Picking a UI/UX Design Agency for Your Startup in 5 Easy Steps

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

So you’ve dived and founded a startup. If you’ve made it to that point, then you’re probably well aware — there’s no preexisting blueprint for the success or failure of a startup. Some startups fold shortly, others succeed (well or modestly), while the exceptionally lucky few become unicorns. While the steps needed to get a startup off the ground vary widely depending on the industry, location, and market conditions, there’s one step that all startups must take — the creation of excellent user experience (UX) design on their digital interfaces. Some up-and-coming startups might decide to develop their own in-house UX design teams. Still, for the vast majority that don’t, professional-grade UX design must come from elsewhere — namely a reputable UX design agency. Finding the right UX design agency for your startup can be an overwhelming process — but we’ve put together a short premier on how to do so quickly and effectively.

Step 1: Determine The Type of UX You’re Looking For

Every startup needs UX design — but no two startups are the same. Before finding the UX design firm your startup will bring on board, it is critical to figure out which piece of the whole UX design process your startup needs to focus on and in what order. UX design is the process of designing the curation of the experience of your application, website, or digital product for users. This means the exact type of UX design a given startup will need depends on the startup and moment in its development process.

Let’s say your startup is in its very early stages and is planning to produce a digital product in an industry or market where competition exists. You may have a general idea of the brand and the product itself. Still, you’re not wholly aware of the market dynamics, competition, and how to orient your product towards the target audience and perceived gap in the market you wish to fill. A UX design agency that is renowned for thorough and comprehensive UX research will be important. If UX research is executed effectively, then the next steps of incorporating those findings into your digital product’s information architecture will be more useful in the long run.

Once you’ve determined exactly where and what you need a UX design firm to focus on, then you’re ready actually to start the search.

Step 2: Make a List of Possible UX Design Agencies

Figuring out which UX design firms you want to reach out to for a consultation flows directly from step one. The tried and true Google search will get you somewhere — search for UX design agencies + the particular service you need them to focus on. Beyond this, another way to look for digital products, applications, and websites that you like. If the UX is good for them, it means it could be good for you. Find out which UX design agency was responsible and contact them. This method is an effective way to go — there’s no better way to determine if the UX design reflects what you’re looking for than if you see it and experience it yourself. If neither of these methods gets you closer to a workable list of UX design agencies, visiting websites like Pinterest or Behance are other options. Both websites provide samples from well-respected and renowned UX designers.

Step 3: Prepare for and Organize a Consultation

Once you’ve put together a list of a few possible UX design agencies, it’s time to organize a consultation with them. This step is essential, so you must do as much preparation as possible in two concrete ways.

First, you need to make a presentation of sorts which you can use to explain in as much detail as possible what your startup is, the brand identity you’re going for, what you hope to accomplish, and exactly why you need the services of a UX design firm: the more depth and detail, the better. If you’ve determined that a particular UX design agency is worthy of consultation due to their specific expertise — in brand narrative development, for example — then explain this point. Your goal is to make the UX design agency understand what you want and how you see your startup’s vision. This helps the UX design agency realistically assess how to help your startup meet its particular goals.

A second and equally important piece of the consultation is getting information from the agency to determine if they’re the one you want to work with. It’s important to ask for:

  • References of Former Clients. Always make sure you get the contact information of former clients who worked with the agency. This is crucial because these clients can give you more detailed and nuanced information than anyone about working on a project with the UX design team.
  • Previous Projects. A sure-fire way to determine if this is the agency you want to work with is seeing the work they’ve done before with your own two eyes. You might have seen the company’s website with a few examples, but always ask to see a more detailed portfolio of works. This is especially crucial if your startup needs a particular service from a UX design agency — see how they designed a specific part of the user experience.
  • A Meeting With The Team. While a consultation might give you a meeting with the project director or manager, it’s always a good idea to meet with the team members who will be working directly on your project. See what work they’ve done in particular, and discuss your project, work tempo, and anything else relevant with them. This will help you get a direct insight into what working with the agency would be like.

Step 4: Make A Decision, Choose an Agency

Once you’ve had consultations with a few UX design firms, you must decide which one you will work with. This decision should consider which agency is best equipped to work with your startup and meet your UX goals and needs and which one can work within your budget and timeline constraints.

Step 5: Confirmation and Contract

This step is the most important of all. Write out your budget and timeline and write up a contract that both your startup and the UX design agency agree upon. It’s essential at this stage before anything is signed that you understand what the UX design agency’s protocols are for not meeting deadlines, going over budget, or in the case that they provide work that you’re not satisfied with. These are important to understand BEFORE the contract is signed and the work begins, so no misunderstandings. If the UX design agency doesn’t agree with your budget or timeline terms, allow them to counter offer (it may be purely a problem with logistics and scheduling), especially if they are your number one choice. You must be clear with what you need and when you need it by and for how much — there should be absolutely no confusion or misunderstandings at this point in the process. Once both parties agree on the details, a contract should be written up and signed, and the process begins!

Founding a startup is already a time-consuming, expensive, and risky undertaking. Finding an agency capable of providing professional UX design for your startup should be more accessible and more specific parts of the whole startup process. If you follow the steps provided above, not only will the process be more straightforward, but you will undoubtedly end up with a UX design agency that will help your startup reach its full potential and goals.

Contact me — imazenner@gmail.com

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Seasoned UX designer and amateur writer

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Andy Zenner

Andy Zenner

Seasoned UX designer and amateur writer

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