The Best UX Design Firms
By employing the full force of design businesses strive to create unique and meaningful user experiences. With every dollar invested in user experience reportedly delivering $100 or an incredible 9.900% ROI, the value of UX is undeniable. A UX design agency will not only produce winning numbers but will make all the different stages of product service run smoothly.
So how do you choose a partner that will both provide an exceptional design with a lasting impression on your customers? We’ve prepared a list of top-performing user-conquering agencies. So, read on to learn all about them, along with how to go about selecting your UX design partner.
2020’s Leading UX Design Firms
Average Hourly Rate
With a rich portfolio and 20 years of experience, Praxent is a US-based agency that does not leave anything to chance. Specializing in the financial industry with digital innovation as their ally, they help clients grow and gain an advantage over their competition with the ultimate goal to dominate the market.
San Mateo, CA
Established in Silicon Valley and operating globally, Momentum is a true leader of user experience with impeccable accomplishments worldwide. This award-winning agency offers a variety of innovative services which build powerful connections between businesses and their customers.
Los Angeles, CA
“Build It Right the First Time” is the motto of Los Angeles-based Goji Labs’ dream team. Conceived as a boutique software consultancy, this agency accelerates growth with a special focus on mitigating risks.
San Francisco, CA
Housed in San Francisco, Clay is a top-performing and full-service UI/UX design and development agency. Powered up by 32 designers and developers with 11 years of experience in the field, the Clay UX design and branding have been recognized for its creativity by clients such as Google, Facebook, Slack, and Sony.
Brave UX is a full-service UX agency from Washington, DC. Its team of daring experts base their solutions on extensive user research delivering experiences rich in empathy and intuition. The company excels at resolving complex tasks and developing state-of-the-art interfaces.
Skookum is a digital strategy, design, and software development firm founded in 2005 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Skookum diverse team specializes in solving complex digital challenges. If you are seeking innovative and competitive transformation for your business, this agency with savvy digital experts might just be what you are looking for.
As a leader in UX design, Fuzzy Math from Chicago has been serving clients from all over the world since 2009. Fuzzy Math offers services in both UX design and team organization which engage users, win markets, prioritize growth and bring efficiency to complex systems.
With more than nine years of experience in the industry, Codal is a full-stack mobile app development and UX design outfit based in Chicago. Their team of creators and innovators has a common vision of delivering empowering brand visibility and elegant solutions.
This San Francisco-based multidisciplinary agency focuses on UI/UX design, branding, mobile, and web development. So far Ramotion has worked with both Fortune 500 companies and growing Silicon Valley startups delivering outstanding solutions and winning results.
Housed in Southern California, CreateApe is a digital agency with more than 15 years of experience in the field of UX/UI design. Their team of visionary professionals offers creative, comprehensive and personalized solutions to deliver the ultimate user experience for their clients.
San Francisco, CA
Product design and UX analytics are the fields Awesomed excels at in driving growth. This California-based digital company relies on the science of data-driven design and research to create the best possible product for the end-user.
The Budapest-based UX studio has worked with startups and large enterprises from all over the world with dedication on UX design and research. Building prototypes and user interfaces is what UX studio does best. Their rich client portfolio includes brands such as HBO, UN, BOSCH, UEFA, Netflix, T-Mobile, Wizz Air.
Selecto is a Ukrainian design company promising to unlock the potential of your idea, placing design-based thinking at the core of their work. Their customer-centered approach goes beyond established patterns and explores new and refined products for happy customers.
Chicago-born MSTQ focuses exclusively on UX/UI design to deliver perfection at its best. With their goals are set on making technology usable and beautiful, and with clients from various fields such as Google, Union Pacific Railroad, Catapult Sports, MSTQ is reshaping the future of user experience as we know it.
Dreamten is a UX design studio that promises to deliver massive ROI and help your digital business prosper. If you are looking to design or redesign your app or scale up your web app, Dreamten are the ones you turn to. Their dream team conducts extensive data analysis, organizes and visualizes projects to deliver extraordinary user experiences.
What to Look for in a UX Design Agency
The main objective of UX design is to connect your business to users. This is done by careful investigation of competitors, extensive market research and last but not least, discovering users’ desires. An in-depth analysis of the needs and demands of potential customers is vital to ensure the product will be friendly, functional and wanted by the target audience. To make sure that a UI/UX design company can deliver on all of this and more, we evaluated multiple factors. Read on to learn more about what we took into account.
A Rich Portfolio
Years of experience or a listicle of skills and tools is no measure for mastery when it comes to user experience design. The purpose of a portfolio is to outline the cumulative experience or rather, the broad specter of skills contributed by every member of the team. It is not just about showcasing projects but an opportunity for user experience design firms to explain the design process, decisions made along the way and finally, present a measurable statement of what the design or redesign has accomplished. A rich portfolio, therefore, is essential to verify an outfit’s proficiency.
An Established UX Design Process
Design is an iterative process and there is always room for improvement. In all honesty, in the kingdom of design things are never truly finished. And although a stellar agency has its unique style of research, design, and testing, new insights are uncovered all the time. A team of savvy UX designers should apply a research-driven approach while staying on top with the latest developments in the field.
Deep UX Research
Deep user research means an actionable and testable understanding of users’ needs. This phase is the starting point and bedrock of the UX design process. The only way to accommodate users and win them over is by studying their behavior, needs, goals, and motivation. This, however, is a strenuous task even for the best UX design agencies and demands a high level of empathy.
Exploring users from different backgrounds and the way they interact with the product, requires perspective-taking. This way the agency knows whether the design is good enough. So, here are some of the different types of research used:
- Card sorting where audience members organize different topics into groups to help build information infrastructure.
- Focus groups to explore the ideas, needs and attitudes of the target audience or how the product addresses them and are later used for product usability tests.
- (Online) Surveys or questionnaires that collect data about what the audience wants from the product and are usually used at a more advanced stage by the UX designer.
- Heuristic Evaluation & Expert Reviews are excellent in discovering the design’s usability issues and assess interface.
- Personas are based on prior web analytics and provide reliable representations of important audience segments to highlight the different users that will be using the product.
- Use cases are scenarios of potential interaction sequences between users and the product aimed at achieving a certain goal.
Note: The research described here is essential for the project to be initiated. Plus, it’s good for business as it saves both clients and UI/UX design companies time, money and resources.
Evaluating usability is all about getting answers on how effortlessly users interact with the product, how effectively it reaches the desired goal and finally, whether it makes the cut. To acquire this information, practices such as wireframing, prototyping and testing are used.
What is wireframing?
A wireframe is a visual guide, a diagram of the website, app or software and can be as simple as a sketch on a piece of paper. It serves to show how the images and content will be prioritized and distributed, how space will be allocated and what functions will be available. Wireframing is not about colors or styling. Instead, UX design companies use it to navigate and structure the product or site to demonstrate its functionalities.
What are prototypes used for?
Once the wireframing is done, a prototype can be created. This is the first version of a site or product and aims to represent the final version of the product and its user interface. Prototypes show the vision of the UX team and what they intend to do with the product. They can also be easily changed without any major costs to the client or the team.
Why do UI/UX design firms need testing?
Testing is a costly and time-consuming phase but for user experience, it’s a must. If an agency is not confident to test the product before it is launched, it cannot guarantee its quality. The very purpose of testing is to resolve any unpredicted challenges or usability issues before the product is rendered completed.
User Interface Design
UI design is where intuition comes into play. It is the interaction between the user and the product or how the product feels to the user. An exceptional UX/UI designer considers the visual and interactive elements to produce an intuitive UI. To accomplish this, designers build efficient interfaces that users easily interact with. A stellar UI design has delightful features and allows users’ intuition to probe through the interface but also creates the illusion that they are effortlessly attaining their goals.
A Varied Skillset
We believe that the best UX design firm should employ teams that in addition to the design and technical skills, also possess soft skills. Communication, patience, collaboration, flexibility, and open-mindedness not only complement raw technology but also enable effective collaboration and pave the way to satisfying both your users and the client’s needs.
Good Project Management
In our evaluation, we only considered UX design firms that operate on the basis of clearly defined project plans. Effective project management involves on-schedule product delivery, frequent updates and open communication between the client and the design agency. A solid plan in combination with great management is what determines a project’s success. Let’s see how it works.
First and foremost a competitive analysis report must be conducted. This report will outline the competitors and indicate where they score best but it will also show their weaknesses. Having done this, the UX design firm will have the knowledge to create a superior UX design and outperform competitors regardless of the market.
The workflow and tools used by the agency were the second most important management factors which influenced our ranking. Mastery in leading UI blueprint designing tools such as Sketch, MockFlow, Axure, and Adobe XD definitely made our decision easier. In addition, if their competencies in mapping, planning and coordinating were rock-solid it meant the workflow was being accordingly handled. To put it simpler, the workflow of a UX agency is all about how efficiently teams collaborate.
And finally, specifications for developers must be realistic, honest and transparent. Designers must be on the same page with developers. The style guide and design specifications absolutely must provide clear instructions about the full functionality of the project. At this stage, synergy is vital because a design may be brilliant but if the developer doesn’t fully understand it, they cannot possibly transform its brilliance into code.
For this segment, we based our research on the hourly price charged by UI/UX design agencies and the amount of time that should be invested for delivering top-notch results. We prioritized agencies that take pride in transparency since some would charge extra for additional design-details or perfecting features which are essential to the project. Quality UX is costly but engages users, drives conversions, and boosts ROI which at the end of the day, is priceless.
How to Choose a UX Design Agency to Fit Your Needs
In addition to providing you with a list of agencies along with information about our ranking methodology, we’ve also prepared a list of things for you to consider when selecting the option that would work best for you. The right UX design partner can do wonders for your business, so careful selection is paramount.
Consider the Type of UX Agency You Need
The initial step is to define the business goal behind the need for UX design. UX design firms specializing in programming could do a remarkable job for a functioning product but may fail at enhancing usability. On the other hand, a company with a great track record in design may not be that good at software engineering but will do an excellent job of transforming usability based on extensive user research and testing. At the end of the day, it is all about the type of user experience you need and what matters most to your company. This is why our list of the best UX design firms features both boutique agencies and enterprises.
Consider the Location
There is literally an ocean of agencies, so location-wise there are plenty of options. Depending on your preferences, you can choose between local, ‘onshore’, ‘nearshore’ or ‘offshore’. If in-person meetings and physical access to your company will influence the final product, a local agency is your best option. ‘Onshore’ agencies open up the possibilities of choice and unlike local agencies, might save you some money. And finally, nearshore and offshore agencies might get you the top UX designers, plus significant savings. The downside of picking one of these two is possible difficulties in user testing and different time zones. That said, a well-established agency must excel at streaming meetings and using communication tools.
Read Third-Party Reviews
Employee satisfaction is an image of a company’s culture. So, don’t be afraid to dive deep into Google and Trustpilot directories, and also consider Glassdoor reviews. In case you know someone who has already worked with the UX design agency you’re thinking of hiring, ask them for more intel. Otherwise, try and find out more about the company’s legitimacy through social media pages or browsing through their recent content, if they have any. Active marketing more often than not is a sign of a healthy company proud of its work.
Consider the Agency's Scalability
The objective here is to investigate whether or not the agency has the required team or recruiting network to meet the size of the project. Large projects demand more resources and a scalable agency should have no issues adapting to it instantly. What is more, a competent user experience agency will have more than one trump card to play to get their clients exactly to where they want to go with the design.
Analyze the Services Scope
What needs to be identified here is whether the UX team is able to allocate resources to separately oversee the UX, UI design and development of your project. Many agencies out there handle web page design or branding but only a full-stack UX agency will produce solid metrics to base your project on. To find out the strategic direction of the UX design company, explore their blog or a simple designer vs. developers ratio would do. At the end of the day, if there are more developers than designers, it is definitely a developers’ motivated company.
Establish a Budget
When it comes to budget planning, you should consider several factors, including whether additional services are part of the initial price or if they will be billed extra. A tight budget will have you settle for a more affordable UX agency. Alternatively, you could consider building the project in phases. A short-deadline scenario meanwhile will require a larger team with the capacity to work under pressure which, let’s face it, costs more if you want it done right. Choosing UX solutions that will be implemented quickly might be the best option to avoid draining your funds if you are deadline-bound.
Questions to Ask the UX Design Agency Before Sealing the Deal
How will you manage to create an outstanding UX while respecting the many goals of my business?
Not many firms will take into account that injecting all your resources into UX might leave you high and dry, with insufficient funds to pursue other vital projects for your business. A great UX team will work together with you, as your external partner and it will not only produce an impressive UX design but will also help you realize the goals you’ve set for your company.
Do you employ UX researchers, consultants, and strategists?
Making sure the agency offers the UX design services which are relevant to your project is critical. An established UX design process must be followed through and it is not a one-man show. When the user research is completed, it is up to consultants and strategists to launch the project and fix potential usability issues so that the product serves its purpose on the market.
What analytics tools and key performance indicators (KPIs) do you apply for design evaluation?
Some of the best UI/UX design companies use tools such as Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, Woopra or Apsee to generate conversions. Analytics are a guide to push users towards actions that meet business objectives, so make sure your potential partner uses the right ones. KPIs, on the other hand, vary for each project and UX savants use a combination of behavioral and attitudinal KPIs. With the right combination of KPIs and constant measuring, any issues the design might have will be identified instantly.
What will your design mean for my bottom line and what ROI should I expect?
Hiring a top UX designer firm is costly but it pays off in the long run. That said, the final product should justify your investment. So, don’t be afraid to discuss with your potential partner what their product would have on your sales, long-term user loyalty, and employee productivity.
Can I work with the design team on an ongoing basis?
There is a fine difference between a fixed project and design. Design is an ever-changing process, so the option to work with the same team will likely be available. That said, make sure to discuss the terms of keeping said team on retainer.
FAQs About UX Design Firms
What is the difference between a UX researcher and designer?
The purpose of a UX researcher is to identify the needs and goals of the user, model the workflow and conduct usability research and testing. Based on this, they provide guidelines as to what areas need improvement. A designer meanwhile follows the results of the research to create usable and intuitive designs, fitted to the mental models of the users.
What is a UX Consultant?
A UX consultant is the person in charge of the visuals of the project. Interface, layout and content are the areas of expertise of a user experience consultant. They are the ones focusing on making the site or app intuitive to the user. An experienced UX consultant receives between $15 to $75 per hour.
How important is UX design?
The purpose of UX design is to make a product, useful, durable and gratifying. User experience ensures audience engagement, boosting conversion rates and growing revenues. It serves to fulfill the users’ needs and define their journey so they remain loyal to your product and brand. And if all this looks unbelievable and unattainable to you, just ponder on your experience as a user of Google or Amazon.
How much does a UX designer cost?
The top professionals in the field can complete a task within 200 hours at an average rate of around $100. An average level designer might take longer to complete the same task, say 400 hours, at a median rate of $60 per hour. To sum it up, the difference between superior and average design is around $4,000.
What information is necessary for an agency to start working on a UX project?
The UX design agency should have as much information as possible from the start. Start by describing the business and current goals which led to the decision of investing in user experience. Establish the target audience and key stakeholders. Provide a list of competitors, if available, and finally, set the deadline and budget plans. And remember, the first step towards an open and transparent communication is made even before you seal the deal.