Top UX/UI Design Agencies — December 2022

Finding the exemplary user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) agency for your digital product design can be tricky since so many companies offer this service.

Article Updated December 1, 2022

How well a website or app is designed and how user-friendly it is affects a user’s first impression. These factors are both important when it comes to user experience or UX. The best apps and websites typically have top-notch User Experience design, thanks to the best UX designers and UX design agencies that developed them.

Even though experienced and skilled designers are a must-have for many companies, it can be hard to figure out where to find the best user experience. Also, some companies who need UI or UX urgently don’t know anything about the design or how to choose the best design company for their needs.

A Closer Look at UX Design

User experience, or UX, involves technical skills, market research, and artistic creativity. The term information architecture is used in the design and tech industry to refer to the design and structure of a website or mobile app. The company’s brand vision and essential information are combined, structured, and communicated via the app or website’s digital interface to convey the intended impression and sentiments to the user.

A professional design agency will be an expert at designing and creating a great user experience for newly founded businesses and brands or established ones. Skilled UX design is essential to any company’s growth and success, whether the company’s services are primarily digital or not. Potential customers essentially form opinions about the company in question based on their experience using the digital components offered by the brand or company.

Because UI/UX design is such a vital component in the success of a business, it is essential to choose a top UX design company. There are some great user experience design agencies and plenty of amateurs, making it very important to know how to find the best.

These are the top 5 UX design agencies that have the best UX designers to make your choice easier:

1. CLAY

A global web design, branding, and UI/UX design agency

Based in San Francisco, Clay is an experienced, professional UI/UX design agency offering digital strategy, world-class branding, and UX design. The professional team at Clay has plenty of experience working with big names such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other leaders in the tech industry.

Clay is one of the best UX agencies, and their past work backs this up. This agency works with tech giants, and Clay also enjoys working with newly founded companies and startups.

This agency can be instrumental during a startup's growth and holistic development by developing and designing the user interface, user experience, and, sometimes, the brand strategy. Clay specializes in tech, although they also work in other industries. This tech expertise gives them specific insight into how UX and UI design should be executed to suit tech companies perfectly.

Pricing: $$$
Team Size: 50–100 people

Clay is a web design, branding and UX design agency based in SF
Clay is a web design, branding, and UX design agency based in SF

2. FIRSTBORN

A digital branding and UX agency

Located in New York City, Firstborn was given a ‘Most Innovative Companies’ award in 2019 for their work in AR/VR, giving them additional recognition for many years of an innovative, modern piece. This UX agency is fully committed to contemporary design teamed with rich interactive experiences. It is clear Firstborn has a strong focus on experience in web development by the companies they work with. Adidas and Beats by Dre are just two client examples. The creative design and expertise have gone beyond digital and non-digital instead of embodying a wholeness extending beyond the brand platform.

The brands Firstborn has worked with are associated with lifestyle rather than the products themselves. All interactions with the brand and digital interfaces must present a carefully curated experience to users. This agency also won a ‘Best Places to Work’ award in 2017 by Crains, who has helped elevate this design agency into one of the best for upcoming UI/UX designers to work with. Firstborn’s impressive design talent backs this up.

Pricing: $$$$
Team Size: 20–50 people

Firstborn is a branding and UX design firm located in NY
Firstborn is a branding and UX design firm located in NY

3. BIG HUMAN

An NYC-based UX design and digital product studio

Big Human is based in New York and offers full service, including digital strategy, design, development, and branding. This UX agency focuses on digital products and is considered one of the best UX design companies.

They have a user-centered, comprehensive UX design approach and always factor in usability intricacies to create and provide a smooth experience for the user. Usability and information architecture are significant parts of UX design. In addition, Big Human has a strong understanding of the importance of iconography and illustration, with the creative visual factors of design as a priority.

Big Human boasts some of the world’s best UX designers who can provide creative input and business and engineering needs, striving for the perfect balance for every client.

Pricing: $$$
Team Size: 50–100 people

Big Human is UX design and digital product studio, NY
Big Human is UX design and digital product studio, NY

4. DOBERMAN

A digital innovation and UX design firm

Cutting-edge creativity, longevity, and experience combined with this Scandinavian UX design studio founded in 1998. This design company has offices in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Oslo and a partnered studio in Brooklyn. They offer a transformative, chic approach to UX design, made evident in their impressive portfolio.

Doberman is one of the top UX design companies, offering excellent, innovative design services for many project types and industries. They use the curative factors of UX outside of websites and digital mobile apps in other projects like urban living infrastructure for unique, eye-catching results. Doberman is highly skilled at product design and employs top UX designers to boost their portfolio of impressive designs.

Pricing: $$$$+
Team Size: 100–150 people

Doberman is digital innovation and UX design studio
Doberman is digital innovation and UX design studio

5. CODE & THEORY

A UX design and digital creative agency

This primarily digital innovative firm has offices in San Francisco, New York, London, and Manila, Philippines. Their practical, successful approach to design ensures success with every project. The top UX designers at Code and Theory and the digital ecosystems offer excellent results.

When comparing other interactive design companies considering technological developments and digital platforms as part of a larger project, Code and Theory tends to base their creative web design strategies on these, leading to innovative and unique outcomes. This digital design agency shakes up the industry with every client, whether working with products, healthcare, digital media, or another field, boasting cutting-edge expertise with unique creativity.

Pricing: $$$$+
Team Size: 500+ people

Code and Theory is UX design and digital creative agency based in SF, NY, London, Manila
Code and Theory is a UX design and digital creative agency based in SF, NY, London, Manila

Why Is Good UI/UX Design Important?

Customers have become used to high-end, seamless user interfaces that combine interaction design and immersive experiences. In such a competitive market, having a website, app, or digital product which doesn’t quite match others in usability and appearance is a surefire way to lose customers. If customers can’t easily navigate or use a digital product, they’ll leave. Too many other companies are willing to provide a better product for them to use. Therefore, intuitive UX is not only important but a necessary part of creating a good brand image.

With good UX and UI, customers also have an easier time buying products and services, which increases sales. Customers remain more engaged and stay longer without being distracted by running into issues using digital products. Because of this, they are more likely to see the brand as more credible and more willing to remember the company for future purchases and come back or recommend it to others, improving brand loyalty.

At the most basic level, customers want to be able to navigate apps and websites without glitches or issues. They want to interact with brands without thinking about how to go about it. They want to feel welcomed and joyful when they experience a new brand, whether because of stunning graphics, an innovative approach, or just because the process is comfortable.

Because of this, UX and UI’s purpose is often unnoticeable. The best experience is where users don’t think about the experience but merely interact without a second thought. However, creating this type of experience is easier said than done and takes a lot of research, user testing, and knowledge about the technical aspects of these designs.

A major part of customer experience is simply diminishing wait times. In our busy, fast-paced world, responsiveness is key to keeping users’ attention. Even a one-second delay has been shown to decrease customer satisfaction by 16% and page views by 11%, resulting in an average 7% loss in conversions.

Customers also appreciate a streamlined and comprehensive experience where interactions are the same across all pages and portals to ease their journey. Such unification even helped to save General Electric an estimated $30 million.

However, not only is UX about making your brand fun and accessible, it’s about understanding what the audience is looking for and what they need out of the interaction. This is how branding, marketing, and UX come together and intertwine. UX is a way of making customers comfortable and drawing them in.

Because a company’s digital presence has become such a crucial aspect of being visible in our internet-dependent world, it has taken the stage as one of the most important aspects of the company’s image, which means that UX is no longer just a good idea, but a necessity. It should be seen as an essential tool and vessel for branding and marketing.

Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash
Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

How does UX align with the strategic goals of a company?

Most companies know it’s crucial in today’s market to have a digital presence to reach audiences and sell products and services. Not only is it essential to allow customers to view and purchase items online from the comfort of their homes, but many people become aware of brands through social media and online marketing these days. However, with so many options bombarding them every moment, customers naturally gravitate toward those who stand above the rest.

Still, the importance of user experience may not be apparent at first to some, such as stakeholders. Rather than investing in how users see and interact with a brand, they may feel that that money would be better spent on marketing materials or on expanding products and services.

While all of these aspects of a business are important, what many don’t realize is that user experience is also an investment in these things because it’s an investment in ensuring your customers like working with and buying from the company, making them more likely to come back and recommend it to others.

This is the greatest marketing strategy and will help increase sales and the company’s value. UX research suggests that every dollar invested in UX generates $100 in sales, a great return on investment.

What Is a UI/UX (User Experience) Design Agency, Anyway?

User experience design studios act as consultants for companies and assist in understanding audiences, researching the market, creating branding, and building digital products such as mobile apps, websites, and software. However, there are nuances to the field. Each development company may specialize in a specific area of expertise, while larger companies may offer all-encompassing services.

There are four main types of UX agencies:

● UX research agencies

Use data to inform a company about its audience and provide insights about how best to reach them. They may even create user personas for testing and help companies create a targeted strategy for reaching these customers.

● UX design consultancies

Are made up of experts in the field who can assist a company in forming the best approach and creating great strategies that will appeal most to its clients.

● UI/UX design agencies

Take a more general approach, doing enough research to develop a process and design appropriate for the desired audience. They’ll also test these designs to ensure they work as planned and make changes as necessary.

● Full-service design firms

Are a combination of all of the above, helping with everything from research to strategy, design, user testing, and analyzing results. Brands that work with these large companies are often assigned an account manager and work with different departments and experts throughout their projects.

While some companies may only need assistance with a specific part of the process, many others prefer full-service companies that can handle all facets of the process from start to finish. This can also be more budget-friendly than hiring a particular person or UX agency for each role, making it less frustrating and more efficient.

Photo by Karl Solano on Unsplash

What’s the Difference Between UX Designers and Product Designers?

Another common misconception is that design skills are transferable, but a digital product agency can not design UX or vice versa. In some ways, these roles may intersect; the UX experience should align with product design to form cohesive branding. Product design can play a part in the overall user experience. But each aspect is usually taken on by different professionals. However, a few agencies do offer both types of design.

Unlike UX, a product designer is more focused on representing the business than its clients. Their main goal is to embody the company’s vision and ensure that designs align with what the business feels their image and branding should look like and how they want it to be experienced. Of course, product designers want to ensure this will be successful, so they also understand UX and the customer side to know if the target audience will react well to these types of choices.

However, they focus more on sales and brand image than users’ overall experience. Together, the UX designer and product designer create something that will work for both the company and the customers and lead to the greatest success.

What are the typical services of a UX design company?

Every UX/UI design company will have slightly different offerings when it comes to services. Usually, the larger the agency, the more options it’ll have, while smaller companies are often more specialized. However, most agencies offer full user experience designs, taking a project from start to finish, from research and initial ideas to testing and developing a final product.

Most companies also offer user interface design, as technical components such as colors, text, graphics, etc., are integral to creating UX. Many UI/UX design companies also offer branding, marketing, and UX strategy services because they are intertwined with the UX experience.

Beyond these three offerings, UX/UI studios may offer the following:

● Business discovery and user research

This stage of design thinking is crucial to understanding the problem that needs to be solved and identifying potential solutions. Often, a UX designer will conduct interviews, surveys, field studies, and competitor analysis during this phase.

● Front-end engineering and platform integration

This is the technical implementation of the design, which includes everything from coding to testing to QA. A UI Design firm usually has a development team specializing in this area. The graphic design forms the basis for your site’s UI design thinking, while the overall design is the responsibility of the user experience designers.

Photo by Goran Ivos on Unsplash

● Usability testing and analytics

Any software development requires testing and analytics, both pre and post-launch. After the digital products are launched, it’s important to monitor how users interact with them (i.e., studying user flows) and whether any areas need improvement.

● Experience innovation consulting

This is a relatively new service in software development that helps companies keep up with the latest UI/UX trends and technologies.

● Design sprints and prototyping

Design sprints are a popular way for UX teams to rapidly prototype and test ideas. Design sprints are a way to quickly try out ideas and see how people like them. During a design sprint, you’ll work on a prototype of an idea and then test it with people to see if it’s good.

● Customer journey mapping

Customer journey mapping is a way to understand how customers interact with your product or service.

● Service blueprints

Service blueprints help you understand how your product or service works and how it fits into the bigger picture.

● UX workshops and training

Some agencies offer workshops and training to help companies learn about UX design within websites and custom software development. These can be helpful for companies new to UX or those who want to brush up on their skills.

Full-service UX design companies usually offer all of the above, while other companies may offer only a few. Some UX design companies may also have unique offerings of specific niches beyond the standard services. For instance, Clay specializes in B2B design, which is somewhat uncommon.

Tips for Hiring the Top UI/UX Design Agencies in the World

Companies are beginning to get on board with the importance of user experience (UX). Most brands today understand that getting to know their customers and addressing their needs and wants is the key to establishing loyalty and gaining traction in an oversaturated and highly competitive market.

For some corporations, this means hiring a full-time UX specialist for their team. But this isn’t an option for many smaller businesses or those who need less frequent assistance. In such cases, it can be tempting to turn to freelance UX designers, but sifting through the many contractors out there can quickly become overwhelming, and these individuals may be hired with varying levels of success.

We recommend working with a UI/UX agency. The resources, experience, and top-of-the-line care you’ll receive often exceed that of any contractor while still giving you the flexibility you need to pay for the time or products you require.

Looking to hire a UI/UX design studio to tackle your next mobile app design, website, software, or enterprise? We’ve got you covered! We have rounded up the top five UI/UX design agencies in the US and Europe, and we’ve also gathered our top tips and tricks for making the most out of the web design process and getting the best final product.

Understanding UX Design

Before we dive into specific design agencies, it’s important to know what you’re looking for in a development company and how to pick a quality user experience agency that will meet your company’s needs. With so many businesses offering web design services, it can be challenging to sort through the rubble and find one that’s genuinely talented and capable enough to handle the project at hand for a fair price and on a reasonable deadline.

To do so, it’s crucial to understand what goes into the design process, what services agencies are offering, and what you might need to prepare before starting your project. If you aren’t a designer, it’s understandable not to know much about what goes into UI/UX. Still, the more you know, the better you’ll be able to research and hire the best design agency and develop a design that truly works for your customers and sets your brand apart.

To help you on your journey, we’ve outlined the basics of hiring a UI/UX design firm below and our top tips for getting the most for your time and money when hiring a UI/UX design studio for your next project.

Photo by Amélie Mourichon on Unsplash

What exactly is UX design?

User experience design (UX) is about designing the best user experience for visitors, ensuring their needs or requirements are met. UX does not focus only on colors and typefaces but also on imagining how a potential user will experience the app, website, or other digital product, from beginning to end.

This incorporates the design of interactive factors that make up the entire experience. UX design involves more than simply coming up with a functional digital product. Product functionality is essential in customer software development to help understand user intentions and the success of the designed elements’ creative aesthetics.

Sometimes UX development includes both a brand’s digital and non-digital aspects. Take Apple’s excellent design as an example. Whether the digital interface on an OS or an app on an iPhone requires design, so do the look and feel of the actual product, plus its presentation in advertising and even the product’s packaging.

The ‘experience’ of the product needs to be carefully created from beginning to end. Even before someone switches an iPhone on, they will have other experiences with the brand in terms of advertising, packaging, and so on, making it very important that all of those factors be developed in addition to the actual product.

What’s the Difference Between UI and UX?

Understanding what’s included in UX and UI design systems helps ensure a smooth design process and get the right services when hiring a UX agency or professional. Designers should, of course, also understand the difference between these terms. It may be a red flag if they don’t or have confused them on a resume or portfolio. So, knowing the definition will help weed out potential duds.

UI/UX are terms often seen together and have even been used interchangeably (incorrectly), which has caused much confusion. Although there are many similarities and some overlap, the two terms mean different things.

User Experience

User Experience is just that, an experience. It refers to how users interact with the company from the moment they are introduced to their final purchase and their emotional response to those interactions. This includes how they navigate a website, and mobile app use, respond to branding and marketing elements, and everything in between.

Designers who focus on user experience ensure that all elements of a design grab users’ attention but are also functional and accessible and that customers won’t run into problems when getting to know a brand or purchasing a service or product. Good UX designers are very knowledgeable about their target audience, as they must deeply understand what the audience needs and wants. They must conduct thorough research to understand this but also know how to implement that data into a functional user interface design, which will help guide the process and technical aspects in the right direction.

User Interface (UI)

Meanwhile, user interfaces (UI) refer to the elements a user interacts with on a digital product. For example, the navigation menu or buttons on a website, the digital product’s image, and text, or the web app’s functionality are all user interface components. These micro-interactions are part of a user interface designer’s domain, from reading text and scrolling through a webpage to more complex interactions and modules like VR setups and interactive experiences.

In a way, UI is the tools and tangible aspects of UX. While UX is focused on how a user is affected emotionally by the elements of a design, UI is about the mechanics and technical aspects that allow those interactions to happen without a hitch on an often basic and small scale.

The main part of a UI designer’s job is working with the graphical user interface, which refers to all the images and graphic demands of a digital product, such as a button or image that links to another page. Modern user interface designers might also utilize voice-based interfaces such as Siri or Alexa, which rely on a user’s voice to prompt functions and link to other pages and concepts. These are different from code and text-based UI, which are still important but less prominent in today’s designs as more current approaches take the stage.

Despite varying their definitions, UI and UX work together. One without the other would make for an incomplete experience. Therefore, they must be used in tandem to create a good strategy for reaching out to and interacting with users.

Photo by Amélie Mourichon on Unsplash

How does the UX design process work?

Time and expertise are needed when designing a user experience. The designers have to put in the effort and follow a process. The first stage is UX research, so either the designer or a separate researcher will research the brand formally and the product’s target audience, including their needs, wants, demographics, and cultural composition. Sometimes they will investigate other competitors in the industry and various economic, consumptive or social trends. Once they have all the relevant data, they can organize it in a way that helps them start the web development and design of the user experience.

The UX design team will use the gathered information to create ‘personas’ profiles of typical users. These enable the designers to put themselves in the target audience’s shoes and figure out how and why they would access and use an app.

Next, the personas are used to develop a storyboard that puts the user in a realistic environment. This allows the designers to assess accurately what the user needs and/or wants. A journey map is created next, and this addresses and takes a closer look at every single step in the user experience. This outline looks at the user’s experience from beginning to end. The UI and UX designers use their creativity and skills during this pre-technical stage to develop a UX vision that the design team can bring to life.

The designers will have brainstorming sessions to discuss the base UX design elements, using the team’s data from the research and mapping phases. After the ideas are noted, the initial prototype work starts. Sitemaps and user flow charts are created to help obtain a clearer picture of how the UX will be organized. These visuals help to understand the user’s journey from start to finish on the app. They also enable designers to see every user's move in a graph-type visual.

Next, the prototypes can be developed, and these come in three categories: interactive, low fidelity, and high fidelity. These prototypes will clarify how the UX will feel and look, but each has a different level of detail according to how the UX came together in prior stages. Low-fidelity prototypes might be raw images, while high-fidelity ones are digital images of every screen a user might see. As for the interactive prototypes, these are rendered digitally, although they are still precursors to any engineering or coding.

Once these prototypes are accepted, the actual design, engineering, and coding can start. The versions can be discussed with the client and either approved or not. Changes can still be made for as long as the agreement states, but the formal part of the UX design process has ended.

How to Hire the Right UI/UX Design Studio

When looking to hire a user experience agency, you must first evaluate your expectations and needs for your specific project to inform your research. At this point, there are several considerations you should take into account:

Local vs remote

Local companies are often the better choice. However, they can be much more expensive, especially if you’re looking in the San Francisco or NYC area. Although remote work is acceptable for most projects and can be cheaper, there’s often something lacking about the experience. There’s nothing like being able to meet in person in a workshop and throw around ideas. Communication is also better in person, minimizing misunderstandings. And it’s quicker and easier to meet than sending emails back and forth to clarify a point or revision.

Even if you can’t meet in person, a local digital firm will know more about your company’s culture if it’s in the exact general location or city. Even more generally, a US or San Francisco design studio will know the US market better than one abroad. This is especially important for those who sell services and products locally, as this geographically close community of customers will be better understood by a UX studio in that area, and less research will be required. What user research and testing are necessary can be done more easily when both the company and the design team are in the same location.

As a third option, working with offshore companies can be a good way to keep your project within budget. In particular, user experience design studios in Pakistan, India, and the Philippines are much less expensive and usually have quicker turnarounds. However, it can be challenging to communicate with these companies, as the time zones don’t often match up, and there are few ways to meet face to face or talk in any way other than email. Therefore, the output can often suffer. You get what you pay for, as they say.

Small vs. large

Whether you want to work with a large or small UI/UX design studio will depend on the depth and variety of services you’re looking for and what you can do in-house. If you don’t have much in your resources for tackling UX design, hiring a full-service agency is often the way to go, as they can take a project from start to finish and are often cheaper than purchasing services à la carte for major undertakings.

Larger companies usually have more services, impressive clientele, and more experience and tools for you to use but they are also usually more expensive. You’ll often pay for more people than you need and the development company’s name more than anything else. With larger companies, you’ll be assigned a creative manager, account manager, and creative director but will only interact with them on a limited basis. Most of the work is usually done by people you’ll never meet, such as interns.

Meanwhile, boutique firms offer a more catered experience and are more attentive to a company’s needs, offering a more personalized approach and working more closely with the business’s teams. Plus, they don’t require a premium cost to begin working. Smaller companies are also less selective about their clients and have more openings. Because they have fewer projects, they can complete them much faster. However, there can be issues when it comes to staffing, as they have much smaller teams, and fewer services may be available.

Cost vs. quality

Before starting a project, you’ll want to have a firm budget. However, making a realistic assessment based on your output expectations and the services you’re looking for is important. A good UX design can cost upwards of $100k or more, depending on the agency and breadth of services you require.

Once you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll narrow down your results by sifting through portfolios and confirming which agencies will meet your timeline and budgetary requirements and your artistic and technical goals. You’ll select a few top choices from this pool and set up meetings to discuss the project and assess whether the agency is a good fit. If, after this interview, you’d like to continue with the process, you’ll draft a request for proposal (RFP) and send it to the team, who will return with a proposal for you to review.

If you’ve thoroughly discussed with the studio, what’s in the proposal should be straightforward. But it’s still important to look it over and ensure it aligns with your project’s requirements and goals. After confirming this, you’ll decide whether you’d like to move forward with the project, sign any legal paperwork, and begin. In some instances, this process can take a few days, but other times it may take weeks or months to find the right web design firm or work out a proposal that’s comfortable for both parties.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Why do businesses need UX design so much?

These days hardly any business model will be successful without some digital component. This is especially true when you consider that the digital part of a company is often the first interaction a potential customer will have with the company. The website or app offered by the company is therefore essential.

These differ from traditional advertising because the interaction with the customer is active rather than passive. The user will experience the business digitally rather than walking into a shop, interacting with the product, or talking to a sales rep. This is where a UI/UX design team comes into play.

A good UX designer will convert your target audience into visitors and, hopefully, customers. Gone are the days when an essential static website with just text and a couple of images would get the job done. A professional UX designer, design team, or agency in web development is crucial to ensure the target audience is kept in mind when designing a curated experience. In this way, your company or brand will be able to curate a unique feeling for the user while interacting with your product and help give them all the information they will need to want to buy.

User experience can be the only way a potential customer becomes an actual customer if you sell a non-digital item. If the product is digital, the user experience will be about how the customer consumes the product or service.

UI/UX design can also bridge the digital with the non-digital. Again take Apple as a great example since their UX design is used for their operating system, hardware, packaging, and website apps. Although these are all part of the complete Apple brand, they offer something different to the customer. Having the right level of consistency and connectivity between every step of the user experience is essential. This begins before making a purchase and involves buying the product and engaging with the OS, digital elements, and software. Most businesses already understand why brand identity and branding are so important. Still, it is also crucial to know user experience is the more detailed brand identity engagement users experience on digital platforms and more.

What can UI/UX design services do for you?

This agency is a creative team that designs and develops user experiences. These agencies range in size and the service offered related to UX design or complementing it. Some agencies only provide UX design, while others perhaps focus on something else and offer UX design. Let’s take a closer look at what a UX design company can offer.

Companies can hire a UX designer or design team or form their in-house team. Usually, the in-house option works out very expensive, and after several web design projects are completed, they are no longer required. This is why most businesses and companies hire a creative design agency to assist with their design needs.

A UX design firm or UX design agency is the name given to a creative agency that offers or focuses on experience design. Branding and innovative design are specialties that help structure the company’s brand identity interaction with the target users via digital methods. This goes beyond essential branding or advertising, incorporating both of those into interfaces and touchpoints the end-user will have with the company.

A team of designers usually makes up a UX design studio, and there might be a project manager to oversee the teams of researchers, UX designers, and UI designers, depending on the project’s scope. These roles can sometimes overlap, but each one is specialized. These roles work together on projects and do their best to accurately and carefully craft the best user experience for the company or brand. The team will meet with clients during various stages of the project. The design process is informed from start to finish thanks to rigorous UX research, and the UX designers offer prototypes throughout the process. After approval, the prototypes pave the way to the end product.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

FAQ: What to Know Before Working With a UX Design Studio

Whether you’re a small business just starting or a large company trying to boost your UX, it’s ok to be a little lost when starting a project or not know how to prepare. But don’t be discouraged. Understanding the process will help your project go much smoother. To help you on your journey, we’ve collected some of the most commonly asked questions about working with UI/UX design agencies below:

Q: Which is better: In-house or a Design Firm?

A: Whether you should hire an agency or take on full-time in-house talent depends on the elements of UX you’re looking to develop and maintain, the requirements of the project, and your budget. For most, however, UI/UX design firms will be the way to go.

If you anticipate needing hands-on, long-term help, such as anticipating frequent updates, having an in-house UX design department will probably be your best choice. These benefits are that you’ll have a team that knows your company better and more thoroughly than any external agency, which will diminish research time and often make for a more cohesive product.

However, an in-house design team is often unnecessary if it’s not needed beyond the scope of a single project. Although the services of an agency can be an expensive investment, they often provide more for the money than a small in-house design team made up of web designers with certain specialties. Such agencies have more tools, services, and prestige to offer, although they do so for a more limited time. Compared to hiring a full-time team, this can be the less expensive option when accounting for all the hours paid out over time.

Q: How Much Does UX Design Cost?

A: The cost of your UX design will depend on the specific project, the services needed, and the hours necessary to complete it. When starting the UX design process, you should have a budget in mind and try to only meet with companies within that range. Unfortunately, you often won’t know exactly how much the agency’s price will be until it’s discussed.

When starting a relationship with a UI/UX design company, you should set up a meeting or call to briefly discuss the project and evaluate whether it will be a good fit. During this meeting, you can also request additional information that will help you learn more about the agency and help you make your choices, such as samples, testimonials, user stories, research insights, and other references.

The more you understand the designer’s work with previous customers, their success rate, and results, the more confident you can be in your choice. You’ll also understand what value they bring (or don’t) to your company, allowing you to assess whether they’re worth your time and money.

When an agency asks what your budget is, give a lower estimate than your actual maximum because agencies will create a proposal based on that number. Later, if you need to tailor or add services, you can increase this allotment. It’s easier to start low and raise it than the other way around.

If your scope is well-fleshed out, you’ll receive an accurate estimate in return, usually with a fixed fee estimate with a 15–20% buffer factored in. However, some projects may be based on hourly rates and material costs, especially if the project is in the beginning stages or you’re working with a smaller company. This latter option can leave some uncertainty. It’s important, especially in this scenario, to know exactly what you’re looking for so that the company can give you an accurate estimate and you won’t run into any surprises down the line.

For a minimum project engagement of $50,000, US and Western Europe UX agencies charge between $150–250 per hour. However, the rates will be slightly higher in San Francisco and NYC. Some agencies will also offer weekly rather than hourly rates, depending on the team and required services, which are between $7,000 and $15,000.

Q: What is the Process for Working with a User Experience Design Agency?

A: Every UX/UI design agency has its way of doing things, especially depending on what services and processes you require for your specific project. But most will follow a basic procedure with three main phases:

Discovery

This is the part of the process where everyone sits down and tries to get on the same page about the design and project. The requirements and expectations are spelled out, and research is done to assess the market and audience. This may include interviews, surveys, or market analysis and will likely involve several meetings and phone calls between the company, the design team, and stakeholders.

Strategy and Design

Once a trajectory has been decided on for the design, some initial sketches are made. This is still a phase of exploration as different ideas are thrown around and assessed for functionality and fit. Most importantly, the design team will integrate the requirements and research from phase one to develop a strategy for moving forward and test out different ideas to fit those criteria. This phase may also have some back and forth as initial sketches and prototypes are made up and overseen by the company and stakeholders.

Execution

Once a design has been decided on, the UI and UX design team begins to map out the idea and make it a reality. Depending on this project's goals and scope, this process may be straightforward or involve many iterations. This phase often involves a lot of testing, prototypes, and revisions. The design company may test a design on users a few times or meet with the company on several occasions to get feedback that they will integrate to fix and improve the design, or in some cases, begin again from scratch if things aren’t working out quite as they were meant to. Eventually, all parties will agree on a working design and finalize it to bring it to market.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Q: What Do I Need to Share With a Design Agency to Get a Proposal for My UI/UX Design Project?

A: First, begin by drafting a brief description of the project. Don’t go into too much detail but make sure that you highlight what it will be about and what makes it exciting. Think of this as a job description that will get potential agencies interested in working with you.

Once a few agencies reach out, you can set up a phone call to discuss the details and assess whether the company will be a good fit.

You’ll want to have some questions ready to ask the agencies, but also be prepared for the questions they’ll ask you about the project, which will likely include those related to:

  • Your specific goals and how you aim to achieve them and assess them with metrics
  • Your target audience
  • The history of your product or user experience to give a baseline of your past interactions with clients and what has worked and not worked in the past
  • Data insights and research, including user stories
  • Some agencies may even request a demo to understand the product and get the best assessment of its weaknesses and strengths.

At the end of this meeting, you’ll want to send over a brief that includes your goals, budget and timeline requirements, and guidelines. Remember that this isn’t a proposal, so keep it short while still including enough information for them to get a good idea of what’s to come. There’s no need for this to sound too formal or official, so don’t be afraid to make it interesting and upbeat. Save the stuffy language for the proposal and legal documents.

Q: What are Some Tips for Getting the Most Out of My Search?

A: There’s a lot to consider when searching for an agency, and it’s important to specify your expectations and requirements ahead of time to find a great fit and have the best experience. There are four things you should consider before starting your UI/UX design agency search to set you up for success:

  1. Understand the possibilities. When you set out to improve or create UI/UX design, your aim shouldn’t just be to make a pretty and aesthetic design. If so, you’ll be wasting your money. You should have a goal for what this design will bring to your company. Understanding what this is will help you to achieve it better and guide the process, which will be helpful for your design team as well.
  2. Define your goals. You have to have a goal to give yourself direction. Your goals will help outline what you need from the project and what services you’ll require. What end product are you hoping to get from this relationship (a website, an app, etc.)? Why are you trying to make this product (boost sales, increase attention, brand loyalty, etc.)? The more specific you can be, the better. If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, the agency you hire won’t be able to do much, as they won’t know what they’re working toward. They’ll also ask you about these goals when you meet, so you’d best be prepared.
  3. Get Client Testimonials. When you start meeting with agencies that you think will be a good fit for your project, you’ll want to get references to understand how their past customers feel about their experiences. These testimonials will give you insight into how it will be to work with the agency in question. Asking for references and looking at their portfolio is a good start, but it will often be biased. No intelligent designer would give you the contact information of a client they had a bad relationship with if they’re trying to land you as a client. So, if you can find references and examples from other sources, that would be even better.
  4. Conduct a Workshop. To test whether you and the agency will be a good fit, you can also do a trial run by holding a workshop. In this scenario, the design team will discuss the business’s goals and develop a few ideas based on them. Although this won’t be nearly as in-depth as in an actual project, it will give you a good idea of working with the agency and how they communicate and produce products.

Q: How Do I Find a Good UX/UI Design Agency Online?

A: With hundreds of thousands of UI/UX design agencies available worldwide, it’s understandable that finding and hiring a good one can be overwhelming. A quick Google search yields millions of potential results.

It’s essential to narrow down the options before you begin by knowing exactly what you’re looking for. Decide on whether you’d like a local or remote company, a large company, or a small company, what services you need, and what matters most. Once you start looking, you should also have a budget to weed out agencies beyond your reach.

A good place to start is with lists of top agencies, like the one we’ve provided below. But you can also look at companies specifically in your niche or market. You can also look for examples of designs that you like and find out what agencies they were created by. It can be helpful during this process to use design-oriented community websites like Dribbble, Behance, or Clutch to learn about top design agencies and news about the business.

Thanks for reading! 🙏🏼

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