One cannot deny that whenever a company plans to engage an external agency or freelancer for their UI/UX design project, one of the key parameters is budget, especially in the case of fast-moving startups and medium enterprises.
Before moving ahead, I would like to notify you that this blog is not regarding the negotiation technique. The blog is about how you can lessen your design cost on a per hour retainer model by following simple design management practices.
There are usually two models in which an external agency or freelance associate for the UI/UX design projects:
Model 1: Retainer price model - Pay per hour or pay per resource
Model 2: Fixed price model
In the case of smaller projects such as marketing website design, the fixed price model can work. For longer UI/UX design projects such as software design, App design, it is advisable to engage agency on the retainer model. In this kind of design, requirements evolve with time; and the fixed model becomes a constraint for the project.
In the retainer model, reducing the number of hours reduces your effective costs directly.
Good design management practices can help you to:
Reduce the agency's working number of hours
Reduce iteration (Iteration adds up to 40% extra on the invoicing)
Faster decision making, therefore, faster handover
Combinedly, these can reduce up to 25% of the agency's working hours. Reducing the number of hours reduces your effective costs directly.
To put that in perspective, let's say you have hired an agency for $50 per hour, and the agency provides 100 hours a month.
Total cost: $50*100 = $5000
Now, these small steps will help you to save 30 hours.
New cost: $50*75 = $3750
Cost Saved = $1250
Let's quickly look into these design management practices one by one. These are not quick tips and tricks, rather well-defined practices. Tricks can help you save time now and then, but you cannot build a platform by saving time through tricks. Therefore good practices are required to put in place before starting a long term project.
UI/UX Design Management practices:
1. Consolidate Briefs
Before starting a design project, everyone must be on the same page with a similar understanding of the project requirements. Poor design briefs consume a lot of time of both the end. You may ask, what is a good design brief, and how to make one? You can read this article to learn about UX/UI design briefs. I am sure your design agency must be having their way of getting the brief. But in case you have hired a budget agency or have started the project hurriedly, this step gets missed. In that case, you'll need to take a step back and make sure to incorporate this step.
2. Design References
Whenever you like a design, collect it for reference. Slice the design between aesthetics and functionality. In aesthetics, identify whether you liked the UI elements of the design reference, such as typography, visual design, colors, use of space. In functionality, identify if you liked the navigation flow, interactions, information grouping, and architecture. This step will help set the design expectation and save you "n" numbers of design iterations.
Few of the platform where you can quickly check design references in the order of their preference are:
Pinterest (This is the best tool for collecting reference. You can make a board and share with the design team or vice versa)
3. Avoid dubious briefing and feedback
When asked to review, always provide a constructive feedbacks. Put rigor and clarity into your communication so you are specific and direct about your views on design.
Below are a few examples differentiating dubious feedbacks from constructive ones.
➡️ I want a simple design ❌
➡️ Make the design simple. May be by using less detailed/minimal icons. Design looks cluttered, please add some space. Keep easy to read typography. ✅
➡️ I want something revolutionary to be done ❌
➡️ We want to make platform intuitive and different from our competitors. Also, we want to keep it interactive. ✅
➡️ Make design elegant ❌
➡️ Make design elegant. My definition of elegance includes these colors, these kinds of layouts and such type of images. ✅
4. An email/draft after the calls documenting the discussion
Always document the discussion to map the result. It could be from either of the side. When a team discusses, a number of ideas are thrown on the table. By the end, we feel everything is clear to everyone, but the clarity scale could be different. Therefore, the best way is to document the call/meeting to conclude the discussion's outcome.
5. Give your feedback in writing
It gives you time to think analytically and identify the detailed pointers. Jumping straight off on a call to provide feedback will eat away plenty of your time. Eventually, this becomes a habit, and the iteration starts at a much higher rate than imagined. Sometimes, it circles you back to right where you started. Therefore take some time to think analytically before providing inputs.
6. Never change design references midway
Until and unless there is a functional reason adhere to the design references selected before. You can always find something better than your current reference, but don't get pulled to that idea. This practice creates an untamed circle where you like something; you try to design like that. Meanwhile, you like something else and start moving in that direction, leading to confusion and unsatisfied results.
These 6 points sum up the best design management practices and can help you save a ton of time, energy and money.
In case you want anything more specific, please mention it in the comment and we'll try to cover it in our upcoming sections.