12 vital considerations when appointing a UX agency

This article was written in collaboration with Bunnyfoot, a DigitalFWD partner. Founded in 1999, Bunnyfoot is the UK’s leading customer experience consultancy with experience across Europe, Asia and America as well as three UK offices in London, Oxford and Sheffield.

If you are serious about producing positive and profitable customer experiences and you don't have the skills or resources in-house to do user experience (UX) work yourself, then you may need to work with a UX partner. But how do you go about choosing the right partner to work with?

UX is a trendy term these days and UX work is much in demand. But with this increased demand has come a rise in the number of agencies claiming to offer UX services, often as an add-on service or they are just "namechecking".

Some people call themselves "user experience designers", "user experience architects" and a whole galaxy of such terms, but have never actually performed any of the essential activities involved in proper user centred design (such as real user research or usability/UX testing). So how can you be sure you are not dealing with a "namechecker"?

Here is a short checklist of things to consider if you are vetting a UX provider:

1) Ensure there is substance to their offerings and they don't just focus on looks alone

Make sure the agency you select offers a variety of activities that involve your customers throughout your project.

Be wary of a focus on just the "pretty pretty". Aesthetics is an important consideration, but this must rest on a foundation of knowledge.

UX is about creating something that your customer not only can use, but also wants to use.

2) Be clear about objectives, timeline and budget

A good agency will give you options for how to meet your objectives.

3) Meet the agency face to face, at their offices and at yours

The agency is going to talk to your customers and give you insight, so you need to make sure you are comfortable and vice versa.

4) Don’t prioritise "gizmos" over insight

Technology such as eye tracking can provide useful additional data to inform user research, but cool tech is secondary to the agency's ability to deliver actionable insight. 

5) Involve internal teams

Stakeholders are important and if they are to be involved in the implementation of recommendations you need to build a relationship and understand each other. 

A good agency will provide you with good tools for the internal stakeholders process.

6) Talk to several agencies

A thorough tender process should involve at least three or four agencies. Bunnyfoot actually lists its key competitors on its website.

7) Anyone can write a good case study

Make sure you talk to the people who actually worked on the project.

8) Don’t be complacent by sticking with people who work solely within your industry

Choosing an agency that has experience across the board can provide you with diverse insight and knowledge beyond those who focus on one sector.

9) Recruit participants for user research that match your customer segments

Ensuring you have the right recruitment of participants that match your customer segments is key to getting the best out of a research project. Find out how the agency recruits its participants and ensure they have a back-up plan if people don’t show up on the day!

10) Location matters

Your customers are usually not based solely in one city, so make sure you choose an agency that doesn't only operate in one location.

Don’t be afraid to test remotely or send an agency to your customers. An agency with real international experience will be able to create a portable lab in any location your customers are based in.

On the flip-side, it's better to test with your customers than not at all. Remote testing is possible and still gives you great insight into your customers' behavior.

11) Be open-minded about the solution

You will get more out of an agency if you come to them with a problem and let them suggest a solution rather than having a fixed view on the approach you want to take in advance. Let the experts advise you on the best approach.

12) Look for diverse skills and dedication to the customer experience

An agency with a diverse range of skills promotes a team-based collaborative solution. Make sure that customer experience is the focal point no matter what the task is they are working on.