NOT a UX designer. A podcast by Varima Henry – How to hire a UX designer in South Africa. Available where ever you listen to your podcasts.

Be open to the Mind-shift.

So you want to hire a UX designer for your startup or are you setting up a design team in your company/department? You probably have some knowledge on the value UX designers bring if you are looking to hire one.  On the other hand, you probably need a little more information on hiring UX designers in South Africa, that’s how you ended on this post. Either way, I will try to guide you on what you need to look out for when hiring a UX designer in the  South African market.

South Africa is saturated with UX/UI designers and jobs to match, Business looking to hire a  “UX designer” often look for a candidate with both UX an UI skills. Usually playing in the digital product space where there are mobile or web apps to be built and screens to be designed, UX/UI designers make more sense and help manage the budget by combining the role.

On the other hand, the UX design role is different and has specific UX disciplines that you may not obviously get from a UX/UI designer.  This can be frustrating if you are a small company and do not have the budget to split the roles. However, the value that experience designers/methods bring to the table can be the factor that makes or breaks a product and will be totally worth the investment.

Working with a UX designer on any team or environment requires the business to shift their mindset and get better at understanding the user, their needs and frustrations. Having a UX designer on the team changes the process of how products get delivered to the market. The process may be different from the traditional methodologies used in most business processes and by many UX/UI designers in South Africa today.

Having a UX designer on your team means you have a dedicated person who has the interests of the user at heart and align your business goals with user needs.

Prioritize UX design budget.

Now, UX design is not cheap work, “it is not an R5000 exercise” and is an iterative process. UX design requires a budget for workshops, usability testing, and of course the hours of design work put into the product/solution.

Hiring a UX designer to be part of your in-house team and pay them a salary is probably the most viable option to go with for most corporations. However, this may not be the best option as UX designers get more expensive with experience and are more likely to leave when approached with a better offer.

Hiring freelance designers or an agency can help you manage your budget as well as pull in the designer when you need them on the project and off when the project is at a state that they are not required so much, such as during dev time. This approach works well for Startups and small business. Make sure to add UX as a line item in your budget in your project scope and be realistic about the numbers you put in and the time needed for your MVP or go to market plan.

Understand your business needs and why you want to hire a UX designer.

Looking at a product from a business perspective only can hurt the experience and the positioning of the product. UX designers help your business understand the market, customer needs and frustrations and help solve them with design. Having a UX designer onboard saves you time and money. By providing you with an environment where your ideas can be tested and validated, UX can help answer usability issues before investing in expensive development/manufacturing costs.

Understand what role you need UX designers to play in your team before you hire, this will help you cherry pick the most relevant designer with the right skill set for your team. Some businesses are hiring experience designers with user interface design experience to design better apps and get the most from their design skills. Other businesses hire experience designers to help with extensive user research, testing and facilitate discovery sessions, design thinking, and design sprints.

Decide if you need a more strategic or more UI focused designer.  The two breeds of UX designers will help you with different methods and outcomes and may benefit you to have both dedicated players on your team and not combine the role.

Understand UX design is an iterative process.

Hiring a UX designer is a process of choosing the right strategic partner for your business, especially if you are hiring an agency or a freelancer. UX design is not a once off job, it is not a one-time thing but an iterative process. UX designers define, design, test and build and do it all over again to optimize and improve the product on an ongoing basis.

A UX designer can help you understand your users and design a prototype, test it and build an MVP (minimum viable product). After the MVP is out in the market, there is more UX design work to be done with real customers using the product.

Experience designers help with the ongoing improvement of the product based on customer feedback and business requirements. Understanding this will help you plan and budget accordingly.

how to hire a UX designer in South Africa

What to look out for.

After understanding and define the UX role for your specific team, what your business needs and what you need as UX deliverables, below are five general qualities of a UX designer that you may want to look out for before hiring.

Culture Fit.

Culture fit is one of the most important things to look out for when hiring anyone for any business. Hiring UX designers in no different and this could be one of the biggest things to look out for.

Hiring someone that fits in your company culture removes friction, makes it easier for the new designer to understand the business process, identify needs and makes it much easier to align business, the market and customer needs.

Curiosity, thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Curiosity and problem solving is the heartbeat of every good UX designer I have ever met. The biggest thing to look out for in a UX designer is how they think and come up with solutions to products. The questions they ask and how they approach problems is key to UX designers individual qualities. All designers have a different approach to problem-solving, finding a designer with the type of thinking that is aligned to your business thinking is crucial.

People skills.

People skills are everything when it comes to UX designers, Experience designers should be able to talk to real people/users in user testing sessions, focuses groups and design thinking workshops. People skills as a UX designer help you get the most out of the process.

Process.

When hiring an experience designer, one has to look at their process and see if it fits with your working environment. Every UX designer has their own process that guides how they work and the outcomes they have. Some designers are used to work in waterfall teams and may not be able to adapt their process well in an agile environment or vice versa.

Toolset.

Depending on the type of product you need a designer for, hire designers that already have knowledge and working experience on some of the basic industry tools for the job. This may be prototyping tools like Adobe XD and Sketch, Modelling tools in manufacturing and sometimes even technical design tools that need code knowledge and experience.

Making UX design part of your organization.

Hiring a UX designer in South Africa is a bit of a challenge with all the UX/UI designers and jobs flooding the market and making it harder to define the UX role and what experience designers do.

Thinking of a UX budget early on your project saves you the pain of having to compromise on your hire. I think that every organization or startup in South Africa needs to make UX design a part of every product that is taken out to the market, despite the environment or process.

Building products that people like and really want to use should be the goal of any business. UX design is the fabric of your organization enables you to make your customers/users the champion of your business. Understanding your user needs and solving for them is vital for any business to survive today.