Peter Peter - Founder, UserActive

UI/UX Designer: In-House or Agency? Which is Better?

Hiring in-house or agency? Which is better?

The decision between hiring a designer in-house or an agency is a pivotal moment that can shape your product’s trajectory. You don’t want to make the wrong decision. You don’t want to waste time or money.

The Critical Decision – In-House or Agency?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through both options, examining the advantages and disadvantages of each. By the end, you’ll be equipped with the insights needed to make the right choice for your SaaS product’s design journey.

The Business Stage Factor

The stage of your business sets the context for this monumental decision. Bootstrapped or seed-funded SaaS companies often grapple with enhancing their product while lacking the resources for an in-house team. Here, a design agency emerges as a strategic ally, providing expert assistance without the complexities of staffing.

However, as you scale and reach the Series A milestone, an in-house product team becomes a viable consideration. Agencies remain valuable partners, lending specialist expertise to optimise your design processes and foster productivity.

The Design Agency Path

Imagine this scenario: You’ve stumbled upon a design agency that radiates expertise and excellence. Yet, questions persist. Is this the most efficient route? Can they match the speed of hiring and integrating an in-house designer? To unveil the true essence of this option, let’s delve into the pros and cons of partnering with a design agency.

The Pros of a Design Agency

Diverse Skill Set

Design agencies are like a dream team assembled just for you. They house a pool of specialised talents, ensuring every aspect of your design is handled with finesse.

Fresh Perspective

They’ve got their finger on the pulse of the latest design trends and user behaviours, offering you a fresh perspective that can elevate your SaaS product to new heights.

Scalability

They can scale their team to match your project’s scope, ensuring the right expertise at every stage.

Objective Approach

As an external entity, design agencies bring a valuable outsider’s viewpoint to the table. They question assumptions and offer constructive criticism, helping refine your design strategy to perfection.

The Cons of a Design Agency

Communication Challenges

Working with a design agency might require some extra care in communication, particularly at first. But with the right tools and effort, they can quickly feel like a integrated part of your team

Cost Considerations

Speaking of investment, we must address the budget aspect. Working with design agencies might require a higher financial commitment compared to an in-house solution. However, remember that great design can pay dividends in the long run. 

Brand Familiarity Hurdle

At the beginning of the journey, agencies might need time to understand your brand . But any good design agency will have a process in place to overcome that hurdle. For instance, for us at UserActive, that’s our Product Workshops.

Time Constraints

Design agencies will have multiple clients and projects on their radar, and timelines can sometimes be tight.

The In-House Designer Avenue

The allure of hiring an in-house designer or design team is tempting. However, the decision carries weighty considerations such as cost, resource allocation, and long-term commitment. Let’s delve into the advantages and disadvantages.

The Pros of an In-House Designer

Brand Knowledge

In-house designers breathe your company’s culture and values. Their brand knowledge ensures that all their work is tailored specifically to your business (once they are onboarded effectively!)

Direct Collaboration

Having an in-house designer means you have a direct line of communication and collaboration within your team. Feedback flows freely, and design iterations can happen in real-time

Long-term Dedication

In house designers are invested in your SaaS product’s success over the long haul, contributing not just as designers but as passionate advocates of your brand’s vision. 

Quick Iterations

With your in-house designer working side by side with your team, design improvements can happen in the blink of an eye.

The Challenges of an In-House Designer Approach

Limited Perspective

Being close to the company might sometimes lead to a narrower perspective as your designer is not working on various projects and products regularly like an agency designer. 

Expensive to Maintain

Employing a full-time designer may strain your budget, especially for smaller or early-stage companies. The financial commitment might become challenging if design needs fluctuate over time.

Recruitment and Onboarding Costs

The process of finding a right designer, conducting interviews, and onboarding them is no small task. It requires time and effort to identify the right fit for your team and company culture.

According to Peoplehum, the real cost of hiring an inhouse employee for an experience and specialist role in 2023 can be up to approximately $18,000. This factors in costs associated with advertising, sourcing, HR, equipment and training.

Workload Peaks

Having a dedicated designer means managing their workload, which might peak during intense design phases and decrease during slow periods. Finding the right balance is crucial to maintain productivity.

The Moment of Decision

Before you commit to a direction, consider these vital aspects:

For Design Agencies:

  • Does the agency’s past work align with your vision and expectations? Can you trust them to represent your brand effectively?
  • Will the agency offer ongoing support and maintenance services, or will you need to seek further assistance later on?

For In-House Hiring:

  • Do you have the time and budget to search for, hire and onboard new members?
  • Do your design needs require a full-time employee and will you continue to have those needs in 12-24 months?
  • Do you have the resources to allocate to their salary, benefits, and potential training?

Remember, there’s no universal answer. Your choice hinges on your company’s unique stage, requirements, and aspirations. This decision can profoundly shape your SaaS product’s design journey, steering it toward exceptional growth and user satisfaction.

Navigating This Important Business Decision

Now you’re faced with a choice that will shape your SaaS product’s future. Which is right for you – In-house or agency?

Remember, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer; the choice is unique to your company, its needs, and the stage your product is currently at! Both options come with opportunities and obstacles, each offering its own rewards and things to think about.

Looking for UI/UX Designers who specialise in B2B SaaS?

Look no further! Click here to book a no-obligation consultation with our small and mighty team. We’ll give you a steer on your product and see if we’re a good fit to help!

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