So you’ve been fighting for your budget, developing a plan, selling your project internally, and now have the go-ahead – but you don’t feel that you have the user experience (UX) team to get the work done.
You’ve looked around at several digital agencies, UX boutiques, system integrators with UX groups, and ‘Big 5’ consultancies touting digital experience strategy, design, and end-to-end development capabilities.
After reviewing their websites, reading industry analyst recommendations, and talking with some of your colleagues, you’ve narrowed your search to a few that seem to have the knowledge, team, and experience that you need to complete your project successfully. This post will review seven questions you should ask as you evaluate your shortlist of candidates to serve as your agency in San Francisco.
Now that your evaluation program is set up for success, below are the core questions to help you separate an exceptional UX design from the mediocre ones. Remember, you are not just buying a plan or a deliverable. Ideally, you are selecting a great long-term partner too.
Question 1. “Do You Understand My (Our Company’s) Needs?”
Is the UX agency proposing a boiler-plate, presenting very standard answers to your particular problem, or not asking questions that may help them determine the project’s actual scope in terms of timing and work? If so, they may not be listening to needs or determining your particular business goals related to the problem. San Francisco design firms will look to their team of professionals to ask questions that will help them to determine how they may need to shape and staff a project based on your needs as a partner, not their own.
Question 2. “Do You Have a Step-by-Step UX Design Plan?”
Once the consultancy has had an initial meeting with you and has asked their questions, note whether they developed an approach – or, better yet, a detailed plan expressing how they are beginning to think about your project. Look for design agencies willing to share and refine their approach with you based on a shared understanding of the project’s high-level goals and assumptions. They may be more inclined to work with you throughout the project to adjust plans, as you have already begun the process of working together before signing the contract.
Question 3. “Are You Willing to Partner with Us?”
When developing the proposal, have they included time to work on-site or work with and around your scheduling? Working with a partner is always a two-way street. To be successful with good design firms in San Francisco, you may have to follow their process at times to gain efficiency, and at other times they will need to work using your methods where applicable. If the consultancy is unwilling to be on-site or requires you to conform to their design process, this may lead to trouble down the line.
Question 4. “Are You Flexible When It Comes to Problem Solving and Developing Innovative Solutions?”
The best design agencies in SF will take your feedback on their proposal and take some time to think through the ramifications of adjusting the project plan and estimate. When they say, “Let us take this back and think it over,” you should have the patience to wait for their response. If the answer they return with has been thought through properly, it will incorporate your feedback and update relevant assumptions in scope, timing, and, most importantly, cost. They may also provide alternative approaches, as their team may have had similar experiences on past projects.
Question 5. “Can I Meet Your Actual UX Team? Do You Have a Plan B?”
It is essential to get a feel for the people with whom you will be working. Did the vendor only ever introduce you to management or salespeople and not specific team members? When you have a chance to meet their team members, you can learn a lot about their teams’ culture and personality through their descriptions of previous experience and other related work. Face-to-face meetings go a long way to getting some insight as to how their team works together. You will also want to see bios of all potential interaction design firms in San Francisco that might be available to work on your project to get a feel for their overall team’s depth and talents.
Question 6. “What Is Your Corporate Culture? Does Your Team Get Along with Each Other?”
When you have meetings with their extended UX teams, take the time to understand how their team members work with each other during the initial sales meetings and proposals. Do their team members get along with one another? Do they speak to their specific UX tasks within the proposal? Does there seem to be a disconnect between what each person is saying, or are they all on the same page? You may be working with this group for possibly months or even years, so it’s certainly important that they are likable and a good fit for your organization.
Question 7. “Could You Provide References? Do You Still Stay in Touch with Your Previous Clients?”
When an SF design agency provides references, always check to see that there is a relationship behind them as well. If they provide a connection, it is evident that the engagement or engagement(s) they had with them went well. Still, it is also important to note if there was follow on work or other engagements afterward. Did they build a good working relationship with all the client’s team members? Did they also go above and beyond expectations, or were the results just ok? You will also want to know the long-term and the immediate value they brought to their organization.
When you get a hold of the right UX design agency in San Francisco, it should be a seamless fit and feel like they are an extension of your team.
The Bottom Line
Having proper technical UX skills is mandatory. But you should ensure that an external partner’s values and abilities, such as adaptability to your organization’s style, flexibility, and relationship management skills, all match up to the unique needs of your enterprise. Carefully evaluating these qualities will make all the difference in maximizing your organization’s UX capabilities and lead to many successful projects with the best possible results.