How to Choose a Design Agency/Consultant and Usability Exposure Hours

Recently I have been working on an article (not yet posted) to help organizations choose a web or application design agency/consultant. One of the key sections of the article discusses some things you can do to help you evaluate an agency/consultant. Here is a few tips on choosing quality design consultants and a sneak preview of that section:


  1. Even if you aren’t going to do usability testing or think you can’t afford it, ask the agency/consultant if usability testing is typically recommended.
  2. Ask how many usability tests the person(s) have been involved with.
  3. Request that the user experience experts involved in your project have a great deal of experience observing usability testing.
  4. Get references and talk about the performance of that organization/individual’s designs post-launch.
  5. Ask if the company/person does any up front analysis using analytics, marketing research, and/or user research.
The bottom line, as I suggest in the article, is if the answer is negative to any of the above questions, then “run.”
As it turns out, Jared Spool of has posted an article on his site that goes a long way towards validating many of the above suggestions. His article “Fast Path to a Great UX – Increased Exposure Hours” hits the core of the suggestions above. His basic premise, supported by his organization’s data, is that the more time that more team members spend watching people use their product, the better the user experience. This includes non-design disciplines, from business stakeholders to executives to product managers and developers.
His article makes perfect sense. First, how many of us have been in meetings where the design person says what he thinks the user is going to do on a give page or screen, while the product manager has another opinion, and the tech person chimes in with even a third opinion. Another common scenario is to have an executive who is required for approval swoop in at the last minute and change important design factors. Having these important team members present for usability testing helps remove much of the ambiguity as to where there are problems in the design and gets all the team members very close to the same page when thinking about people using their product.
Thank you for the great article, Jared!

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About Scott

Scott Barnard is the founder of The Usability Review and After earning 2 degrees from MIT, he transplanted to the San Francisco Bay Area where he had a front row seat to the dot com boom and bust and the subsequent growth in importance of web, mobile and desktop application designs to the everyday activities of businesses and consumers alike. Get in touch with Scott if you'd like to hire him to consult on web, mobile app, or desktop application design at
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