter how qualified and involved he is. UX has become far too large for one person to be in charge of its performance. Unless you want to hire a UX designer to join your dedicated team, you'll get much better results by outsourcing this part of your business to a provider who does just that.

In addition, the UX agency has at heart the aim to satisfy its client. Its reputation is at stake. It will deploy all the necessary means to carry out the mission successfully and on time, while closely monitoring the impact of its actions.

Does diversity or focus hinder efficiency?

Do not think that multiple clients will make the UX agency less effective on your project. On the contrary, it is routine that hinders creativity! A salaried UX Designer working on the same type of issues will be much more likely to run out of inspiration than a colleague working in an agency on different domains and issues.

Moreover, when working on a single topic, one tends to develop the expert blindness syndrome. This is a flaw that tends to distance the specialist from his target audience. But for user experience professionals, there is one absolute rule to never forget: no UX without users. If the company develops products that it imagines to be in line with the needs of its customers without taking the trouble to interview the main stakeholders, a gap will inevitably develop and eventually lead to commercial failure. To conduct its UX research, Ferpection has a pool of nearly 250,000 testers spread over 5 continents, as their opinion is a central focus.

Round 3 | Fees. Which option will cost you more?

If we focus on the rates of a UX agency, compared to the cost of an employee in the position of UX Designer, the difference can be significant. But we should not stop at the most obvious numbers. Here are the parameters weighing on your budget to consider:

Recruiting UX Designers is very complicated.

On the one hand, UX Designers work mostly on a freelance basis. The expansion of UX needs guarantees a constant demand against which a permanent contract is not always sufficient. On the other hand, you will have to be patient to find the right fit. The field of competence of this profession is wide and, as no one can be good at everything, not all professionals have the same qualities. Some are more oriented in exploratory research, others in visual creation or in information architecture. Depending on your specific needs, it will be difficult to find the right candidate to hire who meets your selection criteria.

Job rotation is expensive

We have seen above all, that a UX Designer is, in essence, a profile that needs to constantly move towards novelty. He will therefore be bound to leave your company sooner or later, sometimes even after a long (and therefore costly) period of unproductivity. As a result, the hiring difficulties mentioned will be recurrent and this will generate all sorts of expenses and shortfalls such as the services of a recruitment firm, the putting on hold of projects, the training of newcomers, etc.

Lower UX results impact revenue

By playing it safe economically with an in-house hire rather than outsourcing your UX to specialists, you're missing out on potential performance that positively impacts your bottom line. This is difficult to quantify, but without investment, there is no return on investment. Being cautious is often synonymous with inhibiting growth.

What about the freelance UX Designer?

If opting for a middle ground by hiring a freelance UX Designer as an external provider seems to solve the dilemma, consider some of the risks associated with this approach before jumping in:

  • Your UX will weigh on one person. With all the issues mentioned about the efficiency of the service, you will also be dependent on a schedule managed by the freelance UX Designer. With the increase of missions for its various customers, but also possible absences for vacations or illness, the delivery times of your orders can be long.
  • Reclassification as an employment contract may apply. Be sure you are not in violation of the law. The use of a self-employed person excludes the relationship of subordination, the exclusivity of the collaboration or the need to occupy a full-time position for an indefinite period, for example. The reclassification into a permanent contract can be very costly and lead to many setbacks.

For your peace of mind, be sure to define your needs and capabilities for managing a micro-enterprise or sole proprietorship provider before deciding on this choice.

Eliminating budget issues and assuming that you don't have a UX team already in place at your company, our competition between recruiting a UX Designer or a UX agency is largely won by the outsourcing option

Obviously, money issues are central within most companies, so don't hesitate to target specialized agencies that offer tailor-made solutions. Finding a UX benefits package that fits both your portfolio and your goals will help you get started without the risk of unpleasant surprises. And as your performance evolves, it will always be possible to adjust your UX investment.

Do you want to develop a project or test a service? Contact us! We are experts in UX Research.

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Mathieu Lombard

Mathieu Lombard

Mathieu is Head of UX at Ferpection. He is in charge of user research and UX expertise, and supports our clients with his analysis and recommendations. Convinced by co-creation, Mathieu has trained over the years in various facilitation techniques and UX methods such as cognitive bias.

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