Agency or In-House Product UX Role — What Would Suit You Best?
Choosing where to work is never black and white. Even comparing an agency and an in-house product UX role isn’t straight forward because of the internal factors that can influence both. An in-house UX role can be dramatically different in a small company compared to a large, or even working on an e-commerce product compared to a healthcare product.
When I started thinking about this topic my instinct was to list all the negatives for each environment. But it shouldn’t be the negatives that dictate your choice, it should be the positives and about who you are as a person now and the person you want to become.
The list below should prove to be food for thought in helping you figure out if an agency or in-house product UX role might suit you best.
You enjoy meeting new people.
Agency — With new projects coming in you’ll always be meeting new clients and new teams. You’ll also have the opportunity to network with people in different roles and industries, learn from them, gain new perspectives and skills in collaboration. For extroverts, this can also be an added perk of an agency role.
You love forming strong connections with your wider team.
In-house — When you work in-house you’ll be working with the same teams and same company which allows you to form strong relationships that build over time. You’ll have a great support network and be able to establish long-lasting relationships that can remain even if you move on. It’s great to be surrounded by people you trust and can depend on at work.
You’re passionate about deep diving and immersing yourself in all information.
In-house — If you’re working on the same product you’ll have the ability to truly understand it. Who are your users? What tasks are they trying to complete? How do they use our product? What does our product actually do and how goes it work? These are the types of questions you can really dig into to uncover insights and you have the time to invest in learning the product inside out.
You shine in fast-paced, unpredictable environments.
Agency — In an agency environment anything can happen at any time. These could be external factors like a client not paying and dropping the project, or internal factors like a dramatic change of strategy. You could also be working on multiple projects at the same time that could to be polar opposites. Not everyone can hack this type of environment but sometimes the best way to grow is to be constantly challenged and engaged, and you can also pick up secondary skills like time management. However, it is important to recognise when you are in an environment that gives you a healthy challenge or one that is overloading you with work.
You’re a nurturer.
In-house — A great perk of an in-house UX role is that you have the chance to work on a product, reiterate, expand and contribute to its growth. We can’t be perfect first time around and there is nothing more satisfying than designing a user journey, seeing it in production, then taking observations to continuously improve. By working in-house you have the luxury of following up on results and seeing these improvements gradually come to life. You can allow yourself to really care and invest in what you’re working on.
You want to build on your experience or are unsure of what you want to do.
Agency — An agency is a perfect place to experiment. You’ll be facing new projects and clients regularly which will inevitably expose your different skill sets. Whether these are skills you can build on or learn from scratch, the agency environment can help you become clearer on the type of UX Designer you want to be. You might find you love the research side more or prefer working on a specific product type. With the range of projects you’ll get to work on, it will definitely bring clarity on what aspects you enjoy the most.
You know what you want to do.
In-house — Typically when you’re hired for an in-house role it’s for a specific skillset. The edge case would be start-up environments where you could be expected to dabble in multiple areas. Chris Kernaghan gives a bit more insight into the start-up life for a UX Designer in his article, “How to survive the startup life as a UX designer.”
An in-house UX role can be a great way to concentrate on your area of expertise and push growth in that area. However, it’s also important to note that working in-house does not have to mean you are trapped in that one area. If you feel like you want to expand into other areas make sure you talk to your team and manager because most companies want to help you to develop into the best and happiest person you can be.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully this article will give you a bit of insight into what type of UX environment might suit you best moving forward. I’d really love to hear your own thoughts and experiences from an agency or in-house product UX roles so please leave a response below!
As always, stay tuned for my next article — stay safe and see you then!
Agency or In-House Product UX Role — What Would Suit You Best? was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.