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 thing first: do you need a UX design company? Or do you just need a web design firm? Or maybe a mobile app design agency?
It is very important that you define this. It’s the core of your project’s success, so you really need to think about it before moving forward.
For this, it is necessary to understand what is the difference between web design and UX Design (or UXD).
A simple way would beA UX Design company can do web design, but a web design company cannot do UX Click To Tweet
Although this definition would apply in many cases, it is somewhat fuzzy and may not be entirely true. Not all UX Design companies do web or mobile app design (which is usually known as UI or User Interface).
How is this possible if it is supposedly 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 what the people of it understand, doing UX is doing UI. And even worse: doing UI is doing web design. Ergo, 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 is designing a web page. The theoretical principles do not matter (in fact there are none), simply that there is a page that we can see on the web.
The same case would be for the design of mobile apps.
There is an intermediate between both which is Responsive Web Design (RWD). In other words, a web page that is viewed on desktop and changes its format so that it looks good on mobile. It’s not exactly an app, it’s still a website, it just looks different
User Interface 101
UI is the acronym for user interface. Many web designers claim to do UI, but this is not true in most cases. And they don’t do it out of dishonesty: they just think UI and Web Design are the same.
However, UI has a fundamental difference from website design: it has a lot of rules to follow, and a lot of checkboxes to tick (so to speak). There’s nothing random in UI, everything is studied and has a theoretical reason.
Also, UI is the effect of a UX research process, and at the same time it is tested as a prototype.
User Experience 101
Finally, we have User Experience, or UX.
UX is such a large set of disciplines that its limits are completely blurred.
For example, UX contains UI. But UI is only a tiny part of the big world of UX. And it is a part that has to do with the design of HCI (Human Computer Interaction). However, the vast majority of UX disciplines have nothing to do with HCI. Or at least, they don’t need HCI to exist (but HCI and UI do need many of them).
And here comes the difference we wanted to explain: when in a UX company we say that we design, what we design is a UX plan.
That can lead to a visual design, an interface, a multimedia experience … or none of them. It depends on the project.
Sometimes the UX project is simply evaluating a situation, sometimes it is designing an urban experience, sometimes CX (Customer Experience), sometimes quantifying the effects of an action, etc.
As we can see, they are strategic designs, just not “visual designs”.
When do you need UX design?
The simple answer would be: always. However, in order to be more realistic and honest, an accurate way would be: when the project is the most important part of your business.
We live in a global society and economies change every day. At this very moment, someone is crating something that will make her a millionaire. At the same time someone 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 fate of your product, company or business is defined by the success of the project you’re going to pay… don’t play with fire. Just 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.
In addition to research with the user, UX development goes through a lenghty process: wireframes, then mockups, then interactive prototypes that are tested with real users. In the case of website design, it is simply the design of a series of web pages that make up a site.
Tip # 3: The UX motto: The higher the investment, the higher the return
This tip has to do with the above: although a UX design agency can be really affordable (in fact it is free in the short to medium term since it recovers the total investment), it is more expensive than the same team (or similar) just doing Web Design. Since the amount of people, time and processes are extremely different, a UX design agency will never have the same cost as a web design agency. In the best case, you will find that the cost is going to be multiplied by 3 (three).
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!).
On the contrary, neither web design nor mobile design can guarantee anything, nor are they supposed to. It is a purely aesthetic work. Although it may include web development, it also 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.
Think about this: even when there is no real UX process, UX companies have a lot of knowledge acquired over time, with research that will sometimes match that of your niche.
Even out of pride, no UX company is going to do things wrong on purpose. Quite the contrary: they will use all their knowledge. And this includes HCI, UI and IA (Information Architecture) at a minimum, as well as marketing and SEO principles that hardly a web design company can have.
Obviously it will not be the same, the results will not be as successful as in a real UX process, but clearly they will be superior to that of any web design company.
And although the cost increases a bit – since no UX agency is going to “give away” this knowledge – it is very possible that you can have a web design made by a real UX company for a price slightly higher than that of a web design company … with better results “a priori”.
Bonus: #Tip 6: Combine agencies!
You may like the design style of a web design agency, but at the same time you feel insecure because their processes are haphazard.
In that case, just do like the great ones: combine the potential of the different actors in the process!
For example: you can hire the web designer for the design, the UX Research company for everything related to the user research part, and a web development company for the code and implementation part.
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!
For example, the research team can submit their research development by Trello or Asana, and wireframes by Figma, which they share with the design team.
The design team can comment and consult with the research team in order to design more accurately and effectively.
Once the design is done, the UX team can continue testing prototypes or verifying usability and accessibility in constant exchange in real time with the design team.
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 is not an obligation. Just like not everyone does UX.
Both conceptions are completely wrong (and this is told to you by someone who dedicated his life to evangelizing UX).
But UX is about real data, and the reality is that you don’t always need time-consuming and expensive processes. Or even that there is a way to have a little of that process but at a much lower price.
The important thing is that you can recognize exactly what your need is. From there, everything is simplified.
And if you need help or have doubts, we are ready to advise you completely free of charge. Just Contact Us now and let’s get your ideas roll out!
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