Should you work with a UX Agency or build your own in-house UX Team?

Dave Jackson2nd June 2023 - Dave Jackson

Should you work with a UX Agency or build your own in-house UX Team?

It’s incredible how much technology has transformed human behaviour over the past two decades. I’ve found this to be particularly evident through carrying out hundreds of hours of user testing over the years. There is a clear change in people’s tolerance and patience levels when faced with frustrating interfaces, apps or websites that have confusing navigation or long loading times.

These days, people expect seamless, intuitive experiences that they don’t need to think about too much.

UX research and design have been undervalued in the past, but because of these changes in human behaviour and user expectations, businesses are now recognising opportunities and investing.

There are two main options when it comes to integrating UX into any business – building your own in-house UX team or collaborating with a UX agency. I’m going to take a look at each scenario. I’m sure I’ll be accused of bias (something UX professionals try to avoid) so I’ll keep this as objective as I can.

There is a place for both, and the choice depends on considerations such as scale, ambition, budget and the product roadmap. On many occasions, we have helped transition our clients to build their own UX and design teams and often continue to support them with extra capacity and consultancy.

When should a business build an in-house UX team?

Building an effective UX team has its challenges but it is very worthwhile when done right and for the right reasons. In my opinion, scale is the main justification for this approach. If you have a clear vision with a roadmap that includes comprehensive UX requirements, this might be the way to go.

In-house UX designers will be the strongest guardians of your brand. They should have broad familiarity and razor-sharp focus across your entire product suite and communications, but there is always the risk of overfamiliarity, which can lead to bias or blinkering. A strong research-based ethic with discipline is needed.

One piece of advice I’d give anyone taking this approach is to start with strong UX leadership. Without this foundation, it will be very difficult. UX professionals also work better as part of a UX team; it’s a broad discipline so hiring one UX professional to cover strategy, research, UX design, UI Design, UX writing, information architecture, testing and delivery is a mistake. I’ve never met anyone with all of these skills at a high standard.

Key considerations when building an in-house UX team
  1. You’ll need a high level of design maturity across the business. This needs to come from the top down.
  2. There should be a strong ambition for the business and a clear product roadmap for the long term that has an ongoing requirement for a UX team.
  3. You need to start with foundational UX leadership that can build the right multidisciplinary team and structures.
  4. You’ll need the budget to invest in, recruit and retain the UX talent needed to build an effective team.
  5. Enough time and resources will be required to onboard and develop the UX team and create processes, SOPs and team culture.

The state of the UX and tech industry in Ireland and beyond shows a skills shortage of experienced UX designers and researchers. This remains in 2023. It is a highly competitive market, and there is fierce competition for top talent. HR and staff retention are not easy, you need a very attractive proposition.

When should a business work with a UX agency?

For a lot of businesses, working with an experienced and established UX agency is often a more efficient and cost-effective way to manage UX projects without a lot of the risks associated with hiring and building a UX team from scratch.

If the product roadmap is less defined towards the longer term, requires a multi-disciplinary approach, and needs to start making progress quickly, hiring a UX agency can be a much smarter more cost-effective choice with a lot less risk.

Benefits of working with a UX agency
  1. A UX agency will have an existing multidisciplinary team with a broad set of skills and expertise.
  2. There will be close collaboration between research, design, analytics, content creation, development, and project management professionals.
  3. A UX agency will already have an evolved design culture, processes, and team dynamic, which will bring efficiency to any project.
  4. An agency can provide an objective perspective on your product or service, which can be valuable in identifying blind spots and areas for improvement.
  5. UX agencies have a wide range of experience across multiple industries, providing best practices and proven methodologies to your project.
  6. A UX agency can plug into and enhance your existing team as support for research and design.
  7. Costs are reduced by only paying for the work you need.

Ultimately, the decision between building an in-house UX team or collaborating with a UX agency like Friday will depend on the unique needs and goals of the business. It may also be possible to combine both approaches, with an in-house team providing ongoing support and a UX agency brought in for specialised projects or to supplement the in-house team’s skills and capacity.

Talk to us about your requirements, and we’ll help you work out if collaborating with an agency or building your own UX team is the right path for your business.

Dave Jackson
Dave Jackson

Dave is co-Founder and UX Director at Friday. His passion is in simplifying the complex and transforming the monotonous into something enjoyable. He tries to apply these principles of UX to everyday life.... with mixed results!

Previous Post
A New Way to Search: Google’s Generative AI
Next Post
Clickety-click: 5 Years of Consent with the GDPR