Hiring a designer while being small

Written on 07 Oct 2014

You have gotten beyond the step of knowing not to trivialise it, because you figured out you need this discipline in your company (read more about this). Hiring a designer to strenghten the design aspect of your company is hard. The only thing you know for sure is that you need it. Your website for instance needs more flair (but you do not know how) or somehow the user experience of your app is leaving something to be desired. Clients complain about the interface being slow or the webshop is loosing traffic. You've tried, but nothing seems to fix it.

You do not quite know what you are looking for.

I have been a UX designer for a while now but one of the most hardest things I have seen for small webdevelopment companies is to find a designer that is suited for the company. Finding that one designer that is good for your company is hard, because to some degree you do not quite know what you are looking for.

How design fits into the production process

In most cases has either to do with finding it hard to putting down the needs for the company and in effect the qualifications needed from a designer, but also wether or not a perticular designer is qualified for the job or not.

You need one who can translate the users needs to a concrete product design that subsequently can be build.

The reason for this is that often a modern (and the old ones too) company is founded by 1 or more people with a technical background, or something related to it. At best one of them has dabbled in design, but never made it his or hers primary focus. Sometimes the company is founded by a person with a technical background and one that has a commercial background. I all honesty this is a better combination, but not quite. You need one who can translate the users needs to a product design that can be build.

In essence it boils down to this: * a person who actively markets the product (the marketeer). * a person figures out how the product should work and designs and maintains it on a interaction level (the designer). * a person who builds and maintains it on a technical level (the builder).

If you have these three aspects represented in three separate people responsible for it, you are set. I emphasised the word 'separate' for a reason. More than often a designer takes on the role of the builder too (and vice versa). The inexperience can lead to some serious problems. For instance it can lead to poor development decisions in the build or design process that will hurt the business in the long haul. A good example if this is a software developer that reckons he/she could just make the product decent looking and which would make it good enough. Due to the inexperience and lack of knowlegde interaction issues creep in and make the product impractical (even if it still works). This little shortcut then causes more money lost then investing in a good and experienced designer.

What you should be looking for

Defining the requirements is hard, but you can boil it down to the essentials.

He or she needs to be able to:

  • Have a clear process and can explain it in a plain understandalbe fashion.
  • Knows how to 'extract' and work basis of the needs of the end-user and not the demands of the client.
  • Design what the client needs and not what the client wants and be able to explain why it is better.
  • Can explain design decisions in general.
  • The ability to relate and invision the experience of the end-user.
  • Stays on top of current trends and fashion, but is not blindly led by it. Has his/hers own opinion over them.
  • Is not affraid to say "I don't know", but goes and figures it out. Wants to learn and shows this.
  • Understand the type of people they will be working with and they can do (the marketeers and developers).

Do not ask for:

  • ...specific software knowlegde of tools (like PhotoShop or Illustrator). What tool they use to get the job done does not matter. As long as they get the job done. Anyone can always learn a new tool. And finally Adobe's suite of software is not the only good thing out there.../link/to/open-source-graphic-tools/
  • ...them to design something. It is the same as asking for a freeby and if you do that you are being a douche.
  • ...An elevator pitch. Most of us are thinkers, listeners and builders, not eloquent speakers. It will not work. You do not hire a designer to talk, right?

Things you can (or should) ask for:

  • examples of their work. This gives a good indication if they as good as they say they are. If they have a nice portfolio, even better!