After much back and forth, we decided to end our collaboration with our designer friend Alex. We realized that we don’t quite have sufficient data/information necessary for designing UI screens. What we need at this point is more of UI/UX research and less of UI/UX design.

It’s not that Alex is unqualified to lead the research, but rather that within the scope of our current work agreement it would not feel fair to unload this completely new requirement onto him. Plus, before any further outsourcing, we need to reevaluate our financial status. But it’s very possible that we will work together again further down the road.

We wanted to document what we learned from our first time working with a designer and first time working with a contractor:

  • Setting clear expectations upfront is crucial. We thought talking about the details of a contract at the beginning would be overly formal, but it actually helps both parties to have very clearly defined expectations and deliverables.
  • This may be unique to us, but we realized that the UI/UX ideas are much more valuable to us than the polished screens. I am guessing that’s because we’re decent at converting ideas into polished screens, but we’re not so good at coming up with these UI/UX ideas in the first place.
    To put these in other words, we eventually realized that a good 80% of the design value was in Alex’ rough sketches. If we had known this at the start, we might have changed the contract to focus exclusively on really well-thought out sketches (as opposed to polished screens), and thus gotten even more value for the same effort/money (or the same value for less effort/money).
  • We also noticed that intentionality really matters to us. The reason we were immediately convinced of Alex’ logo design was due to his great level of thoughtfulness. If you have not seen it, I recommend you check out his write-up about the thoughts that went into designing the Openly bee.
    We initially did not know that intentionality and thoughtfulness was so important to us. One mistake we made with the screens is that we did not ask for the same level of explicit intentionality. Alex probably put a good amount of thought into his screen drafts, but we failed to ask him to make that thinking explicit and thus had a difficult time understanding why one screen design should be superior to another.
  • Lastly, we realized that (at least for us), the why in UI/UX has to always precede the what. This goes along the lines of the previous point about intentionality (why) being more important than the implementation (what). But I wanted to make it a separate point to note that I believe we missed a crucial design step when we started working on screens: We jumped too quickly into what and spent too little time in the why. First, we should have done research into what use cases and user groups (power user, first time visitor, …) exist for Openly and then designing with those groups in mind.

I think it’s fair to say that one of the most valuable outcomes of this collaboration is our learning about what it’s like working with someone external to your company and how to best do UI/UX. And, of course, the bee logo! Thanks, Alex!