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Does this sound familiar? You’ve got a great team of developers, working hard to produce new applications or maintain an existing platform.

They know their stuff and are always shipping features. But your users, either internal or external, are underwhelmed. They complain about confusing navigation or a dated interface, and generally, never get excited about your product.

This could be a sign that you need some outside UX help. Typically we find that internal development teams know their code but don’t always have the background or even time to address user needs. We love helping at times like these! However, bringing in an outside firm comes with its own set of challenges.

Here are some ways to ensure the success of your project when hiring an outside UX firm. 

  1. Share the Vision
    Make sure both teams have a shared vision. Clearly stated objectives for the project are important, but don’t forget that a sustainable relationship goes beyond the work itself. Be clear about how much time you expect out of a contractor or firm so they can plan to be in it for the long haul with you. The more you operate as one cohesive unit, the more successful you’ll be.
  2. Talk Early & Often
    Keep the lines of communication open. Invite your contractors to team stand-ups. Add them to your Slack. (Consider getting Slack if you don’t have it.) If something isn’t going how you expected, speak up! Our job is to get to know other companies’ cultures, so we love getting feedback on how we can better meet your needs.
  3. Share Tools
    Whether it be Jira or Basecamp or Microsoft Project, get on the same system. If you don’t have a great project management tool, ask if you can join your vendor’s and take this opportunity to learn the ropes. You can pretty much bet any good outside resource craves the transparency and organization that shared tools can provide.
  4. Pace Yourselves
    Make sure the UX team is working out ahead of your development team. If you’re in an agile environment, that means the user experience team should be 1–2 sprints ahead of the developers. This ensures that the development team doesn’t end up with a list of features that they’re pumped to start, but with no interface ready for them.
  5. Embrace conflict
    You’ve brought in an outside team for a reason, so we might have some new ideas or methods you aren’t familiar with. It’s OK to have a healthy debate, that’s what gets us to the best possible product in the end.

Is an external consultant right for your team?

There may be an adjustment period when working with an outside resource. With proper planning and communication, a UX consultant can add value to your product, improve your process, and alleviate the pressure put onto your development team. Not every team is quite ready to collaborate with an outside resource, and that’s OK. When you are, the above suggestions will help establish a lasting partnership for both parties.

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