Adopting UX: In-House Team vs. Hiring Consultants

Adopting UX In-House Team vs. Hiring Consultants

Last Updated on June 5, 2020

‘Good Design is Good Business’ - Thomas Watson, IBM

User experience (UX) has been a secret weapon for businesses, it is not restricted to just making things easier to use, but if you can significantly improve bottom lines by capturing user insight & signals that you might have missed.   

UX contributes to many success stories, for instance, Amazon (now worth $1 trillion in valuation) invested 100 times more into customer experience than advertising in the early years. Startups like Airbnb too uncovered important user insight to spur their hockey stick growth, by working on better listing description & images. 

However, the number 1 question for most organizations would be: how to actually start doing it, or how to do it right? Should one assemble a UX department or hire external UX consultants? As there is always no silver bullet, let us take a look at the details of each and let one decides which would work best. 

Benefits of UX

Read also: Why Startups & Enterprises in Asia should invest in UX?

While focusing on user experience is essential to any size of entity, it is way more important & cost-effective for bigger enterprise

Imagine if a company is able to uncover an opportunity to increase conversion 100% for small startup, it might not be able to increase the revenue significantly, say from “$USD 1 to $2’,   for a bigger enterprise, a small 1% increase of purchase conversion or cost reduction can count in number of millions. 

Nevertheless, UX design is not really a luxury that only bigger organizations deserve, one can start small and scale it later. In the early days of Airbnb, it was their co-founder who conducted user interview and found out opportunities for growth. Airbnb then tripled their design team headcount in 2016, the team is even bigger now. 

Irregardless of the size of the company, focusing on user experience is very crucial in making sure the company is building the right thing, whether it is a new product or new feature.

Below we will explore how businesses can adopt UX in 3 different ways, also, the Pros and Cons of each:

In-House UX Team

A UX team can consist of designers, researchers and product managers. E3VksMUcXqcIVhttliEVHt7DLliqbm43zeM7Qjahwv6bI9tBVIQdz7NykwDYQhj 3lhclH7hKD66 Lm9yQ nQfrJbIN3RaMqSaLzd1OSRead also: UX Roles Beyond UI: the Designer, the Researcher, & the Manager

Pros:  

  • It shows that the company is SERIOUS, and would have stronger influence to ensure that ‘UX is a team sport’ within the organization.
  • Move quicker as communication is kept within the organization
  • Able to go into ‘stealth’ mode without revealing internal business secrets.

Cons: 

  • (big organization) slow, every department often has their agenda and put own priority on top. ← but this is also why you need to get the team start talking about UX, put the focus on the end users or customers. 
  • Spend most of time dealing with politics & education, getting ‘buy in’ from stakeholders
  • Heavy investment: recruitment & training of multidisciplinary team. 

It is important to communicate clearly to all department that UX is here:

  • NOT to slow things down
  • NOT to serve as a cost-center
  • To help everyone begin with end (reduce unnecessary waste of time & resources if doing the right things at the beginning). 
  • To help align every department to work towards a common goal.

Often, a UX consultant or expert outside of the organization can help to kickstart such communication to the team. 

We once heard from a big telcommunication company that has a UX team, but the team does only graphic design and ‘internal user testing’, without testing with real end users in the market. One of the reasons given by the manager: ‘we don’t want to let our competitors be aware of our move, that is why we don’t test it outside.’    

“the only one that will win, is the one that learn the fastest.”  – Eric Ries, author of Lean Startup

By not doing any right learning about a product and launch it with the hope that it will bring in customers, is equivalent to nothing but gambling.

 

Hiring UX Firm or Agency

A UX firm or consultant assist companies in many UX related fields, but not limited to: user research, usability testing, interaction design, rapid prototyping, web analytics, UX strategy, stakeholder workshop.

UX Firm UX Agency

Pros: 

  • Fair role: representing the ‘users’ and not any department in the organization
  • Expertise: knowing the right methodologies and able to execute it efficiently
  • Cost-effective: 

Cons: 

  • Not having enough domain knowledge about specific industry*.
  • Might not be cost-effective (especially for smaller size companies).

*This could be a strength for an outsider to see things that veterans might have missed after dwelling in the industry for too long, knowing too much, thus unable to unlearn & relearn from new perspective. 

In-House Team + Consultant

Consultant

As we talked about the pro and cons of in house UX team vs hiring consulting firm, let’s not omit another healthy alternative: inhouse + consulting, this has been widely adopted to many organizations that champion UX, including some of the largest bank groups and media conglomerates in Asia.

Team Meeting

Here’s a few ways organization (with/without UX team) can work with consultants:

  • While organization UX team or sponsors focus on getting buy-in from the management, consultants can work under the radar.
  • Let’s face the fact that every department has their own agenda, and the involvement of an external party could work very well to facilitate unbiased judgement & opinion to benefit the organization as whole.
  • Tap into & learn from their experience, especially the experts.
  • UX consultant-as-a-auditor, they audit & diagnose your products with their expertise.
  • Collaboration to map overall UX strategy, they might even able to help with the in-house team assemblement and recruitment planning.

Final Words

Today, it is not up to you to choose to deliver better user experience or not. Thanks to the ‘new standards’ of product experienced introduced by user-centered companies like Dropbox & Google, and widely used by users everywhere, even the enterprise users are now demanding their tools to be more usable.

If you’re still thinking whether you should start practicing UX for your company and products, it’s better you do it right away or you should consider talking to a UX expert to advise you on what would work best for you. You can also take a look at our UX guide for business (updated for year 2020).

Author: Netizen

We're an award winning UX research & strategy consulting firm in Asia, aspires to improve experience of the world by empowering everyone to build user-centric products through our innovation tools & approaches. We've been providing expertise to enterprises in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam & Philippines.