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Designer: Contract or Hire

Having the hardest time right now deciding whether a designer needs to be one of our first hires, or whether we can just contract out the work for a bit. Pretty sure most people have strong feelings one way or the other on this. So, I'm more interested in feedback on *how* you make the decision, not what your pet preference is.

20 Replies

Roy Leban
4
0
Roy Leban Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at Puzzazz
Here is my simplest answer:

1) Determine your definition of designer. Different people define it anywhere between an artist and a UX expert who can't draw.
2) Is that definition a core part of what you are?

One of the key pieces of advice I give startups is that you can't outsource yourself. If what this person is going to be doing is going to be part of the definition of what the company is, hire them. If they are giving you the first version of a skin which may change many times, hire a contractor or outsource it.

Other questions to ask:
* What is the quantity of work?
* How much continuity do you need?
* How much management are you willing to do of a contractor? Would an employee require less management?
Jean Barmash
1
0
Jean Barmash Entrepreneur
Engineering Program Manager at Tradeshift
Thomas, In the past I've worked with contractors, and am currently working on a new business where we are also working with a freelancer. Both of these are B2B business where good design, while important, is unlikely to be the differentiator that will make or break the company (the first one was technology play, where we were able to do something much cheaper than previously possible, the second one is more of a business model play). I do think designer will ideally be one of the early hires, even if this is not a differentiator. I would base your decision on how competitive your market is and how important will superior design be to your success. If it's B2C, arguably good UX / design can be a true differentiator, so having a designer early
Michael Fedyna
3
0
Michael Fedyna Entrepreneur
Professional Problem Solver and Tinkerer
It comes down to your velocity. If you iterate rapidly then you need a UI/UX designer working freelance about 1 day a week and a designer as a full-time member of the team. If you iterate slowly and the workload doesn't justify having a full-time designer, you just contract it out. A remote freelancer will also require more bandwidth from the rest of the team than someone in-house. Our freelance designer is remote, so we have a UI/UX designer work in-house with us when we need them. We then pass wireframes to our remote designer to make mock-ups and polished changes.
Doron Gan
2
1
Doron Gan Entrepreneur
Founder CTO at ViralGains
Hi, You should hire if you can. A good designer is a key critical hire because usability and user experience are very important for people to actually use your app. Usually the ideas doesn't matter as much as how easy and efficient it is for people to get what they want done. It turns out that changes/enhancements never end after an initial design so this person will be important for the duration of a company. Thanks, Doron
Max Goff
0
0
Max Goff Entrepreneur • Advisor
Big Data Engineering, Data Science, Marketing, Investing
Q: Contract or hire?

A: It depends.

The context from which the decision point arises will dictate the correct approach. Yes, design is of utmost importance, no matter the endeavor. But there are times when design excellence is more important than other times. It really depends. What are you designing? What phase of the project or venture? What resources are available? What additional demands for resources are there? Who would I hire / contract? What is my time-line? Many more questions ... the answer is entirely subject to the context from which the question arises.

Best regards,

Max
Aran Hamilton
0
0
Aran Hamilton Entrepreneur
President, Co-Founder at Vantage Analytics
Two frames of reference:
1) having worked through two start-ups in which my first expenditure was a freelance UX designer. One of whom could also do good work as a graphic designer, the other relied on an external resource.

Now that I know what I know, I wish I had skipped the UX person (or had used them very sparingly) while doing a lean startup prototype approach. In both cases I took on paying someone to think about user experience flow that was good, but ended up being mostly thrown out when "customers" told me that half of my ideas were off-base... i wish i had iterated faster and rougher without even considering fine-tuning the experience, and certainly not thinking about colour schemes

2) I listened to a speech by a US entrepreneur who said that their modus operandi included doing two really smart things to test. a) they released features in apps under other brands to test uptake - and then quietly shelved the app (discontinued supporting them) when they decided what features to bring into their own brand. this allowed them to take risks and ignore UX and design overall (because free apps can suck and people gave them free advice that they factored into the main brand) and b)when in doubt, they released the test-branded features in Canada - and really avoided any potential impact on their branded app.

Very lean - very smart.

Doron Gan
0
1
Doron Gan Entrepreneur
Founder CTO at ViralGains
Hi, I think your are talking about several different things. 1) Iterating quickly does not mean not doing a good user experience. It just means you do it in very small batches to test each little idea (the lean startup way). A good user experience role does the user testing and iterating as well as the design. 2) Color schemes are for "polish", not user experience. They don't matter when we talk about how easy/quick it is for someone to get what they want done. 3) You can't ignore UX, that is what its all about. You can do it by winging it or following some good guidelines but as you say, you should not go overboard, releasing and testing in small batches is very effective. I recently read this book and found it to be extremely great, light, and to the point on this topic: http://nathanbarry.com/webapps/ Doron
Eric Rogness
3
0
Eric Rogness Entrepreneur
Technical Product Manager
Check out the conversation we had about this in November:http://members.founderdating.com/discuss/116
Danny Tamez
3
0
Danny Tamez Entrepreneur
Design Entrepreneur
The fact that you are putting a lot of weight on this decision tells me that you already know the answer. *How* you make the decision is simple - if you are creating a product that people will be using, you need a designer. At minimum, you should make a designer a full-time member of the team, if not a co-founder.

That being said, not all designers are created equal. For your purpose, I would suggest that you find someone who fills the skill set you need, has startup chops, product experience, and fits well into the team.

I was recently hired as the designer for a startup as we go through the DreamIt accelerator at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas. The two co-founders of this company are a hacker and a hustler, and I was the first hire on contract. We are halfway through the program, and my greatest takeaway so far is that the best startups will follow the three founder model: designer, hacker, hustler. You need each of these complimentary skills, and no one person is alone going to be the magic unicorn.

We recently had a visit from Michael Dodd of Austin Ventures. If you ask him, the designer is the most important person in today's startup. You can stack the team full of engineers, but at the end of the day, the product has to be simple, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing. If it is not, then hopefully, you are building software for robots, not people.

You can achieve your short-term goals by hiring on contract or part-time, but a culture of design does not happen overnight. If you want it built into your company, and you should, then make it a goal as early as possible and invest in the person who will take you there.

Jon Kiehnau
0
0
Jon Kiehnau Entrepreneur • Advisor
Corporate Dev & Strategy
if you have a full information architecture designed, maybe you can skate ... but i find a good designer on the core team makes a huge difference in the speed and quality of the product dev.
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