A few months ago I was in search for a good UX/UI designer for a firm I worked with. The requirements were specific, but not unique in any demanding way. The budget was limited, but still feasible to my understanding.

Then we started looking at candidates, and searching through sites, LinkedIn, Facebook and elsewhere. We even came across a page called “Best UX designers in Israel”.

The reality was, we couldn’t locate the right candidate. Why, you may be asking?

As I see it in retrospect, the market is divided to two sub-markets. Leaving the unexperienced and flat out incapable out, we are left with these two groups:

  1. Experienced and hip UX design studios. These work with startups, with larger clients, long term and on bigger budgets. They tend to get occasional work from international clients who pay more than the Israeli clients do. And they charge more. A project with these guys will cost you at least 18-25k $US. And that’s for a simple one.
    Statements you will hear from group 1:
    “We aren’t really looking for new clients right now”
    “Your budget is probably enough for a one-pager”
    “You see, the way you describe your project probably means you haven’t done your proper thinking”…
  2. Experienced and often less-hip all-around design studios, that happen to do UX as part of their overall work, or changed their focus recently towards UX. They can do a lot of stuff, they have a portfolio, some of it may be irrelevant or old. A project will cost you less than 10k $US. And they will probably let you chuck in as much functionality/pages/views as you like, without costing them in.
    “Yes, we can do that sort of stuff”
    “We did something similar, and it didn’t happen eventually, as the client changed their mind”
    “We are working with a few professionals, most of them are not in-house”

Now, what happens if you are looking for something in-between these two groups?

That gets kind of hard. The 1st group won’t flex their hard earned arrogance for meeting you mid way. And if they do, it possibly means that they are fake in their own beautiful fluffy way. So you basically have two options: take a risk, or divide the work.

Taking a risk means we still go with the studio from group B. In this case, the project could take longer, and the phase of drafts/sketches/outline/wireframe may be mixed up with visual study. Moreover, you may end up not having a proper documentation of the process, and no project specification to fall back to.

Upgrading you budget and going with group 1 may not however solve all our problems. The reason being, often there studios are strong in their conceptual work, in their knowledge, but eventually the person who does the photoshop work can be a junior. The quality of the work may not always even be reflected in the final product, as the best way to utilise this type of UX studio is to hire an additional designer that works based on the now very expensive documents the hip studio produced.

What I suggest, is a different approach, and that’s how I solved the conundrum from the first paragraphs. This approach relies on someone you rely on leading the product development. They will basically do a lot of the hard work, as this

  • Find a visual communications (graphic) designer you like, who’s also done good UI. They can be low profile, but with the ability to produce work with finesse. Take into consideration only finished works, no personal projects or WIP. This designer can cost you as little as 5k $us.
  • Start working on the visual specification inside your organisation. The person you rely on most to do this should start up a Google Slides presentation or something similar, and collaborate with the others by describing together the core functionality with very simple graphic blocks representing the project outline.
  • If you don’t have the person who can do the previous task, hire a solo UX designer who’s willing to come and study the project with you, and brainstorm ideas based on your knowledge of the project. Such person can cost you around 7k $US.
  • Do a little workshop in your office. Invite various stakeholders. Invite the graphic designer. Give everyone A3 paper sheets, and let them draw stuff, ask questions and raise concerns. Learn who is interested in contributing, and who stands in the way causing minor problems to look major. Keep working with those who contribute.
  • You now have a UX design for your project. Your UI designer can start working.
  • You even have some leftover budget. See how you can utilise it: Hire an illustrator to create beautiful looking elements, backgrounds and possibly a tutorial.
  • Start thinking about the explainer video, screenshots, press release etc and how you make the best use of the people you just engaged.
  • Good luck!