The writing is on the wall: you need UX help. There’s more work than your current team can handle, or maybe you don’t even have a user experience team. People are stressed. Deadlines are slipping. Management can’t understand why you can’t move key initiatives forward. You’ve got the job description written. You know (pretty much) what you think you need. It’s time to hire someone, right?
Honestly, we’d say yes. Hiring someone certainly seems appropriate. The question is who.
New headcount is a big investment. Is another permanent employee the answer, considering salary, benefits, culture fit? What’s the cost to the company and your deadlines if the hire doesn’t work out?
Here’s another option to consider: Find an external UX partner and outsource to meet your needs.
Outsourcing your UX projects might feel weird at first. User experience is such a core concern for brands (and rightly so); handing part or all of it off to a third party can feel like handing your children to someone you barely know and saying, “Hey, could you please take care of them for a while?” But parents do that all the time, and there are good reasons why. The same is true for outsourcing UX.
This is a sweet spot for UX contract work. Every internal UX team gets in over their heads sometimes. That backlog of work can bloom before your eyes, and suddenly, UX is the bottleneck. A little outside help can relieve pressure and ease some of the stress.
Not everyone can run an ethnographic study or facilitate a customer journey mapping workshop. Not everyone knows how to do content modeling or OOUX design or usability testing or card sorting. You don’t always have the luxury of a learning curve. Being able to pick and choose the skills you need from an experienced and reputable UX shop reduces the risk of spending a long time recruiting and still not finding what you need.
Let’s be honest. Sometimes working on an internal UX team can be a political minefield. Objective assessments and insights from an expert third party can cut through corporate dynamics and provide a clearer perspective. As an internal team member, you can sit back and enjoy the satisfaction of pointing to your UX partner’s findings (which may match what you’ve been trying to say all along) and saying, “This is what our partner is recommending. It aligns with my suggested approach, as well. What should we do next?”
It’s not just political considerations that make this an attractive option, either – we all know some projects just hit snags. A consultative review by an objective partner can help clear the blockage and get things moving again.
Not every UX project is a great fit for handing off to a partner. Full interaction design, for example, often requires a deeper understanding of the project, domain, and subject matter than could be reasonably expected of someone coming in from outside, especially if deadlines are tight and ramp-up time is short. But there are some efforts that are excellent candidates for outsourcing, including:
This is an easy one: pick up the phone or send an email. Start the conversation. Ask questions. Interview prospective partners about their process for getting up to speed. Discover how they do their work. Review examples they can share of previous experience doing the work you need.
After a few initial phone calls or meetings, you should feel well on your way to comfortably making the key decision: do you really need to hire for good, or could you succeed faster by hiring for now?
Interested in boosting UX throughput and skills in your organization? Let’s talk. We’d love to help.