Business Models

SURVEY: User Experience in Agencies

Take the survey now: UX in Agencies Survey

Do a Google search for “traditional agency” and you’ll find a page of results debating whether and how full-service agencies can integrate digital skills into their mix. As agencies change with the times, they build in new practices and disciplines, hire new people and explore new ways of working.

How agencies embrace digital skills and processes is a big subject, so I’ll limit myself to one area: how do agencies incorporate user experience into their existing toolkit? (If you’re needing a definition of user experience, there are many; Eric Reiss’s is a good one.)

Over the past ten years, many traditional agencies have hired user experience people — from bringing in one lonely information architect or usability specialist, to building whole teams of interaction designers and content strategists. Some even place senior UX pros at the same level as creative directors. How effective has this approach been at integrating user experience principles and values into the agency?

At the same time, digital agencies have grown larger (and more bureaucratic.) Many digital agencies brought UX into the fold early, and it’s likely that a large digital agency also has a large UX team. But digital agencies aren’t immune from challenges in integrating UX, creative, and strategy practices. How does the breakdown of roles and responsibilities work in digital agencies?

I’m working on a benchmarking report to examine how user experience fits into traditional and digital agencies. I’m exploring questions like:

  • How does UX fit into the overall organizational structure?
  • How do UX people work with other disciplines on project teams?
  • What makes for effective collaboration (and what are the barriers that prevent it)?

If you have ever worked for an agency and would like to contribute, here’s a brief survey:

UX in Agencies Survey

If you have a lot to say on this subject, please let me know so we can talk via phone or email.


2 thoughts on “SURVEY: User Experience in Agencies

  1. gad romann says:

    Why we should stop blaming big agencies?

    It is easy to criticize big agencies for our own failings.
    I’ve been traveling on the road to the future for quite a while now. I’ve always had a tendency to place the blame for the slowness of clients to adapt at the doorstep of the big agencies.
    Sure, big agencies have economic practices to protect. But so do clients.
    They both share in the blame (there’s enough to go around) for not moving into the future with clarity and alacrity.
    But the real problem lies with us. Those of us who connect to new thinking are better connected to the consumer than most.
    It was only a few years ago at a 4A’s conference that I discussed my notion that consumers have moved way ahead of the industry. I went on to say that we were still using old insights and old techniques for the new consumer who, for all intent and purpose, was leaving us behind. that our industry was the major loser in the fight for the survival of the fittest. And the consumer was the clear winner.
    Evolutionary Psychology teaches us that there is much more to consumer “Trait Displays” then we realized. And it seems to be taking us forever to crack the code. All we hear is noise without understanding it.
    Those of us who are intimately connected to consumers and hear the noise have an obligation not to blame but to teach. I suggest a simple solution: We should form an association, or even use ones we already have, to make impartial presentations to agencies and clients alike.
    These presentations would be made by people from various disciplines from UX types to Social Media Theorists. This kind of approach would benefit everyone. Even those we don’t like. Think of it as the collective overcoming the tragedy of the commons.
    To anyone who is interested I suggest they read Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions) by Elinor Ostrom.
    Let me know if you’re interested.

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