7 Steps to Finding the Perfect UX Designer for Your Startup

Digital design is growing more and more important for companies and brands as the world becomes increasingly digital. This is especially true for startups, for which establishing the company’s unique brand and capturing the aesthetic early on can mean life or death in terms of standing out in a crowded field.

What many people fail to realize is that the world of digital design is complex and diverse, and the process of creating good design is meticulous and multi-phased. One of the most important steps in the design process is User Experience, or UX for short. If you think of the design process as being similar to that of building a house, the UX phase of design is the blueprinting and prototyping. Without it, your project can be doomed from the onset.

With that in mind, here are the seven key steps to finding the perfect UX designer for your startup.

Step 1: Figure Out What You Need

The term “digital design” is a far-reaching one, covering many aspects of the design process. It's not enough to simply say, “I want to hire a digital designer," as most will have specific areas of expertise. UX design is no exception.

Whether you’re hiring a freelancer or looking for a permanent UX designer, figuring out the specific needs of your startup’s design projects will help you narrow down the candidate search right out of the gates. This means it’s important to draw up some exact specifications, and don’t take any detail for granted.

For example, are you focusing mostly on mobile or desktop design? Those two processes are different, so figure that out beforehand. Is your site going to include e-commerce and online shopping features? Even these bigger details are important to work out so you can tailor your search to your specific needs.

Step 2: Determine Aesthetics and Functions

This step flows pretty naturally out of the first, and in many ways is related, but it’s important to hone in on these two aspects of your project specifically.

Digital design is just as much about how a site works as it is about how a site looks. Determining your project’s main key functions will help your UX designer have a more clear starting point and will be able to help you get a better picture of what you want your startup’s project to do.

Along these same lines, visuals are important. This ties in with keeping your brand in mind, but whether you’re looking to evoke a certain mood in your aesthetics or you want to rely on familiar patterns to grant your users familiarity with your site, determining aesthetics and key functions will be crucial for your project’s success.

Step 3: Ask Around

This isn’t a particularly flashy phase of the process, but it is an easy one, and certainly one that you don’t want to skip. Referrals are simply a part of the game when it comes to making a good hire. Because the internet is very crowded with all sorts of forums and places to find designers, being able to narrow down the search through referrals will only make your hiring process easier.

The key is to ask for some recommendations from someone who had a similar project to your own. Asking someone who hired a UX designer with a totally different specialization emphasis won’t do you much good, so do your research, establish what exactly you need, and ask around.

Step 4: Scour the Portfolios

The designer’s portfolio is the most important aspect of his or her job qualifications, so don’t take it lightly. This is where you can really see the designer’s work come to life, so you can get a sense of how a certain designer might interpret and work with your own specifications. The best UX design portfolios will show off a combination of both the designer’s consistency and flexibility.

It’s good to see consistency, so you can get a feel for the designer’s predominant aesthetic tendencies and determine if they’ll match with your own. Finally, flexibility is key in order to see if a certain UX candidate can work well in a number of different projects.

Step 5: Ask the Right Questions

Once you’ve narrowed down your field and have selected a few candidates to interview, it’s important to ask interview questions that are pertinent to the UX process specifically. Whether it’s asking about certain wireframing techniques or preferred methods of acquiring customer analytical data, asking tough UX questions will go far in determining if a candidate really knows what they’re talking about.

The interview can also be a great place to figure out a designer’s process. Do so by picking out a piece from their portfolio and asking them to explain their creative process during that project.

Step 6: Make Sure You Have the Right Software

When it comes to UX design, there are all sorts of tools and programs out there, specifically for wireframing and prototyping. This will be especially important if you’re looking to hire a UX designer for the long-term. Making sure you know a designer’s preferred tools is crucial so you can hit the ground running right away.

If your startup already uses certain software, you don’t want to hire a designer only to find out later that he or she uses completely different programs, nor do you want to burn valuable time teaching a designer that program that’s already in place in your company. Why waste time and money trying to fit a new designer’s process into your system if you’ve already got a good one in place?

Step 7: Communicate Early and Often

Once you’ve hired a UX designer for your project, don’t be afraid to over-communicate. Since digital design is so closely intertwined with your brand, you want to make sure you and the designer are always on the same page. It’s a collaborative process, and you should remain hands-on in order to get the best out of your design project.