Design team

Hiring a Design Agency? Learn How to Share UX Design Requirements


mins to read

In July 1938, a small silver plane made a wide turn over a city and started down to the airport. The pilot landed his plane, stepped out, and exclaimed: “Where am I?” 

It was Corrigan Douglas. He took off from New York, with plans to land in California, but the compass had malfunctioned, he lost his direction in the clouds and accidentally flew over the ocean. Due to a navigation mistake, Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan made a transatlantic flight from New York to Dublin.


Aviators will tell you that being off course by just one degree, after flying 60 miles, you'll miss your target by a mile. The further your road goes, the more remarkable your mistake gets. And harder to fix.

Designing a product doesn't happen overnight. Like with long-haul flights, going off course even a little will make a huge impact on the final result.

Initial requirements gathering is a preliminary phase of the design process that is crucial to setting the whole project off in the right direction by focusing on the right problems to solve and, consequently, building the right thing.

No other part of the conceptual work is harder than deciding on requirements. No other part of the work cripples the result so much if done wrong. No other part is as difficult to rectify later.

That's not hyperbole — 39% of failed projects fail due to inaccurate requirements gathering.

Seemingly both designers and clients are interested in getting the requirements right. So how is requirement gathering done and why does this process often go painfully wrong?

UI/UX design document fatal error

What makes UX design documentation difficult (and how to fix it) 

So you have an app to build, and you’re looking for designers to help you with the UI/UX part. If you are lucky enough to have in-house design capabilities, you’ll explain to fellow colleagues what you want them to do and they'll be likely to understand. Those people have been sitting on hundreds of your weekly meetings, they’ve read miles and miles of your company’s Slack conversations. In other words, they understand the context. 

But since you’re reading this article, you haven’t got enough in-house design capabilities. You're going to cooperate with a stranger who is a design and user experience expert but doesn’t know much about your context, your market, and your audience. 

It’s like taking a taxi with a driver who has never been to your city and has no navigator on board. Before taking off, this guy will ask you about your destination and the best route. That's the same kind of thing any designer will ask you when getting to work. 

The input information from clients usually sounds something like this:

“We need to design/redesign this MVP/app/website”

That’s not enough to open Figma and start wireframing. The designer needs to gather more information:

  • To understand precisely what is required of the design. What is the idea of the product, its goals and objectives, its future functionality and competitors, its users and their needs;
  • To decide on some basic schedule and roadmap for the design milestones; 
  • To agree on production control to ensure final prototypes satisfy the requirements.

The problem is that we have some obstacles that get in the way of making all the UI/UX requirements clear. The three C’s formula — Communication, Comprehension, Control — captures all the components capable of throwing any design project into chaos.

Communication: breaking barriers and building bridges

When you tell your designer you’re making a breakthrough decentralized P2P ecosystem, it’s quite the same as switching into the language of birds. What sounds just fine for you with your industry expertise sounds like white noise for a designer.

UX design documentation example (the bad one)

Software is complex, abstract, difficult to visualize and explain. That creates communication barriers you and your designers have to eliminate on the road to fruitful communication.

We at Eleken UX design agency believe that the ability to understand each other is key to a successful project. That’s why we literally built our working process around communication with clients.

  • We don’t ask you to fill a brief — because no UX design specification document can explain customer needs better than a real conversation when you can ask what the heck “decentralized P2P ecosystem” is when you hear such kind of white noise. 
  • We arrange calls with clients, a lot of calls. In some cases, they are even meetings and workshops — all to discuss the product and clarify our next steps.
  • We don’t have project managers in our agency — the person you talk to is the person who designs your app. Cutting out the middleman allows us to make sure the message always reaches the right person, and not in a Chinese whispers way. 

What clients can do, for their part, is being responsive. If the designer has questions, try to answer them fast to optimize their time and your investments. A designer that doesn’t get timely feedback can either wait for your reply, thus being blocked, or continue working on assumptions that might lead the project down the wrong way (ending up somewhere in Dublin).

Comprehension: how to define requirements for a project

Maksym, a UI/UX designer at Eleken, provides a typology of projects based on the level of the customer’s comprehension:

  • Smooth projects, when clients know what they want and how they want it to be done. Designers, in such cases, are not involved in any conceptual decisions, but simply work according to specifications given. Not the most creative stuff, but smooth sailing from day one. The result is usually assured and the customer is satisfied.
  • Successful projects, when clients know what they want, and trust designers to define the best ways for things to be done. Clients’ knowledge and designers’ expertise unite for synergy and success.
  • Fun projects, when clients don’t know what they want but trust designers to help them figure things out. Eleken specializes in designing apps for SaaS startups, so we basically specialize in fun projects.

For sure, it’s an ideal scenario when you come to a designer and clearly know how your app is going to work and look like — it just saves your time. However, our experience shows that clients rarely know what they want (until they see it). Not in the detail necessary for design specification, at least. 

And it’s okay. Bring a vision, then let the agency figure out the details. Experienced designers can help you define requirements for a project. It just means that you’ll go all the way carefully testing the waters, and you’ll participate in communicating on a daily basis for the feedback exchange.

A designer will show you various types of products to understand your preferences. They’ll study all the existing written materials on the topic, and check their findings with you. They’ll do user experience research, and validate it with you. They’ll create user journeys, and show them to you to obtain your feedback. They’ll make wireframes and prototypes, and show them to you many, many times until the result satisfies you. 

Deep comprehension can be replaced by the customer’s trust and active cooperation. 

Control: navigating through the fog of uncertainty

The saying was that two things in life are certain: death and taxes. A design project plan is not on the list. Because the product design process is hard. It’s nuanced. It takes months (and sometimes years) to bear fruit.

Yet precision is what designers often asked for. Clients want to know exactly when the project will be done, how much time each step will take, and what the schedule is.

At the beginning of any project, we don’t know how long this is going to take. We can compare it to our previous experiences, but no two projects are the same. They never have the same requirements, the same people, the same priorities, the same UI/UX design tasks. Each is unique. 

At first glance, we can say whether the UX scope of work is going to be large (6+ months), medium (2-5 months), or small (a couple of weeks). 


As more research and development is done, more information is learned about the project, the uncertainty tends to decrease. After a couple of iterations, we can learn and create something, measure how long that takes, and then give you a much better sense of how big this thing is. 

To make gathering customer requirements in the fog of uncertainty easier, we at Eleken provide you a 3-days trial free of charge. On the expiry of the trial week, you can make an informed decision on whether you want to go on working together, and we can make better estimations on the scope and schedule.

Wrapping up our little guide to UX design process & documentation

Product design for SaaS startups is where outsourcing never works, but collaboration always does. Collaboration is especially important at the initial phase of UX requirements gathering. If you give agency money and then sit around waiting for them to impress you, you’re risking ending up in Dublin instead of California.

But the effort is worth it. After all, we seek to create something that people love and have value from — this is the real magic of being either an entrepreneur or a product designer.

Project success

We’ve been talking about business requirements. If you want to read about how we elicit user requirements, read our piece about the UX research process.

And if you’re ready to discuss your design requirements with us, drop us a line.

Dana Yatsenko


Table of contents

Top Stories

Design team
min read

Story of One Product Design Trial that Started Messily but Still Succeeded

How do you cope when a project doesn’t go as planned? Unexpected situations can set you off. Yet there are always ways how to turn them into positives. 

"In the midst of a three-day trial with my first-ever client, I suddenly realized that I was doing something completely wrong."

That’s a quote from Anastasiia, Eleken’s UI/UX designer. From the comment, it may seem that her first project resulted in a failure. But the thing is that it was nothing but a success after that episode happened. 

So we could not miss the opportunity to ask her for more details. Here is what Nastia told us.

UI/UX designer at Eleken

The situation you faced is quite stressful. How did you handle it? 

Our client, ClearPoint Strategy, was looking to design an MVP. But when I was presenting them the first screens and collecting feedback, it turned out that they misinterpreted the word MVP. What they really needed was a product extension design. 

The situation was indeed stressful, but thanks to an iterative process we follow at Eleken and timely feedback from the client, the failure turned into success.

Design Process

Within less than two days after the presentation, I created completely new screens. I managed to meet deadlines and successfully ended the trial. 

We appreciate you sharing your insights and would love to hear more. What are you working on now?

As of now, I’m designing a new in-product feature for ClearPoint Strategy. It will help users create dashboards easier. At its core, the feature is similar to a mini-site builder with a few visual customization options. I’ve already created some variants to choose from. 

Together with the team, we’re checking the product’s usability to ensure the elements are not too complicated for users. I'm also trying to define potential challenges or identify elements that can affect the final solution.

While working on your trial, you successfully adapted to sudden changes and adjusted to unexpected challenges. What can you advise UX designers who will have their first trial?

Looking back, these three approaches have worked for me and I'd like to share them with you:

  • Develop communication skills. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions to both the client and your design manager. If you don’t understand something, it is better to ask, instead of trying to guess. 
  • Don’t be nervous, just do your job. What I liked the most about the trial with the Eleken team is that while having the freedom to create, you get support from an expert manager as well. You’re not alone. Your supervisor is always there for you. 
  • Do a lot of research. Look for similar solutions on the market and determine direct and indirect competitors. It’s OK if you don’t know how a product should work at first. Focus on interfaces instead. Additionally, ask the client to send references and evaluate how they work.

Great! Let’s talk about your work process. Can you please describe it?

Everything starts with good well-established communication with a kick-off call where I collect information, clarify project details, and try to understand the client’s pain points and expectations. 

Next, I draft my ideas. It can be done in any form, even a sketch on a piece of paper. This is what I often do. Then, I switch to searching for references to find similar patterns. Primarily, I focus on logic, not visual looks. 

As a result, I create three screens and present them to the client. During the research and development process, I collaborate with my design manager and collect feedback.

3-day Trial Process at Eleken

If you don’t mind, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself? 

Sure! By education, I’m a translator of the Indonesian language. My first job was as an embassy employee. I spent some time working there but then understood that it wasn’t my career path. 

Your education is non-technical. How did your journey in UX design begin then? 

During my university years, I got interested in front-end development. But for me, it lacks creativity. Yes, in terms of how the work results look visually, it is interesting. But the design needs a greater degree of creativity. And it was what I wanted. So I enrolled in a course to get the essential skills.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career? 

Perhaps it's Darina Silchenko, Eleken’s leading UI/UX designer. Darina was my teacher in the design course. I enjoyed her lessons and looked forward to them. So I believe she was the person who inspired me to pursue a career in the field.

How do you stay motivated and inspired in your work?

There are several factors that motivate me. First, I actually found my dream job that I’m passionate about and that doesn't feel like work at all. I don’t think like, “Tomorrow is Monday, I have to go to work again”. 

Secondly, I like that everyone on my team is trying to keep their finger on the pulse. Every Friday, we have design sessions where the team shares some cool resources, courses, books, and more. It's so energizing and empowering. 

What's more, there are so many various activities at Eleken like lectures from senior designers, workshops, or UI Mini School. They help me find out what I don’t know and self-motivate to get more things done. 

Finally, I try to surround myself with a "designer" environment outside of working hours.  As of now, my social media bubble is mostly about design. 

How do you continue to learn and grow as a UX designer, and what resources do you rely on to stay current in the field?

This is an interesting question. I usually read articles on Medium, as this resource provides a wide selection of expert stories. Sometimes, I visit the Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) website or just browse the Internet.

If I’m looking for a UX solution, I don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Instead, I look for product samples where the solution I need is already implemented. Resources like Mobbin help here. 


There is also a classic method where you test the product yourself and analyze how the elements are arranged, click on it, register for the demo version, look at the patterns, and so on. 

By the way, we at Eleken developed our own "Mobbin". It is organized into a SaaS book where we analyzed various SaaS products in a flow. It helps me a lot. 

A "fresh look" from a supervisor or a teammate can assist with UX problems that may arise. This is what we do every two weeks on Thursdays. During these meetings, we discuss problems, think together, generate ideas, and offer our own options.

What is the most interesting part of the working process of a UX designer?

The most interesting part for me is dealing with and overcoming the challenges that may arise while working on the project. These questions always help me to find the right solution:

  • How to make my design both convenient and easy to use?
  • How to make it visually appealing?
  • How to please the customer and keep the user in mind? 

I also use several checklists to ensure I haven't missed any necessary steps as well.

Can you share some tips for anyone looking for a UX designer?

To get started, I’d advise turning to the platforms where designers showcase their portfolios, such as Behance and Dribbble. While looking for a designer, I also recommend visiting several reference websites like Clutch. Once you've found designers that caught your attention, reach out to them and schedule an interview.

By the way, Eleken’s 3-day trial period is a great way to see in advance how your future product may look and function. At the same time, it gives designers plenty of great opportunities to express themselves. 

Each Eleken client has a responsible designer and a design manager that are working hard to offer the best option for their specific business needs.

Thank you Nastia for the interesting conversation!

Thanks for the talk! Good luck to you! I hope your readers will find some helpful insight from my story.

Curious about Eleken's trial? Drop us a line and we’ll contact you shortly to see how we can help.

Design team
min read

Web Design Agency Pricing Explained

If you addressed three different design service vendors with one and the same project, you’d probably get three different offers with different quotes. Just take a look at the search results for a “web design agencies” request at Clutch, a ratings and reviews platform for IT providers (and these are only 6 first results out of 57,910 available).

web design agency pricing list 2023

The wide range in web design agency pricing can confuse and make you uncertain about which firm to partner with. 

Being a SaaS product design agency ourselves, we understand the challenge clients face when they have to make the decision taking into account both their budget and the quality of work they want to receive. At the same time, we understand why prices differ so much: the type of services offered, the team composition you get, the tools and technologies that an agency uses, the location they are based in, and more.

That’s why, in this article, we want to discuss the most common pricing models used by different web design agencies, their pros and cons, and who each type of pricing suits best.

Before we talk about web agency pricing, let’s figure out what types of agencies can build you a web app, and what their offers include.

Common types of design agencies and what they charge for

Hiring an agency is probably the best option you can choose when looking for a design partner as it gives you the whole package. And there’s a great variety of agencies that offer design services for all kinds of needs. But here we’ll talk about three of them that businesses commonly hire when they need help with web design.

UI/UX design agency

UI/UX design agency is responsible for creating websites, and mobile and web applications with smooth user experience and intuitive user interface. Some of them also offer help with marketing (pitch decks, social media ads) and branding materials (logos, visual identities).

Their main focus is how users interact with various products, services, and websites, thus they pay special attention to the user and market research in their design process. The goal of UI/UX designers is to create products that are functional, simple to use, and pleasant to interact with.

The team you get

  • UI designer 
  • UX designer
  • UX researcher
  • Project manager
  • Graphic Designers
  • Front-end developer

Specifications they may deliver

  • UI/UX design
  • UX research
  • UX audit
  • Prototyping
  • Design system
  • Front-end development
  • Additional (branding, building marketing strategy, and so on.)

UI/UX design agencies partner with both established and small businesses from various industries. However, mind that in most cases this type of agency doesn’t provide development services.

Website design agency

When you employ a web design agency, they’ll probably handle the entire process of creating your website: designing, developing, launching, and maintaining the website. They are aimed at creating visually appealing, simple-to-navigate websites that convert leads into customers.

The main responsibility of the website design firm is to complete the project and deliver it to the client on time. That’s why, unlike the UI/UX design agency, a web design firm typically enters the web design process early on and is more focused on finishing a project to your requirements than on conducting deep research to learn what will really work for your business and its target audience.

Some web design agencies may also provide content writing services.

The team you get

  • Web designer
  • Graphic designer
  • Web developer
  • Photographer/videographer
  • Copywriter
  • Brand strategist

Specifications they may deliver

  • Logo design
  • Corporate branding
  • Wireframes
  • Mockups
  • Color palette
  • Typography
  • Photo/video content
  • Web development

Full-service development agency

UI/UX design agencies can help you design a website or a web app but mostly they don’t provide development services. Website design firms can help with website design and launch but they are not focused on creating complex web applications that require thorough research and a well-thought-out design process. Full-service development agencies usually have both developers and designers on board and are hired to help with the front-end and back-end development of custom web applications. 

Naturally, their web design prices would be higher than those of other agencies, so it rarely makes sense to partner with them for regular website design services.

The team you get

  • Front-end developer
  • Back-end developer
  • UI/UX designer
  • Project manager
  • QA
  • Business analyst

Specifications they may deliver

  • UI/UX design
  • UX research
  • Prototyping
  • Design system
  • Front-end development
  • Back-end development
  • Manual testing
  • Testing automation
  • Deployment
  • Code quality checks

Common pricing models

To understand the web design services pricing better, let’s learn how agencies usually charge for their work and figure out which variant is more beneficial for different clients.

Hourly rates

The hourly rate approach is the most popular among design agencies. They set hourly pricing for each service they provide, then bill the client for each hour that is spent on a project.

hourly rate web agency pricing formula

Who is it best for?

Paying for design services hourly is suitable for lengthy projects that are prone to changes. This way, you can easily take project changes and other uncontrollable variables into account without being afraid about the final outcome.


  • With the hourly rate pricing model you stay flexible and can change the scope of a project on the go.
  • It’s cost-effective because you pay only for the number of hours you need.
  • You have a good understanding of what you pay for.


  • Designers can be less productive when they are paid hourly, so you may need to ask for evidence of the hours employees spend on tasks.
  • It’s difficult to predict the final cost, as often tasks take more time than you expect. 


When you pay hourly, the cost usually ranges depending on the type of design services you need, the designer’s experience, and the location of an agency.

For example, we’ve analyzed agencies’ hourly rates for web designers at Upwork in different locations.

  • Median hourly rates in the USA vary from $35 to $90.
  • Median hourly rates in Germany vary from $40 to $80.
  • Median hourly rates in Ukraine vary from $25 to $45.
  • Median hourly rates in India vary from $15 to $35.

Flat rates

With flat rate pricing, clients pay a set charge for the project. Agencies calculate the total number of billable and non-billable hours needed for a project and multiply that amount by an hourly rate.

flat rate web agency pricing formula

Who is it best for?

This model is a good fit for your needs if you have a defined set of requirements that won't change during the design process, or if it’s a repeatable task for which the designer has a reliable estimate of the number of hours required. 

Together with the agency, the client agrees upon set requirements accepted for a predetermined amount of time at an hourly rate. It's the ideal choice for small or medium-sized projects with a fixed budget and no unpredictable expenditures.


  • This pricing is quite straightforward as you know the sum you have to pay upfront and can effectively plan your budget.
  • No additional fees during the project.


  • Flat rates are usually set higher as agencies want to make sure they don’t underestimate the scope of work.
  • Flat-fee pricing might result in low-quality design since it emphasizes completing tasks as quickly as possible to maximize profit.

Price range

Design agency price lists will differ depending on the business type, project’s size, design complexity, features, animation, and the like. 

According to WebFX, web design cost starts from $2,000 to $9,000 for a small business website, and rises up to $6,000 – $75,000 for complex data-driven websites or web apps. 

Time and material

With time and material pricing, a contract will outline the general scope of the task and include a proposal for a fixed hourly rate plus the cost of materials. Under materials, we mean the cost for using tools, markups for subcontractors, and so on (they are agreed upon with the agency beforehand).

time and material web agency pricing formula

With a time and material pricing approach, you will still need to define the full project scope in advance, much like with a fixed-price contract. But here you also divide the project into stages: every time you make a billing, you meet the contractor to discuss the time spent and materials used.

When using this model you can negotiate each detail with the contractor including tasks and resources used during the design process, as well as the payment type they want to use (pay hourly, daily, weekly or monthly rates).  

Who is it best for?

If you have a big project and no comprehensive vision for the finished product and its implementation details, the time and material pricing model may work well for you


  • It gives flexibility in determining the project’s scope, requirements, and timeline.
  • As the project is divided into phases, you pay in parts and based on how much you “consume”.
  • The design process and progress is transparent and you know exactly what you’re paying for. 


  • Difficult to predict the budget.
  • No clear deadlines.
  • High administrative costs.


Cost-plus pricing approach is very easy to understand. The agency calculates the total cost they spent on design (like employees' work, overheads, tools price, and the like) and adds a defined extra charge depending on the service they provide.

cost plus web agency pricing formula

Design agencies may use this model to cover their overheads. This way, they bill their clients at hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly rates according to standard market designer’s rates or for specific design deliverables. The rest of the price includes a consistent service fee percentage to cover overhead expenses.

Who is it best for?

The cost-plus model is suitable when a project requires flexibility, such as when it's high-risk or the scope of the task isn't clear right away.


  • Less chance to overpay for a service as it’s easy to understand what you pay for.
  • Generally less expensive than a flat-price model as the agency doesn't have to charge more to cover the risk that the project would cost more than expected.


  • Usually companies use little market research when defining a markup percentage, so sometimes the price for design services can be unfair. 
  • It’s rarely used for web app design services.


In contrast to other pricing types, with a retainer model the client agrees to pay a fixed fee in advance throughout a predetermined time period for professional services. It’s similar to when you pay for a subscription, but instead of a product, you buy design services.

retainer web agency pricing formula

Who is it best for?

It works well for long-term projects with a big scope: as clients pay for a certain period of time in advance, they need to have enough work for a designer to stay fully occupied during that period. 


  • Agencies that charge their clients with retainer pricing are usually highly focused on the value of services they deliver as they want to retain customers for as long as they can.
  • It's also very simple to budget with this model and you don’t have to spend time on cost estimations and other administrative activities.


  • If you won’t have enough tasks to occupy your design specialists, paying a monthly fee can be too expensive.
  • In some cases, it’s difficult to see what you’re paying for what you receive in exchange.

By the way, a retainer is the type of pricing model that we use at Eleken. Though we define ourselves as a UI/UX design agency, we are not a typical one. We help our clients eliminate unnecessary expenses and hire professional UI/UX designers experienced in design for SaaS, as part of their product teams. Basically, it’s like hiring an in-house employee remotely, as you get full dedication to your project only. 

We charge a monthly fee (time-based retainer model) for ongoing product design done by our top design talent who can help you design from scratch, redesign an existing web application, or create a responsive design for your product.

Some other benefits of buying a subscription for a full-time designer at Eleken are

  • You don’t have to spend time on hiring and educating new employees.
  • You don’t pay sick/vacation leaves or any other overheads. It’s on our side.
  • A designer speaks directly to you (no project managers in the middle from our side). 
  • We work on one project at a time, meaning if you hire a designer at Eeken, it means they a fully dedicated to you only.
  • We have a three-day free trial period so that you can make an informed decision on whether to sign a contract or not.
  • You can cancel the subscription anytime.
  • You can change the number of designers you hire whenever you need.

Who is Eleken best for?

Our model works best for SaaS companies with lengthy projects when they don’t have designers on their team, or lack employees and seek additional design help in launching, revamping, or expanding their cloud product.

To sum up

As you can see, it’s impossible to give a clear answer to the question “How much does web design cost?” due to a great number of variables that influences the price and the fact that each specific project is unique.

But definitely, when you need to find a designer for your web app, hiring an agency would be the best choice (and probably the most costly one). So, before signing a contract, you should first decide whether the high cost is justified by outlining your essential project requirements and your business goals. Most websites don't need such thorough care that an agency gives, but if, for instance, you want to design a complex web application, managing all your needs will require the help of a professional design team.

Invent the look and feel of your web app with Eleken.

Don't want to miss anything?

Get weekly updates on the newest design stories, case studies and tips right in your mailbox.


Your email has been submitted successfully. Check your email for first article we’ve sent you.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Don't want to miss anything?

Get weekly updates on the newest design stories, case studies and tips right in your mailbox.


Your email has been submitted successfully. Check your email for first article we’ve sent you.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.