Spoiler alert. Those who haven’t seen Spiderman: Homecoming yet, please skip this intro. So, there is this new guy (Spiderman) who wants to save the world. A small problem: he tends to get himself into trouble. He has difficulty accepting professional help, thinking he can do everything alone. He's inexperienced and takes too much upon himself. Tony Stark (aka Ironman), having been in the business for a while, tries to mentor him, and eventually invites him to the team. He turns him down, choosing to stay at home as a local hero. OK but WAIT. What do superheroes have to do with UX?!
In-house Design Teams vs UX Companies
There comes a time when a product manager realizes a product needs a professional UX touch to become lovable and useful.
You might already have an in-house design team at hand. Maybe you are deciding between recruiting one or hiring a UX company.
It’s a tough call, we know.
Good news! You don’t have to choose only one. Combine the forces of the two to get the most out of the product and generate the highest value to the company – and the users.
Coming back to the superhero metaphor: The experienced UX company (Ironman) can help the talented but not so efficient in-house design team (Spiderman) to get the best out of themselves and teach them to use their power. Also, the UX company can show tricks and gadgets to improve the quality of its work. (But we’ll cover this later in details).
Why You Need An In-house Design Team
An internal UX team can deliver a real advantage when it comes to communication and action speeds.
Friendly neighborhood Spiderman can come to the rescue when certain things need an immediate solution and don’t require high-tech help or strategic thinking.
So why invest in an in-house design team?
Obviously, having a team nearby can result in better and easier communication with members. You don’t have to launch Skype or commute within the city to discuss issues.
Similarly, the more available the team, the faster the communication.
Don’t wait for responses and act or make decisions quicker.
An internal UX team will already know your company’s culture, methods and understand how you work. But also organize their internal trainings to get that kind of knowledge across.
Note: Lacking previous UX experience, put together a strong UX team. First, hire a senior UX designer or specialist who can create workflows, assign tasks and make sure that professional requirements are met in the team. In this case, you need UX know-how.
Benefits of Working With An External UX Team
Even with an in-house design team, sometimes additional resources and professional knowledge come in handy.
You might face:
- lack of resources – you might have a small (even one-man) team working on UX design whom other company projects may overwhelm;
- slow recruitment – finding war-tested UX professionals takes time;
- the need of proper design processes – your team always muddles about and things get out of hand.
So what advantages does involving an external UX team bring to your project?
Professional help brings UX knowledge to your company the best. They have reliable experience in multiple fields and industries that you can utilize.
Besides working on the UX Design, they conduct UX research, build prototypes and iterate the product.
Think of Tony Stark: the polymath, a man of science and technology. He is always working on finding new solutions, testing new methods and iterates when needed.
Note: UX company people are not as arrogant as he is.
Mid and large-sized companies can benefit greatly from an external team’s view on current processes and tasks. A UX company can provide additional insights on improving product design and fresh ideas, and unbiased advice in creating a successful product.
Doing things right
UX companies use the best and most up-to-date practices in the field so the outcome will reflect on the latest trends of user behavior.
Have you been dreaming of proper user testing but never had the time? Here at our UX company we pay attention to users’ voices and regularly organize tests to understand their choices.
How In-house Teams And External Teams Help Each Other
Aaand now back to the original idea. Why do Spiderman and Tony Stark need each other?
Although superheroes are cool people, they often think of themselves as lone wolves who can fight the enemy by themselves. They love to work their own ways and do not share the sweat or the glory with other superheroes.
This can hold true for UX teams as well. Sometimes in-house UX guys feel threatened by the ‘outsiders’ and vice versa. However, these two teams can do a lot for each other.
Solving capacity issues
Companies hire external UX companies when their internal team has too much on their plate. An external team can jump in to urgently finish or redesign a product. They will share the workload and the responsibility with your in-house design team and let them catch their breath.
(Remember the scene when Spiderman tries to keep a whole ship together? He couldn’t have saved the day if not for Tony’s help.)
Internal design teams better understand company values than the newcomers. They have worked with company assets before so they can guide external teams to incorporate those values into their work. They can also add new perspectives to the UX company by sharing their experience with them.
On the other hand, Tony Stark – I mean: external UXers can introduce a higher level approach to product design and show the internal team some good moves and platforms to use.
Let’s not forget that an external team can help the in-house design team get their voice heard. They can validate your designers’ ideas and help UX find its place within your company.
The external UXers can provide an objective approach to UX design – free from company politics. So consider them as a part of your army who can join forces with your current fighters.
Only one question remains: How to bring those two special forces together?
Four Steps To Facilitate Collaboration Between UX Teams
Some product managers find getting internal and external UX teams to work together a challenge. In reality, it doesn’t have to difficulty and pain.
Let’s see how to get the two teams onto the same page!
1) Define responsibilities
Separate in-house and external teams’ tasks so each group has a well-defined area to work on. This ensures less confusion between teams and everybody can work on their own project with their own means.
In other words: Let your heroes use their own powers and give them special tasks!
2) Make time for onboarding
Secure the external UX people enough time (days or weeks) for the onboarding process so they can get to know the in-house design team’s work. Provide information to the new members about branding, style guides and design system – this lets them align their work.
3) Continuous communication
In an ideal project, the two design teams work together and have ongoing discussions throughout the project. This becomes crucial if the internal team produces materials that external members need to use in their own work. Use product managements tools to collaborate, e.g. Slack channels, Google Drive, etc.
4) Invite internal leaders
Ask the internal design leader to attend the external team’s weekly design meetings. This ensures the design coherency throughout the project. They should also organize feedback sessions together to learn from each other.
Do you have experience in having multiple teams working on your product? Have you seen the movie? Let us know in the comments!
Not sure how to proceed with your product or team? Start with a UX consulting session.