Outsourcing UX?

Globe with Arrow

Is it possible to outsource user experience design?

This question has been especially interesting to me now that I am looking for my first real job in UX.  It is clear that graphic designers and developers can work remote or even work without actually ever meeting their clients, but can UX designers do the same thing?

For starters, UX design is fractured and even by those (like myself) that call themselves UX designers, there is still not a consensus on what exactly the term means, or for that matter what all the different terms mean.  What is the difference between a UX designer and a UX architect?  Anyone…?

Part of user experience design can be done remote or outsourced, but other parts cannot.  Since UX relies on research, it is a stretch to think that user research can be done without actually meeting the users.  There are methods like Google Analytics that can provide information about the users, but my belief is that there is little substitute for actually meeting with users.

While meeting with users must be done on-location, it must also be done for the desired demographic.  This means that if you are launching an iPhone app that you want to be the best in Canada, then you should probably talk to Canadian users.  It is quite often the case that the app developers do not live in their desired market (most often America), so in that case a UX designer living in America makes sense.  Additionally, it could be that an on-location UX designer in France, for example, must simply find Americans as their test subjects.

UX design presents a challenge for working remote, but, designing user interfaces or information architecture should be much easier to do since this is work that does not always rely directly on individual user research.  An understanding of best practices and conventional use of elements (like placing a logo in the upper left of a page), for example, can lead to better usability, and there is no need to talk to a user to make these kinds of changes.  The more in-depth, however, the more important individual user research becomes.

I will continue to try to add more to this discussion of outsourcing while I look for my first job in UX.  I have applied to a number of jobs outside my country, and it is possible that I may find myself working remote on a UX project sometime in the near future.

I’d also love to hear what you think, so drop me a comment!

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