The cost of DIY design: Why hiring a professional UI designer is worth the investment for internal projects

When developing an app for internal purposes, it can be tempting to take on all aspects of the project internally, including the design. After all, if you developed the app, why not design it too? 

That was our line of thinking when we started developing a team management app, meant to be used at our partner’s firm, Panos Inzenjering. We thought we had all the parameters and that we knew what our users wanted.

Well, after testing the app with the people inside the company, we found out that the design is not as appealing as we thought it would be. In fact, they couldn’t form a habit of using it because it was just too… Ordinary. 

This is a common pitfall of DIY design, and it can have a significant impact on the success of your app. Since we learned this on our own project, we thought it might be helpful to share the experience and save you some time.

Poor user experience hurts your brand 

The user experience is critical to the success of any app. If users find the design clunky, unappealing, or difficult to navigate, they will quickly lose interest and move on to a competitor’s product (or in our case, older and ineffective ways of doing certain tasks.)

A poor user experience can quickly spread through word-of-mouth and negatively impact your reputation.

A professional UI designer knows this and can tell right from the start if something’s a good idea. They’ll recommend testing and provide you with data that’ll bring even the most hard-opinionated team members to the same page.

Professionals bring fresh perspectives and challenge assumptions

Hiring a professional UI designer can bring a fresh perspective to your project and challenge your assumptions about design. They’ll bring a level of expertise and experience, new ideas and insights to the table. You might discover that you need more (or fewer!) features.

In SmaRF, we love experimentation and we’re open to tests and fresh suggestions. Yet, sometimes it happens that we hold on to ideas like they’re sacred. 

When doing something so complex on your own, it might seem that everything’s good as long as the person with the biggest title approves.

As a team, we thought certain colors were great for interface elements. Well, the users weren’t, and that’s what matters, right?

Consistent and cohesive design keeps people happy

Such design makes it easier for users to navigate and interact with your app. In other words, it reduces frustration, which is a big factor in huge companies. For example, we’re building a vacation tracking and approval module that will be used by internal staff and engineers.

They’re already doing a demanding job and tracking their vacation, syncing with administration, and wasting time on figuring out how the app works every time they turn it on would just be a waste of time.

Our internal tests have shown that the first version wasn’t as intuitive and they’d just go back to good old email communication – something we wanted to reduce.

The opportunity cost of DIY design

While we may believe we’re saving money by taking on all aspects of the project, including the design, it’s actually the opposite sometimes. 

The cost of poor user experience, frustrated users, and damage to your internal processes can far outweigh the cost of hiring a professional.

On the other hand, your team runs in circles because they can’t put a finger on what’s wrong with the app. And time trackers don’t stop.

By investing in a professional, you could at least avoid many of these headaches. Learn from our experience.

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