Is UI UX remote freelancing a dead end?


#1

At the moment there seems to be a lot of opportunities for one to work from home without direct contact with clients. This blog entry shows someone who was able to take advantage of this:

http://ivomynttinen.com/blog/my-year-2013-in-numbers/

However, I wonder if there’s really a future in this given how much more complicated Interaction Design is bound to become. Commercial website and mobile apps, which seem to the be bulk of UI UX jobs right now, are doable for a lone talented designer but I am guessing when the future market branches into more complicated areas (such as interaction design of physical devices, video games, and much much more) it will require constant interaction with folks from other disciplines, ie working directly onsite.

I have pretty much no professional experience in the field but these are my immediate thoughts. For practical reasons I am considering doing remote freelance design, even possibly for the long run, but I’m starting to think the profession is eventually going to require one to be onsite at all times.

What are your thoughts? Would freelance in this case really just mean constant relocation? In which case, doesn’t appeal at all to me as lifestyle…

Cheers for reading.


#2

Foremost, UI, UX and Interaction Design are specific terms that must be distinguished. UX nor IxD are synonyms for “digital design” or “interactive design”.

  • UI, for User Interface Design, is about designing the artifact. In simple words, “how the screen(s) will exactly look like”.

  • UX, for User Experience Design, is about defining and achieving certain behaviors, attitudes, and emotions on certain users of a particular product, system or service. In order to do so, user research is mandatory, as well as the design disciplines involved in the defined problem space. It may also be necessary to impact strategic definitions and even the organization itself.

  • IxD, for Interaction Design, is about defining the structure and behavior of interactive systems in order to support a desired User Experience.

Secondly, remote work imposes a restricted communication bandwidth, which in turn constrains the kind of projects you will be able to be successfully involved with. By “successfully” I mean: the project does not extend over schedule, budget and/or scope (as in being stuck in infinite revision loops), objectives are fulfilled, and the client is satisfied with the final product.

Those are all risks a project face. By working remotely and solo, your ability to manage those risks will be severely limited.

In my experience, successfully working remotely and solo is perfectly possible with clients that can clearly define valid requirements, and/or you don’t challenge them much. That fits UI (user interface design) jobs.

On the other hand, UX projects are about objectives rather than requirements. There is absolutely no UX without client, team and user involvement. Teamwork, management and professional experience are critical. Those are some of the reasons why UX is moving out of the delivery business, and towards a consulting practice. Also, you must have quite a name for a client to write a big cheque without expecting to talk to you face to face even once.

TL;DR: remote freelancing can work for UI jobs. I won’t recommend it at all if you really want to get into UX professional practice, as human contact defines the discipline.


Santiago Bustelo


#3

Ah thank you, the clarification helps a lot. What I really had in mind was IxD but I would assume this would also be similar to UX in that it would necessitate onsite work? Particularly if it is dealing with new physical devices or branching into other disciplines such as video games. Even with just one onsite IxDer, I imagine conversing through skype and email just wouldn’t be flexible enough.

Cheers.


#4

UX and IxD practice need onsite work, as a key point is dealing with people.

Question may be – which is that “onsite”? Your location may be valuable if the people you can deal with there is valuable.

For instance, at my consultancy we have clients from US that are interested in the Latin America markeplace. So our cultural knowledge and access to local users are an asset for those projects rather than an issue.


#5

I’ve found that either can be done remotely, but with caveats. Personally, I’ve done a few remote IXD/UXD contracts. It really depends on the team, tools, communication & workflow.

I’d say that it could be a struggle to work remotely if you’re the only UXD on a project. Deep planning is faster and easier in person. That being said, if there are multiple UXDs on a project and ONE of them is able to be physically present, that can work. Both have worked for me in the past, but it’s so dependent upon how efficient the workflow, tools and communication are, in my experience.

Some things are always easier to plan in person, but strategically chosen tools and streamlined communication can go a very long way toward mitigating that problem.


#6

Not really? In fact, UI freelancing jobs have increased over the last couple of years as more and more companies are upgrading their apps with respect to user-friendly design. You just need to look in the right places. There are some freelance portals where you can find such jobs, one such example of these portals is this guide on Webemployed. If you find success please let others know.