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When looking for a UX design agency, there are many doubts and questions. And let’s face it, there are a lot of UX design agencies. Yet, many of them are just web design agencies, or web development companies. Or a mix of both.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to recognize a good UX design agency, and how to define if this is what you need (or not).
UX Design Agency vs Web Design Agency
First, let’s clarify whether you need a UX design company, a web design firm, or a mobile app design agency.
It’s vital to determine this as it’s foundational for the success of your project.
To decide, you must understand the differences between web design and UX Design (UXD).
A straightforward distinction is:A UX Design company can do web design, but a web design company cannot do UX Click To Tweet
This definition applies in many cases, but it’s somewhat vague and may not always hold true. Not all UX Design companies handle web or mobile app design. Often, this is mistakenly referred to as UI or User Interface Design, but that’s incorrect. Web design, mobile app design, and UI design are distinct, each with its unique features and challenges.
So, how is this confusion possible in UX Design?
Well, the confusion comes from the side of a certain acronym that does not make much sense but that became popular until it overshadowed the correct terms: UI / UX.
According to this acronym and its widespread interpretation, doing UX means doing UI. Worse yet, doing UI is equated with doing web design. Therefore, by a transitive nature, doing UX is doing Web Design.
However, there is nothing further from the truth. Web Design is not UI (and neither is mobile app design), and UI is not UX, not even remotely close.
To explain it simply and concisely:
Web Design 101
Web design involves creating a web page. The specifics of theoretical principles are not critical (despite there being many principles regarding visual patterns and layout); the key is having a page visible on the web.
This concept also applies to mobile app design.
An intersection of these two is Responsive Web Design (RWD), which means a web page viewed on a desktop alters its format to appear optimally on mobile devices. It’s not an app per se, but a website that adapts to the device’s size.
User Interface 101
UI is the acronym for user interface. Many web designers claim to specialize in UI, but in most cases, this is not accurate. This misunderstanding isn’t usually born out of dishonesty; rather, they often conflate UI with web design.
However, UI differs fundamentally from website design: it involves numerous rules and criteria. In UI, nothing is arbitrary; every element is carefully considered and grounded in theory.
Additionally, UI is the result of a UX research process and is concurrently tested as a prototype.
User Experience 101
Finally, we have User Experience, or UX.
UX encompasses such a broad range of disciplines that its boundaries are often blurred.
For instance, UX includes UI, but UI is merely a small component of the expansive world of UX. UI specifically pertains to the design of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). However, the majority of UX disciplines are not directly related to HCI. In fact, they can exist independently of HCI, though HCI and UI do rely on many of these disciplines.
This leads to a crucial distinction: when a UX company mentions “design,” what is often meant is the creation of a UX plan.
This may result in a visual design, an interface, a multimedia experience, or none of these. It varies based on the project.
Sometimes, a UX project may involve evaluating a situation, designing an urban experience, exploring Customer Experience (CX), or quantifying the effects of an action, among other tasks.
When do you need UX design?
The simple answer would be: always. However, to be more realistic and honest, it would be accurate to say: when the project is the most important part of your business.
We live in a global society where economies change every day. At this very moment, someone is creating something that will make her a millionaire. At the same time, someone else is creating something that will make her a millionaire… just before losing everything.
There’s a concept known as Technical Debt
Technical debt (also known as design debt or code debt, but can be also related to other technical endeavors) is a concept in software development that reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (limited) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.Technical Debt Wikipedia
Joshua Kerievsky expanded the concept to user experience design using the term “User Experience (UX) Debt”. Kerievsky explained that, like technical debt, UX debt will eventually come due, usually in the form of less customer satisfaction and possible customer defects.
In other words, if the success of your product, company, or business hinges on the project you’re funding… don’t play with fire. Instead, hire UX professionals from an experienced UX design agency.
When do you need web design?
In this case, we’re obviously talking about web design without UI (if there’s UI, there’s UX).
There are multiple cases for simple and straight to the point web-site design work. For example, let’s say you’re building a bunch of feeder sites for a SEO strategy purpose. Or a page for some event. Or a personal website, or a site about a product that is not central to your business strategy.
In this case, a good web design service will be enough for your needs, there’s really no need to go through the amount of time and money a whole UX process will represent.
The 5 tips that will help you recognize a UX design firm from a website design company
Tip #1: UX Design Agencies will ALWAYS research
This is the most massive and obvious difference: without research, there is no user experience. As simple as that. There really isn’t much to add on this, it’s super basic.
Tip # 2: UX is about pre-testing. Web design delivers finished products.
UX development involves extensive user research and a step-by-step process: creating wireframes, mockups, and interactive prototypes that are tested with real users. Website design, in contrast, focuses on designing a series of web pages that comprise a site.
Tip #3: The UX motto: Higher investment leads to higher returns
This principle relates to the previous tip: although UX design services can be surprisingly affordable (effectively free in the short to medium term as they recover the total investment), they are typically more costly than a team focused solely on web design. The discrepancy in costs arises from the different number of people, time, and processes involved. Generally, a UX design agency will have costs at least triple that of a web design agency.
Tip # 4: A serious UX agency can guarantee results
Because there is a constant research and adjustment process, a good user experience studio is able to guarantee results (Not to toot our own horn, but check our UX Guaranteed Results policy!).
In contrast, neither web design nor mobile design can guarantee anything, nor are they supposed to. These are purely aesthetic works. Although they may include web development, this adds nothing to the concept of UX, even though its effects can be measured… by a user experience research firm.
Tip # 5: Hire a UX company to do web design!
Maybe not all UX companies are up for it, but it’s worth a try.
Consider this: even when there is no real UX process, UX companies possess extensive knowledge acquired over time, including research that often aligns with your niche.
Driven by professionalism, no UX company would deliberately perform poorly. On the contrary, they will leverage all their expertise. This includes not only HCI, UI, and IA (Information Architecture), but also marketing and SEO principles, areas where a typical web design company may lack.
While the results won’t mirror those of a genuine UX process, they’ll likely surpass those of any web design company.
While the cost might be slightly higher – since no UX agency will just “give away” their knowledge – it is quite feasible to get a web design from a real UX company at a price marginally above that of a standard web design company, with potentially better initial results.
Bonus: #Tip 6: Combine agencies!
You might appreciate the design style of a web design agency, but feel uncertain due to their disorganized processes.
In such cases, follow the lead of the experts: merge the strengths of different entities in the process!
For instance, you can engage a web designer for the design aspects, a UX research firm for all user research elements, and a web development company for coding and implementation.
With the “state of the art” of web and mobile project development, combining teams is very simple, you only need collaborative tools for all teams to communicate and voila!
The design team can comment and consult with the research team in order to design more accurately and effectively.
Once the design is ready for deployment, the web design team can use Figma or Zeplin to provide the assets and design guidelines to the development team, who in turn can upload the files to repositories such as JIRA or GitHub for control by the user experience team and / or the client.
Conclusion: Choose wisely
UX design and development are not obligatory, just as not everyone engages in UX.
Both beliefs are incorrect, as someone who has dedicated their life to evangelizing UX will tell you.
However, UX is grounded in real data, and the truth is that time-consuming and costly processes are not always necessary. It’s possible to adopt parts of these processes at a lower cost.
The key is to precisely identify your needs. Once you do, everything becomes more straightforward.
If you need assistance or have any questions, we are here to offer advice at no cost.
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