The Digital Life: Are UX Agencies Dead?

by Jon Follett

Episode Summary

In this episode of The Digital Life, we talk about the state of the UX economy, and the implications it has for digital agencies.

Like wildfire, word of the demise of UX agencies is spreading through the community. Sparked by the acquisition of Adaptive Path, the closing of Smart Design in San Francisco, and an analysis by UX influential Peter Merholz, the intelligentsia are hailing the decline of UX and design agency work in technology. Exacerbating the situation are rumors that a variety of other agencies are in trouble, trying desperately to get bought as they prepare for a shutdown.

It's so easy to get caught up in a few data points and a good story. But what's really going on? 

Here are a few quotes from this week's discussion.

Jon on the ups and downs of the market for digital services: 
I think it would also be worth mentioning some of the ups and downs that we have experienced over the past 10 to 15 years in regards to both macro and micro economic factors. In particular, I’m thinking about the various waves that we had to ride, especially at the beginning of the internet technology boom. I can remember it was a very personal thing for me watching lots of start-ups go under during the dot bomb around 2000. Then, of course, that was quickly followed by the exodus of quite a few designers as a result of the 9/11 attacks that just decimated the economy and additionally this industry. 

Dirk on positive factors for agencies:
This is just nutty that people are saying that UX agencies are dead and the whole model of outsourcing design and digital design is dead. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Perhaps the first and the biggest [positive factor] is that software is only becoming more important, more mission critical to companies in every industry every day. We are already in a period that really was started by the success of the iPhone and the iPad, which took computing from something that was more work and geek based into every moment of every day of every middle class and above consumer in the United States at least based. The need for design, UX, anything pertaining to software has just been growing really quickly, and it’s only going to continue to grow. That is certainly a big factor. 

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Topics: Podcast