Outsource design work is a well-accepted phenomenon in digital product development today. Still, those who don’t yet have experience in hiring external professionals can worry about many things, starting with the quality of the work, ending with the benefits of potential cooperation for their specific business needs.
Eleken has been delivering outsourced UI/UX design services since 2015. Today, we have a long list of satisfied clients, an impressive portfolio, and our design used in more than 20 applications around the world. We know firsthand that such a model of cooperation with designers can be effective if you approach the process of finding an outsource design company comprehensively and consciously.
Once you understand this, you will realize that there are many benefits to outsourcing design: you can take a fresh look at your business, reduce costs, save time, and more. In this article, we will share the arguments for delegating tasks to an outsourced designer and show you how to do it best.
4 reasons to outsource design services
Hiring outsource specialists means delegating some pieces of work to somebody who is not a part of your company. In terms of the isolation period, opting for this kind of cooperation model has become the usual practice for a variety of organizations, but even before the Covid-19 lockdown, outsourcing was a trend.
Here are a couple of reasons why outsourcing design services can be beneficial for your business:
- It helps save time. 83% of organizations that took part in the SHRM research stated they have had trouble recruiting suitable candidates recently. Not that inspiring statistics, especially for those who have some urgent design tasks… Hiring new employees is a time-consuming process, as well as training them. With an outsourced design team, you get already trained and experienced specialists ready to dive into a design process straight away.
- Outsourcing is cost-effective. By outsourcing design projects, you can save not only time but also money. After all, when working with an agency or freelancer, you won’t need to buy software, create a workplace for a new in-house designer, provide a new employee with a computer and other equipment. Moreover, most outsourced graphic designers are located in different countries with different hourly rates.
- Ability to cope with a greater workload. As your company scales, you may have more projects and, as a result, much more work to do. At some point, your internal team won’t have enough time, resources, or the needed skillset to handle the growing workload. In such a case, designing a project with outsourcing specialists will allow you to produce more in a short time span and take on several ongoing projects.
- A fresh look at your design projects. Of course, no one knows your business better than your employees, but sometimes it's worth looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes. As you work on a particular product or service year-round, you can stick to the same approach for several months. To get new ideas and a brand new perspective on your business, try to outsource graphic design work. Design agencies are used to constantly working with different clients and industries. After researching and writing a brief, they will be able to understand your business specifications and come up with modern design solutions that you might not even have thought of.
To outsource or not to outsource: main challenges when outsourcing a design team
Of course, outsourcing has both pros and cons. Except for all the benefits you get with this type of collaboration, you will probably face some challenges as well.
Let’s see what difficulties you may have to overcome if you decide to outsource graphic design.
Finding a reliable source
This first challenge is the most difficult and the most important at the same time. In case you overcome it, all the other issues we will mention below will seem minor or will disappear by themselves.
Many product owners don’t know how to find a designer for their apps/software/service, what to start with, or where to search. And most importantly, how to make sure they’ve found a reliable design agency.
Here are several tips on how to deal with this challenge:
- When searching for a design agency ask your friends and colleagues for a recommendation. Word of mouth is the best and the most reliable way to find good professionals. You may not trust the designers’ words, but for sure people you know won’t recommend graphic design services they were not satisfied with.
- Look for reviews on trustworthy resources. There are many specialized online resources (Clutch, Dribbble, Behance, and so on) where you can read about the agency and see what other people think about the quality of their work. After all, you can simply google the needed info about the outsourcing company, or contact their previous clients.
- Pay attention to the portfolio. See if your potential candidates have experience in your industry or designed similar projects before. It’s important that you visually like what you see in the designer’s portfolio.
- When conducting the interview choose the project in the portfolio that you like and ask a designer to tell you how exactly they developed such a design solution. Ask about the design process they used, challenges they had, and so on. To help you better prepare for the interview we wrote an article on UX designer interview questions for employers.
Management and communication
The next concern that most employers have is how to manage and communicate with the outsourced designers remotely.
The fact that you can’t constantly control the design process of the outsourced designers leads to the fear that in the end, you won’t get the expected result.
Not to worry, agree with the design agency about the number of calls you will have a week, divide the whole workload into sprints, and choose a comfortable project management tool to keep all your task information there.
For example, you can manage remote workers with Trello, a Kanban-style, list-making app.
When you hire a remote team that is not a part of your company, there is a risk of a data leak. Some organizations worry that designers they hire may cooperate with their competitors and can hand over some intellectual data.
For that reason, make sure you know basic legislation details before starting to cooperate.
The outsourced designer won’t understand your brand/industry/product
Very often, the products/services you want to design are complex. And while the in-house team dives deeply into such projects, for an outsourced specialist who sees the product for the first time it can be difficult to understand how everything works.
To cope with this challenge, firstly, look if the designers you want to hire have some previous experience in your industry.
Secondly, on your first meeting with a potential design agency, pay attention to your communication flow. In case you clearly state your project requirements and feel that you and the designer understand each other well and look in the same direction, don’t worry about this challenge.
After all, you definitely won’t face such difficulty, if you correctly build the whole process of outsourcing design work.
5 steps to outsource design right
A little planning goes a long way. Taking time to establish some specific criteria when outsourcing your design can save you a lot of hours and prevent you from making unnecessary mistakes.
Step 1. Make sure you have a well-formed project idea and understanding why you need a design
Before even starting to look for a design agency, your task is to carefully think out your product idea, define why and how you want to design the product.
If you can’t clearly state for yourself what you expect to see as a final result, how can a designer meet your expectations?
Step 2. Prepare all the needed materials and information for designers
This step saves you and the designer a lot of valuable time. Think about all the important details the designer may need to effectively work on your project.
For example, you may prepare:
- A moodboard with references of screens/design elements/style that you like and dislike.
- Approved content (text/visuals). Most design agencies don’t provide copywriting services, so make sure you have written and proofread the copy. As for the visuals, in case you want to use some photos of your product, prepare such materials beforehand for your team members, and so on.
- Describe your business and the target audience to give the designer a better understanding of what they are going to create and who will use the product.
- In case you have quite specific needs include information about visual style, color scheme, deadlines, and so on.
In the end, order all the information into a creative design brief.
Step 3. Make research and conduct interviews
After the brief is ready, you may start researching the design outsource market to choose suitable candidates.
To go through this step right, get back to the “Finding a reliable source” section up in this article, as we've already discussed actionable recommendations on how to find a reliable design agency there.
Step 4. Organize your design workflow
Think out comfortable ways to communicate and control the design workflow. Choose a project management tool (Trello, Asana, nTask, or similar), a platform to cover all your communication needs (Slack, Google Meets, Zoom), and other tools that will help you easily contact the outsourced designers.
You can discuss this step together with a design agency.
Step 5. Provide the feedback fast and often
Communication is essential for the success of your design project. Even professional designers don’t always get your message right the first time. Articulate your criticism by clearly describing what piece of design you don’t like, but do not neglect the designer’s expertise as well.
To sum up
Regardless of whether your brand is large or small, with design outsourcing you can get a successful project.
In case you decide that in the eternal dilemma of in-house designer vs agency, you opt for the second variant, the main thing is to carefully choose specialists for cooperation, so as not to waste time and money on working with people who do not understand you and your business.
- Ask friends and colleagues for a recommendation.
- Check the reviews on popular design resources.
- Carefully analyze the portfolio of your potential candidates.
- Check if they have the experience of working in your industry/on similar projects.
- See if you feel comfortable communicating with the designer and if you easily understand each other.
- Always provide feedback.
By hiring an external team or designer, you can build long-term partnerships and achieve much better results together.