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The most common pitfall with design agencies is the business focus on sales operations over the design process.

Before exploring the various drawbacks from this pitfall, it’s worth understanding the beginning to end of a design agency’s journey. It often starts with the RfQ (request for quotation) where the client provides a brief and requests a quote from the agency. In the instance the agency wins the bid, the SoW (Statement of Work) is signed. This kick starts a back and forth process where the agency executes the selected piece of work and then hands it back to the client for review and feedback.

Doing whatever to make the sale

As a common pitfall, design agencies can place more importance on making the sale rather than respecting the design process. The job of selling design services goes to someone who only knows how to make a sale by using design as a sales hook, rather than understands how design works. The agency can in turn win projects that are driven from a sales perspective.

Decisions can also be made without consulting the designer to make the proposal sound more appealing to the client. This fuels a lack of transparency for the designers who are meant to lead the actual design process. Without robust internal and external communication set up, changing the scope may come at a later point. As a result, this can cause more problems down the line for both the team and stakeholders involved.

Illustration of busy workers trying to manage work and deadlines

Lack of support for design thinking

The lack of support for UX/UI design from the agency can further set unrealistic expectations with the client on deliverables and scope. Clients may be not well informed on the benefits of abiding by design thinking principles or user research. Without being properly consulted on design, they may try to cut corners and skip out on steps that are otherwise critical to designing with the user in mind. The end result is that designs are driven by the client with no validation from end users.

Unrealistic and high-pressure deadlines

If clients are not properly informed about human centred design, there can also be misaligned client expectations on timelines. This can mean tight deadlines that place pressure on the whole project with a flow on effect for both design and delivery. Designers try to meet deliverables in time rather than embrace the reality that design can be a messy process. It ultimately can hinder design thinking practices and processes.

Now you’ve heard a bit about some UX UI agency pitfalls and how they run their businesses. Let’s talk about how things are done at Pretzel Lab.

No dodgy sales tactics – just honest proposals with client best interests for success

A huge part of the role at Pretzel Lab is clear communication (no jargon) and setting projects up in the right way for success for our clients and setting realistic timeframes for the work to be completed. This is one of the key differentiators and means no crazy hours late at night for the Pretzel lab/Mantel Group team trying to get things done to an unrealistic schedule. Pretzel lab not only cares about the client work and delivering value, but the wellbeing of staff members working on the projects.

The time and effort involved in a project is never underestimated just to get the sale. Pretzel Lab are very honest and up front with proposals tailored to client needs and what will be involved in a successful project. Designers are involved in the proposal process so that the work involved is captured correctly and the project is set up for success for both parties.

Not just taking a brief, doing the job and moving on

Pretzel Lab help to unpick the underlying need of the client to work collaboratively with them to figure out the best approach to move forward into discovery and design through to delivery and beyond. A project is never completed without future thinking and a pathway forward for the client so they are setup for future success.

Close client collaboration

Close collaboration with the client across the whole project from initial conversations through to delivery is key. Clients are never left wondering where their project is at as transparency across the whole project is how Pretzel lab operates.

Pretzel lab will tailor the level of communication and collaboration to each client, booking daily standups and stand downs if needed to make sure everyone is up to date on what is happening and aware of what part they need to play in the project. We use collaborative tools like Miro, Figma and many others where we share the boards we’re working on with the client so they can see what we’re working on at any given time.

Values led, not money led

A lot of UX UI agencies measure the success of their business and people through how they meet their revenue targets. Pretzel lab, along with Mantel Group are principles and values led, meaning we believe that by standing by our values and principles and investing in a great working culture – great people and profitable work follows. We use these values and principles when prospecting new work or clients to ensure that they align with what we stand for. The result of this is a great supporting culture and place to work internally which also extends externally as well.