External UX Research Teams - why or why not?

Fellow UXers, just wanted to get a feel for your opinions on using external ux research teams (contracting out this type of service).


  • Because they will have the skills to do the research (and you may not)
  • They will have time (and you may not)

Why not:

  • Cost
  • Sometimes it’s hard to do really good research without knowing the product well. I’ve seen some pretty ordinary results where researchers didn’t know enough to know when they’d seen something interesting; or didn’t know the right questions to follow up.

Watch for:

  • Make sure you arrange some way of getting the deep insights out of the researcher’s heads and into your team’s. There is little point having the researcher know all kinds of awesome stuff and you not. Get them to video or audio record, take you along, provide transcripts. Don’t let them just give you a summary report at the end - it will never cover the depth that you really need

Great concise summary, Donna!

I’d add that, depending on the organisation and the size of the project, there’s also value in having the external team perform some training on conducting research as part of the handover (which may just be that they take you along). Like Donna mentioned, there’s a good chance that the staff know the product much better than any consultant could hope to in compressed timeframes, and if they’re the right personality they could be shown the ropes, and voila—those skills (well, the beginnings of) are now in-house.

In my opinion it is like always , there shouldn´t be a external or internal UX-expert question.
You should take a look at the strength and weaknesses of both to strengthen both of them.
So it should be a Pro - Pro List where both end up as winners to strenghten UX in the process

I want to add some issues:

Pro External:

  • External UX consultancies have probably lot´s of expert´s having a state of the art view
  • They may give you a fresh opinion sight which is valuable for the overall result of the project. ( The more ideas you take into account … the better may be your result at the end). Not having contact with a project can also be an advantage
  • Can deliver deliverables under lead of internal Expert – have the time to create highlight videos and so on
  • Serve as a kind of quality control for general user experience
  • can be requested when there is need and when money is available
  • create ideas based on other projects in the external consultancies
  • Internal UX Experts can reuse material created from external consultancies

Pro internal:

  • Probably have better insight in the project
  • Know how to influence deciding stakeholders, can streamline UX reports to be heard and not ignored
  • stronger connection to internal design teams and developers, know the skills
  • Can serve as a kind of quality control for external consultants
  • can institutionalize UX in the company and continuisly train in day to day work

I am sure there are some more points but in one sentence I think best solution is a combination of internal and external UX experts