A Complete Guide to Web Design Outsourcing

There is a great temptation to cut corners when it comes to product development. In fact, it’s sometimes considered prestigious, or even a sign of wisdom, when you can boast about being able to trim the fat while helping to bring your product to market. And yet, the reality is that making the right set of trade-offs at the right stage of product development requires in-depth knowledge of what goes into it and what costs. Embrace the hidden costs to make a viable budget, and only then trim it. 

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What is Web Design Outsourcing?

Web design outsourcing is the practice of entrusting the design of a website or other web products to third-party contractors. The contractors in question are usually web design agencies or full-cycle outsourcing companies. Some organizations also decide to outsource a design project to a freelancer you can find on platforms like Behance or Upwork. Let’s compare these three options and see which one to go for.

Web Design Outsourcing vs. In-House Design Team

The choice between outsourcing a web design project or hiring a web designer or an entire design team is primarily a question of cost-effectiveness. No one will argue with the fact that an in-house web design department is probably the best option in terms of the team’s involvement in the company’s operations, familiarity with its mission and goals, and overall quality of work.

However, when you hire a full-time design team to work in-house, you can face two major issues. First, this is the most expensive option out of the three, as you need to take care not only of the hourly rates of your designers, but also of additional expenses like taxes, benefits, and increased office space. Second, after the designers finish working on your project, there may not be enough tasks to hand over to them afterwards. This means that it only makes sense to hire a full-time web design team when you have a steady flow of design projects and are ready to face the overhead costs.

Web Design Outsourcing vs. Working With a Freelancer

If you’re not prepared to hire an in-house team of designers but still want to approach web design effectively and quickly, the next idea you may get is to outsource your web design project to a freelancer. There are plenty of platforms where freelancers showcase their best work and usually state their rates and availability, so you can find everything you need to know about the designer from their profile. And the cost of outsourcing a design job to a freelance artist often turns out to be lower than collaborating with an outsourced web designer on a full-time basis.

Still, the general consensus among companies with experience in website design and development is that the freelancer option is only suitable for small, one-time design tasks, not large projects that have the potential to impact your brand identity, popularity, and reputation, like a new website or web application design.

The problem with freelance designers is that they typically charge per task completed. Since they are not usually compensated for the hours of work spent on the project, they will not be very motivated to take extra time to get to know your company, what you stand for, and essential project details like a long-term design and development partner normally would. This often means that the outcome of the project will depend more on the designer’s own vision than the way the company positions itself and is perceived by others.

Design Agency vs. a Full-Cycle Design and Web Development Company

One of the first choices you’ll need to make after deciding to outsource your web design project is whether to look for a niche design agency or go for a full-cycle outsourcing partner who will take care of both design and development. Here is why you may consider working with a design agency:

  • Vast design experience. A design agency will usually have decades of combined experience between all employees in design — specifically, web design. These designers are well familiar with UI/UX quality standards and know what users want to see in a good website.
  • Creativity and innovation. Web designers working in a specialized agency are usually people who live and breathe design. They keep up with all the trends, use innovative approaches, unleash their creativity, and venture far beyond the usual design baselines to deliver work that resonates with users.
  • Fostering collaboration. More often than not, a design agency will actively engage the client’s team for brainstorming sessions, as well as discussions of concepts and evaluating design iterations, encouraging the client’s creative efforts and demonstrating the importance of design first-hand.

Still, when you need to outsource both design and web development, a full-cycle outsourcing partner is also a viable option. Here is why this option may be a better choice for you:

  • Cohesive development. When the design and the development teams work in the same organization and regularly collaborate on projects, the result of their work is going to be web design that is perfectly tailored to the preferred development technologies and approaches, creating the exact website you’ve envisioned.
  • Smooth integration. Outsourcing web development to the same company who does your design means the developers will be able to start their work early and react faster to the changes in web design. They will also ensure a flawless link between each design element and corresponding technical functionality, which is exactly what you ultimately want in a well-designed website.
  • Dynamic approach. In addition to having multidisciplinary teams consisting of not just designers, but also developers, business analysts, software testers, and more, full-cycle firms have plenty of experience in scaling projects up and down, as well as accommodating rapidly changing business needs.

At the end of the day, the choice between a design agency and a full-cycle outsourcing company comes down to your needs and expectations. If you value creativity and innovation over everything else, and also have the resources to develop the website in-house or have a reliable development vendor, a design agency may be the better option. In case you are looking to develop an entire website with the help of external providers and want smooth, efficient collaboration, a full-cycle outsourcing firm is the superior choice.

“To me, one of the biggest benefits of outsourcing a design project to a full-cycle development company is the level of communication and collaboration you will always find there. These employees have worked on multiple projects together and can move things forward at a faster rate and with better results than when the design and development teams work independently from each other.”

Anastasiia Shevtsova, UI/UX Designer, QArea

When to Outsource Website Design and When Not to Do It

Now that you know how outsourced web design and development work and why it’s better than working with freelancers, let’s find out when it’s best to outsource your design needs:

  • The project requires specific expertise. Design is among the fastest-moving aspects of tech, which is why one of the main reasons for outsourcing is the ability to easily add the expertise your current design setup is missing: for example, when no one on your team is familiar with a certain design technique or tool and there is no time to learn.
  • You want to cut costs. When it comes to website design, outsourcing allows you to start a project quickly without a large upfront investment, as outsourcing companies do not require a large advance payment. Moreover, the outsourcing vendor will be the one responsible for overhead project costs, from benefits to equipped workstations.
  • You need to mitigate the risks. When a lot of your future success is riding on an engaging, high-quality design of your website, outsourcing web design can help effectively mitigate the risks of quality issues, missed deadlines, or incomplete work, since an external web design partner typically has established processes that eliminate those risks.
  • You want to focus on core business needs. After all, web design and web development are only a small part of what a typical company does on a daily basis. Outsourcing design allows you to better focus on other essential tasks, helping you make sure that your core business goals don’t suffer in the process.
  • You want the ability to scale quickly. When you outsource your website design to a reputable partner, the cooperation usually comes with the ability to instantly scale your team up and down to better fit your changing business needs. This is not something you can afford with an in-house team.

“A designer with vast experience in specifically creating website designs can not only help a client unveil a strong online presence, but also analyze the current website and pinpoint all the issues and design weaknesses that prevent it from reaching key goals and metrics. This fresh perspective is an indispensable advantage of design outsourcing.”

Anastasiia Shevtsova, UI/UX Designer, QArea

As much as outsourcing design saves time and resources while expertly meeting the design needs of the company, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Here is where outsourcing website design may not be the best option:

  • Continuous iterations. Large design projects with frequent updates or multiple iterations are a better fit for an internal design department as opposed to a design outsourcing partner. With its help, you will be able to unveil changes on a faster schedule and build a dynamic, flexible process.
  • Security concerns. In case your company frequently deals with sensitive information or is focused on protecting its intellectual property, ensuring a secure collaboration with a design company and taking care of different access levels may turn out to be too much of a hassle.
  • Unique brand or project requirements. If your business embodies a one-of-a-kind idea with no direct competitors, or when the requirements of your design project are absolutely unique, an in-house team is more likely to fully understand your design needs and what needs to be done.
  • Rapid prototyping or testing. When your website design idea is still a work in progress and your design process includes a lot of experimentation and quick prototyping, an in-house team will have a more complete understanding of your needs and will be able to accommodate the changing requirements faster.
  • Design is a core business competency. In case designing websites is what your company is known for in the first place, keeping all the design operations in-house will better align with your business goals and will positively contribute to your company’s market positioning.

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How to Choose a Web Design and Development Team

The choice of an outsourced design team is perhaps the most important decision you can make once you decide to outsource your design project. You can count on a well-selected team to deliver high-quality work based on project demands and within the specified timeline, whereas a wrong choice of a team can cause you to release products later or deal with quality and organizational issues you’d rather avoid. Here are the things to consider when looking for a potential web design partner.

1. Define project goals and requirements

Before you can start shopping for a design vendor, you need to know what exactly you want to get in the end. Are you just looking for the design part, or do you also need someone to take care of the development? What is your approximate project budget and when do you need the work to be completed? Do you need rare design services and expertise, or does the scope of your project mostly fit into the usual breadth of web design? Answering these questions will help you narrow down the shortlist of vendors.

2. Research the available vendors

Now is the time to use Google, freelance platforms like Upwork and Behance, and outsourcing rating websites like Clutch and GoodFirms to create a list of companies that fit your requirements. Here you should look for such things as the scope of design and development services, years in the design industry, track record with completed projects, industries and types of design work a vendor specializes in, and customer reviews.

3. Further investigate the vendors

Once you have a few design outsourcing vendors you could potentially hire for your project, you should do a deeper dive into their work and reputation to make the right choice in the end. Specifically, you’ll need to pay attention to the portfolio, especially how it relates to your industry and the types of design services you require. You can also check out the company’s case studies to see if they have experience with projects similar to yours. If you need services beyond web design, you should also inquire about those.

4. Conduct the interviews

Even though the first interview with the prospective vendor only serves as an introduction, you can actually learn quite a lot from this first call. Is the company quick to schedule the call, or do you have to wait for days? Is the team on time for the call and with their cameras on, or does it seem like they don’t necessarily want to be there? Are they eager to discuss what they can do for you, or are you the only one asking questions? Is there follow-up communication after the call, or do they only respond to your requests? This is a great way to evaluate communication and commitment long before the actual project begins.

5. Ask about project management and processes

These are the two integral components of a successful design outsourcing project. Finely tuned, mature processes guarantee that the project will be finished on time and that no important parts of the project will be skipped. The project management style should also fit the way you already do things at your organization. For example, if you are used to using Agile project methodology, your outsourcing partner should be ready to build your cooperation around it.

“The more involved the client is in the negotiation process and after the start of the project, the better. That way, changes can be introduced instantaneously, and the design team can get a complete picture of the client’s requirements, business needs, and expectations, meaning everyone is happy with the results in the end and those results can be achieved in minimum time.”

Anastasiia Shevtsova, UI/UX Designer, QArea

6. Agree on the pricing and terms

By now, your list of potential vendors should be narrowed down to just one or two names. The question of prices will probably come up before that — for example, you may find out about the company’s rates on their Clutch profile or during the introductory calls. However, this time, the vendor should present a detailed project estimation: how long the project will take, which phases it will be broken into, and how much each phase is going to cost.

You will typically be able to choose from several engagement models like fixed cost, dedicated team, or time and material. Each model has its pros and cons, as well as the types of projects it fits best, and your potential partner should advise you on which one to go for.

7. Finalize the preparation and start the project

At the final stage of the selection process, you should discuss potential scope changes and cost overruns to find out how much flexibility the project allows. The vendor will also need to sign an NDA and other confidentiality clauses that will prevent intellectual property conflicts in the future. If possible, and if you have a big project in mind, you can start with a small trial project to make sure that you and your vendor are a good fit in terms of project management, culture, and desired outcomes.

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How Much Does Outsourcing Web Design Cost?

When researching web design outsourcing, you can often come across the idea that this service is priced at a fraction of the cost of establishing an in-house design team. But is it actually the case and what is the average cost of designing a web product with the help of in-house designers versus outsourcing the project to various overseas providers? Let’s look at the factors impacting pricing in web design and how much a typical website would cost to design.

Factors that impact the cost

There are several factors influencing the cost of a design project, both directly and indirectly. Here are the most important ones:

  • Complexity of the design. The more unique and complex design elements, such as animations and other visual effects used for user appeal, the website includes, the more it will cost and the more time will be required to implement all the features.
  • Complexity of the business logic. In design, business logic refers to the way the users interact with the website to go from point A (opening the website) to point B (performing the desired action — making a purchase, subscribing to the newsletter, etc). Complex business logic obviously costs more to design and to implement.
  • Level of customization. There are websites that are designed completely from scratch, there are websites that mostly use templates for almost all pages, and there are websites that are somewhere in between. The level of customization will be one of the price-determining factors.
  • Number of website pages. It goes without saying that a five-page corporate website and a 1,000-page eCommerce store will be priced differently. The number of unique page layouts also matter: personalization and flexibility are typically worth a lot in web design.
  • SEO requirements. More and more companies now want to make their websites SEO-friendly not just with the help of content, but also with the help of the design. SEO-inclusive website design will cost you more and will also require a more thorough selection process when looking for a vendor.

The cost of outsourcing design

If building an in-house design department is not on your to-do list — whether because of budget concerns or because you want to keep your organization lean and are not sure if you need a full-time design team — outsourcing is the most cost-effective alternative. But how much exactly does it cost to outsource web design to an external provider based on location?

North America

On paper, North America seems to be the perfect place to outsource your design needs to: US and Canadian designers are well-educated, follow the design trends, and have a familiar work culture and zero language barrier. However, this location is also the most expensive one of the bunch: the lowest rate you can find is $40 per hour for a freelancer or junior designer, and the rate can go all the way up to $200 for a senior-level specialist.

Western Europe

Western Europe is another popular design outsourcing location. Countries like Germany, France, and the Netherlands have thousands of talented and productive designers. Western European design services are also less expensive than those of North America: hourly rates there start at $30 per hour and can reach about $140 for a senior designer. On the downside, EU countries have strict tax and employee benefits policies that can drive up the final price.

Latin America

In the past few years, Latin American countries like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil have emerged as new and popular software outsourcing hubs. These countries offer highly competitive rates — from $20 per hour for a junior designer to $80 for a senior-level design specialist. However, there is a catch: Latin America as a whole has a more relaxed work culture, which may not be the perfect fit for your needs, and there can be a language barrier as well.


Asia may be the one outsourcing destination with the lowest prices: a junior designer in countries like India, Philippines, and Indonesia charges like $10 per hour, and a senior-level designer won’t cost you more than $60 per hour. The downsides of outsourcing design to Asia are similar to Latin American outsourcing: there is an issue of language barrier and time zone differences, and there may be a need for a higher level of day-to-day control.

Eastern Europe

With rates ranging from $20 per hour for a junior-level designer to $80 for a senior designer, Eastern Europe may not be the cheapest outsourcing location, but it’s the one that offers you the best results for the money. Even though the outsourcing landscape in Eastern Europe has shifted since 2022, countries like Ukraine, Poland, and Romania remain some of the best web design outsourcing destinations in terms of quality, prices, work culture, and lenient local laws that favor foreign organizations.

How to Effectively Outsource Web Design

With the number of outsourcing companies operating today, finding a partner for a web design project is not a difficult thing to do. Getting the results you want, however, can be more challenging. Here are some tips for making the most of your outsourced design project.

1. Be very specific about your goals and requirements

This piece of advice may seem obvious, but ignoring this step can result in disappointing project outcomes. Being vague about what you want to achieve leads to results that satisfy the designer but not the customer. Moreover, the requirements and other features of a design project must be put into writing — this helps avoid confusion and misunderstanding for all parties involved.

2. Call the shots in communication channels and schedule

How often your team reports to you and how exactly it’s done mostly depends on what you request before the project begins. You can ask to be involved in the brainstorming sessions as well — the team may appreciate your contribution to the process. In addition to that, you will be able to quickly react to new developments within the project, correcting the course if necessary.

3. Look for designers with narrow expertise

There are designers who aim for being a jack of all trades: they can do illustrations, UI/UX design, animations, visual effects for websites, video production, brand identity, and more. However, you can achieve the best results with a designer who specializes in up to two or three design tasks and is merely familiar with the rest of them. That way, you can ensure the desired level of expertise and have the designer’s work fit your quality expectations.

“Any design work, whether it’s an illustration, a logo, or a landing page, starts with a sketch that is done by hand. This is why it’s critical for a web designer to be able to draw by hand. This creates a better connection between the designer’s imagination and their output, and helps test out ideas and throw out the ones that don’t work faster.”

Anastasiia Shevtsova, UI/UX Designer, QArea

4. Set realistic expectations and timeline

An easy way to avoid disappointment in project outcomes or how long it takes to finish it is to make sure the deadlines and goals look realistic. Web design is prone to iterations, revisions, and frequent updates, and those also take time and therefore need to be accounted for in the initial calculations. In turn, your organization needs to provide feedback and make decisions quickly, so that your lack of input does not become a blocker for the vendor’s team.

5. Prioritize user experience and accessibility

With all the web design trends and creative ideas circulating in the field, it can be very tempting to incorporate as many of them as possible into a new design project, especially if you’re only paving the way for your company online or if it’s a long-overdue redesign of an old website. However, web design projects that prioritize an engaging UX and all-around accessibility are the projects with the highest chance of success in 2024.

6. Test, iterate, and improve

Expecting the first version of the website’s design to also be the final one is usually a miscalculation on the client’s part. Just like web development, designing a website is a process where the stakeholders need to frequently evaluate what has been done, offer constructive feedback, and monitor the improvements. To create a website that resonates with the audience, it’s also important to gain feedback from different categories of prospective users and take their suggestions into account.

7. Plan for maintenance and support

One of the benefits of working with an outsourcing vendor instead of a freelancer is that you get to engage the designer for as long as needed, even after the principal part of the project is over. Specifically, having a designer, who is already familiar with all the project specifics, by your side during and after the deployment, allows you to quickly react to changes and keep up with user expectations more effectively.

Challenges of Website Design Outsourcing

We have already talked about the benefits of a design outsourcing service, how to pick a design team for outsourcing, and how to make the most of this experience. Finally, let’s talk about the challenges you can face when you decide to outsource website design.