Red Flags, Part 1: How to Pick a Better UX Designer

how to pick a better UX designer

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how to pick a better UX designer

Are you selling your company short on the quality of employees or contractors it could attract?

I am a one woman business. While client work is what pays the bills, I also have to divvy up my time into bookkeeping, sales, content creation, marketing, as well as internal research and development. Oh, and keeping the domicile reasonably habitable and the carbon-based lifeforms within it fed, watered and given various levels of attention. Same as most solopreneurs, really. Maybe the same as you.

Now, you may imagine that as long as someone is willing to pay me that I’m entirely agnostic about who I work with, but in reality, there are some red flags that come up in pre-sales communication that tell me the work culture may be a bad fit for someone with more a few years experience, so I’d like to talk about what these are, and why I think they sell the companies short, not because they’re not working with me, but because they’re limiting themselves to a specific type of mindset of worker and evaluating them with, in my opinion, a bad protocol for business.

Before I get into it, I have to say that I completely empathise with this mindset and protocol, because when I worked in-house before starting Wyld, that’s exactly how I thought.

First, the mindset:

When your day involves doing one task, it behoves you to do that well. In order to know that you’re doing well, you will naturally look at what other people are doing and compare notes. You’ll compare trendiness, problem-solving, creativity, and technical skill required. If you compare yourself long enough, you’ll form Opinions on what is Good and Bad work. Over time, a natural consequence of measuring yourself and findings others short or at best equal, is that you’ll get kinda “pure” about it. ‘Snobby’ is how people outside the team may describe it.

When I worked in-house as a web designer, I cared a lot about how technically skilled people were. Frameworks were for the weak. Stock art meant you didn’t care. Your markup structure, skillset and page load speed defined your worth in my eyes. 

But here’s the thing: the things we use to make ourselves feel skilled in comparisons to others within our field, may not matter to the business bottom line one tiny iota. Worse than that? Taking too narrow (or “pure”) a stance can actually stop you from making decisions that do positively impact the business bottom line and make your stakeholders happy. 

So what are the red flags? I’m just going to pick one today, and write about the others later. Today’s is:

“I have the app/website I want you to base this project on.“

Here is the problem with thinking you know what the end product should look like: 

UX is not the same as designing a css library and theming an app, website or product.

The final UX layout and look evolves from the functions the user needs to perform in your app. It’s based on your user expectations and from their experience levels. It is designed to meet your unique business goals in order of priority, designed to your specific sales model to your target demographic, it has to accommodate the content you already have or can acquire (not the ones in the rival app, theme or screenshot), with options appropriate to the content format of choice (video, sound, photos). It’s designed to deliver on the metrics you decide are important to measure the success of this app.

UX for an app that’s designed to influence user behavior will differ from one designed to entertain, to one designed simply inform, to one that enables users to complete a task with only a thumb swipe while getting off the train and chatting to a friend.

When the above factors are taken into account, the designs clients want to replicate are rarely appropriate. By attempting to self-diagnose, you’re inadvertently capping your business’s potential and that of your new or for-hire talent. People who liked to be told what to deliver are inexperienced and still working on their techniques. They haven’t learned to see where their skills fit into the big picture and shift their thinking to use those skills to meet business needs. Meanwhile, since the prescriber doesn’t have the full skillset of his potential employee to self-prescribe, the diagnosis is faulty or at best, incomplete. 

Instead of giving the answer to the person you paying or looking for to fix something for you, try telling them what you need to achieve, what resources you have available, what limitations you have, and what your priorities are, then ask them how they would begin. You’ll get a much better final product, and attract much better talent, I promise you.


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