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Why hiring external UX services even when you have an in-house UX team?

November 18, 2022

You may be wondering - If I already have an in-house UX team, why would I need to hire an external UX consultancy?

Well, one is not exclusive of the other. Even if you have an in-house UX design team, there might be times when additional resources and professional know-how can be useful. 

The need to hire an external UX consultancy may arise when: 

  • the internal team is overloaded — maybe you have a small team working who can’t take on new company projects; 
  • the internal team may lack the expertise to handle a few complexities of the project.

In such cases, bringing in an external UX team might be exactly what you need for your company to excel in all projects. Let’s go over a few key reasons for hiring an external team to conduct your UX research or set your design strategy. 

Unbiased user feedback

We all have biases. When it comes to UX research, they inadvertently affect both the way we conduct research and the way our participants respond to us. When research is conducted in-house the chances of obtaining inaccurate feedback are higher. We need to be aware these biases will occur so to avoid them when conducting research.

Social desirability bias: Even if users tested some feature and they found it hard to go by, they might feel obligated to say kind things about the product or service. This is because people are aware that they are being interviewed by the team who designed it or is somehow involved with its development.

This unconscious tendency to seem likeable and be accepted is called the social desirability bias or friendliness bias — meaning the user will answer the way they think is expected by the researcher. Users are more likely to give a higher rating to a new feature because they think it’s what you want to hear and they’re uncomfortable giving unfavourable feedback face to face. 

How to overcome it? This type of bias can be avoided by taking the team who designed the product or service from the picture and having someone from outside the team to moderate research. In this case the external researchers can make users know they were not the ones responsible for designing the product, making people more comfortable with sharing their honest (even if negative) feedback.

Confirmation bias: People have a tendency to prefer or interpret information that confirms their existing beliefs and to overlook information that contradicts it, even if that information is factual.

For example, if your team has been working on an e-commerce app for the past few months, you’re more likely to believe in usability findings that say users can navigate it well and disregard any evidence that shows they are having trouble proceeding to checkout.

How to overcome it? One of the ways to avoid this is having an external partner conducting research. The external research team can put together a test script that includes unbiased questions, and since they have no emotional involvement with the product it’s easier for them to be impartial and interpret findings as is, rather than in favour of some previous assumption.

When it comes to UX research preconceptions must be avoided at all costs as biased research can lead to wrong decisions about the path to take, and have a major impact on the products and business.

Honest guidance and clean objectivity

When working with people from your company you might refrain from saying exactly what you really think because it makes you feel uncomfortable, specially when the person you have to give negative feedback to is a manager or the person who had the idea in the first place. 

Depending on the organisation environment, you might also fear some kind of repercussions. In many organisations, the opinion of person with a senior role, or the highest paid person’s opinion (the ‘hippo’ as commonly said), overlaps the opinion of other team members, who are too scared to question their wisdom.

An external partner will be in a better position to be brutally honest and to say no if that’s what’s needed to avoid making critical, costly mistakes.

Bringing in an external team with an unbiased, objective opinion, free from company politics, can open the door to opportunities that could have otherwise been overlooked, as they have no problem with questioning decisions. They can help the UX voice of the organisation be heard by validating the ideas of the in-house team. 

Then there’s the emotional aspect. When you’re part of the development process of a product, you get emotionally involved with it and have a set of subjective ideas. That connection can make internal teams too insular and unable to see past their opinions. An external consultant has the necessary distance from the project and is not set on specific ideas. They will provide an outside perspective to break past long-held, subjective assumptions.

More hands on deck to speed things up

A small internal UX team might get overwhelmed with multiple projects on their plate, jeopardising project quality and on time delivery. Outsourcing the workload might be the answer when you’re short on resources or time. The external team can jump in to get work done faster. Multiple brains will be working simultaneously to achieve the best results in the shortest time possible.

Exceptional UX skill set

While the in-house team might lack the expertise to handle a few complexities of the project, an external team has a broad experience working in a wide range of projects across multiple fields and industries. They are generally highly trained teams who stay up-to-date with the latest practices in the UX field.

By working collaboratively, the internal team can also hone their skills as there’s a natural knowledge sharing between both teams. 

Easier team scalability

Building effective products should involve different areas of expertise and unless you’re constantly designing new products or redesigning existing ones, there won’t be enough work to keep such a dedicated team. An inconsistent workload makes it hard to scale an internal team.

The process of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, onboarding and training UX professionals takes time. According to BambooHR, an onboarding process should last about 90 days so that your employee is comfortable doing their job as expected and can contribute meaningfully to the project.

An external consultancy can easily scale their team up or down depending on the project needs. When there’s a work overload, external teams can simply join more hands on deck to deliver the project on time. They can also adapt to the expertise you need help with, from Research to UI Design or Information Architecture. With internal teams, more hands on deck often means going through a long recruiting period.

More cost-effective

If workloads tend to fluctuate, internal teams might eventually sit idle between projects. With an external team that’s not an issue. You won’t be paying for downtimes, only effective working hours.

When it comes to recruitment, you’ll not risk over-hiring a design team that represents a continuous expense.

A fresh pair of eyes

When in-house teams work on a single product or project within the same brand it’s only normal that their creativity hits a snag. The longer people work on a particular project or within the same industry, the more perspective they lose. This tunnel vision will prevent them from seeing opportunities hidden in plain sight.

Internal teams also tend to become too familiar with the project which can prevent them to find a solution. An external team hasn’t been immersed in the project so they bring a fresh pair of eyes and can present new insights to get things moving along. 

Collaborating towards the same goal 

An external team should be seen as an extension of your in-house team, not a replacement. They can jump on a project when the internal team doesn’t have the time to take on yet another project, or when you need specialised UX research and strategy that might not be within the capabilities of the in-house team.

External teams rely on their creativity, wide experience, and up-to-date practices to provide unbiased advice and an objective approach, free from internal politics and corporate dynamics. Their main goal is to make sure the outcome is beneficial for your business while delivering a solution within the time frame. 

Credits: Illustrations by phc.vector on Freepik (adapted)

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