It is debatable what makes the best design, but when it comes to UX it will most likely be removed instead of adding elements. And that is quite a challenge: it is hard to "kill your darlings," and it is not easy to choose the alternatives that best serve the overall product (or ecosystem of products) and brand.
As you probably know by the title - here is where UX Consulting Service might be helpful. What is UX Consulting? When should you consider it, and how does a UX Consultant work? These are the questions we will try to answer.
Designing user experience can be a painful process that involves constantly revisiting what has already been done, cutting out the elements that aren’t essential for the overall - whatever they are defined - purposes, and adding the ones that are crucial in business.
UX design is not a pure stream of creativeness resulting in a single piece of art "judged" arbitrarily by "like" and "dislike" but more a craft-like process determined by a set of rules, good practices, and - above all - general objectives. Of course, the best UX design is the one where the designer passes generally known principles through the lens of their own creativity, but the general business goal must be at the center of their interest.
Shaping the UX is about creatively combined of what is already set in stone and understandable for the target group with what is unique and specific for the brand. Still, separating one from another might be problematic from the inside.
Sometimes, to grasp the bigger picture, you need to step back and get the proper perspective, and it would be fantastic if only we had time for this kind of reflection! The bad news: typically, we don't. In a constant chase for deadlines, navigating between different expectations, and trying to cut time-to-market, it is often an unaffordable luxury for the internal UX design team
Then, the external UX Consultants might come to the rescue and - by working closely with in-house designers, business analysts, and marketing and sales units - can bring the desired perspective to the table.
Under this relatively new role in the UX design area, there are two crucial aspects hidden: user experience and consulting, which implies the UX consultants are external experts equipped with the competencies necessary for making the product UX layer and supporting the business goals of the organization while remaining in line with the general branding of the entire ecosystem.
Their roles go beyond UX design advisory. They use their external position to embrace the overall dependencies between product architecture, customer journey, UI layer, information flow, and marketing requirements and harness them into improving UX.
UX consultants' responsibilities in many areas overlap with the UX designers' responsibilities. They both focus on resolving usability issues, optimizing costs, and choosing the best methods to improve a product's overall experience. The critical difference between UX Design and UX consulting is that the latter revolves more around the whole ecosystem of an organization and the entire journey of users instead of solely one product or online service.
We can rephrase the following: while UX designers' primary skills concentrate on design, psychology, and technical knowledge, the UX consultants' skills are expanded by business analysis capacity delivering the desired by C-level management the "bigger picture." Sometimes, the distinction emphasizes the designer's product- or user orientation contrary to the business orientation of the UX consultant. However, this binary differentiation might harm both sides as - in practice - lines are blurry.
Instead of trying to coin the dictionary-like bullet-proof definition of these roles, it is better to understand how UX consulting might be helpful for business growth.
Before we jump to the listing benefits of collaboration with UX consultants, it is good to stress that, at any point, they are not a replacement for in-house UX designers.
The designing process is challenging and non-linear, and typically, your in-house UX team might get stuck at some point. Maybe there will be a conflict of interest, a communication problem, or maybe your experts will feel washed out of creativity if the process takes months. Of course, they will eventually overcome difficulties, but time is money. Often, onboarding someone experienced is more cost-wisely. UX consultant might suggest how to sort issues quickly, push the process forward, and save money.
While developing a specific product or service, the in-house UX design team often works in silos. It is understandable. Designers solve, very specifically, low-level problems, and often they can't afford to embed them in the broad landscape of the company's ecosystem of products. Typically, there is no time for doing that. The "outsider" can see the situation differently by analyzing the company's needs from a "helicopter view." They are not personally involved in internet competition between departments, and so it is easier for them to grasp the common denominator.
Being customer-centric is crucial nowadays as competition in the digital industry is cut-throat. The UX grew into the crucial deciding factor for customers who are unwilling to give a second chance to a website that tends to crash, is slow, or is difficult to navigate. They have so many alternatives that they don't have to do that.
Yet, shifting towards a focus on clients can be challenging, especially for a big organization in which every, even the slightest change can take months and require tons of approvals. Here is where UX consultants can come into play.
As the external help, they are kind of beyond the internal hierarchy, and - by getting the above-mentioned bigger picture - can quickly identify the bottlenecks that stop the innovations, rethink the roadmap, define the strategy and choose the methods to achieve the goals.
Having a consistent design system is crucial for a brand. Unfortunately, the reflection about branding typically comes after the organization grows, and the ecosystem of products expands, and it is tough to implement at that point.
To ensure that your designs are coherent and easy to replicate, organizations need to develop design systems that will contain UI components and elements. It is not just an aesthetic or marketing issue but also a business one. A consistent design system will allow for reducing a fair share of decision-making from the design process, and - ultimately - cut time-to-market.
The UX consultant knows how good UX design impacts a product's success, builds customer loyalty, and ultimately affects the long-term company's success in the market. They provide external insights on the design, its scalable implementation, and improvement for business goals.
Given that, their analytical skills come to the fore. With a solid research background, they can understand the company's workflows, needs, competition environment, and possibilities. UX consultants collect data and - based on them - make suggestions for the design team, advise them on overcoming difficulties, and pinpoint the elements that should be added or removed for better performance.
Consultants' methods differ depending on the project. They might look at reviewing customer complaints and compliments gathered in surveys, get customer insights from direct interviews or observations of clients but also collect data from business by talking with stakeholders from other-then-design departments.
After collecting data and determining the business objectives, UX consultants start turning these insights into fundamental design changes. Yet, they are not stepping into designers' shoes. First, they focus on observations of the design team and determine how the design process looks to improve within it rather than throwing the table and being forced to redo everything from scratch. Their guidance is aimed at helping the team to get more efficient, to avoid errors, or get the job done quicker. Their advice can be provided directly or remotely at any stage of the project development.
Enough has been told about how the dollars invested in improving user experience get thousands of dollars in return or Jeff Bezos's belief that there is no better advertisement than good UX because that is what clients care and talk about.
Yet, the UX design areas get increasingly fragmented and consist of many specific roles. We've got UX designers, researchers, UX writers, and product designers. Thus, UX consultants come as no surprise. This diversification might seem irrelevant only from the outside. The more project complicates, the more specific skillsets occur to be a handful in delivering it in the desired shape.
The UX consultants with a focus on business aspects of UX design provide actionable insights for driving design decisions aligned with the business ones. Ultimately, their goal is to help create products or services that support a company's business growth.