Our five-pronged approach focuses on your individual strengths to develop your unique qualities towards making you an exemplary pi- designer.
The product development process for software has come a long way in the last few decades. In this regard, Marcelo Cordini, Co-Founder of December Labs says, “Back in the day the business folks provided a list of requirements to developers. Once the code was done, the developers made changes to fonts and interactions. Sometimes, we would push the same design on Android as well as iOS. But today, I cannot imagine working on a development project without UI-UX design.” Unless startups come with a completely radical idea, they will need to compete with funded rivals that are equally determined. This is why startups need to invest in design and focus on crafting the best customer experience. It can help them raise funds, reduce support tickets, retain customers, prioritize feature development, and more.
The rise of designer-founded companies such as Airbnb, Pinterest, Square, Flickr, and Etsy has renewed the debate on why design is a critical success component for a startup. As per Design Management Institute, design-driven companies have maintained a significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P 500 by an extraordinary 211 percent over the past ten years. The leadership teams across such companies are keenly in touch with what their users need and leave no stone unturned in discussing the merits of their products and services with customers.
Early-stage startups have a lot going on. There is pressure to validate an idea, pitch investors for funding, hire qualified developers, and find product-market fit. In the background of such pressing concerns, it is common to see the design taking a backseat. Some of the most common reasons provided by startups for not hiring designers early on are-
“At startups, the challenges are opportunities since you have a vague idea about your product. A UI/UX designer helps cut through the ambiguity by interviewing users and compiling research notes. This, in turn, helps the startup focus limited resources towards solving problems that can make or break the customer experience.” - Philip Hunter, V.P. of Product at Pulse Labs.Here are some of the key functions of UI/UX Designers at Startups
1. User Research
A user researcher at a startup provides critical insights into the needs of end-users. The research is compiled via data collection techniques such as interviews and surveys. The UI/UX designer can also use analytical tools to compare user engagement across different visual variations of web pages or product screens. Cassie Wallander, Co-Founder of Invio believes that while interviewing a small sample of people, a couple of wrong answers can throw the interviewer off significantly. This is why it is important to ensure that you build something that addresses a broad problem instead of only catering to your first few customers. If the startup is too early-stage and still in the process of conceptualizing their M.V.P. (minimum viable product), then the designer can help build out a fictional persona based on the ideal future customer.
“The learnings during user research will help you develop a product management process over time. As you collate more ideas you can estimate the size and impact of those features. Before paying a developer thousands of dollars to develop the features, you can validate them by consulting with the designer. This is why I call UX research, a risk management tool for early-stage startups.” - Matt Millar, Director of Product Management at LionGuard
2. Visual Design
The visual designer or UI designer is responsible for crafting the elements of the website or product that the end-user can see. Through these visuals, an emotional relationship is formed with the user in line with the brand guidelines. So for example, a payments startup would want to ensure that their product visuals evoke a feeling of trust and security as they deal with confidential information. In a typical startup, a UI Designer plays the key role of crafting collaterals used for marketing and advertising. These collaterals include but are not limited to social media banners, website graphics, sales decks, digital advertisements, marketing whitepapers, etc. Thus, they are one of the linchpins of a startup's brand communications. At an early-stage startup, the focus is mostly on shipping features and achieving product-market fit. This is why Philip Hunter believes that in such cases UI designers should focus on visuals that help users complete their goals, without going too deep into the theoretical elements of typography or iconography.
3. Product Development
“As someone who works in Venture Capital, I have come across a few designer-focused companies. I remember this startup that built a beautiful and intuitive calendar that was a pleasure to interact with. Founders in such companies have a different approach than some sales guy starting a SaaS company. They care deeply about their craft and are very authentic, almost as if they are driven by a higher ideal”. - Jay Acunzo, VP of Platform at NextView Ventures.
Designers collect insights from user research, map out the customer journey by identifying pain points and sources of delight, analyze the business objectives of the project, and ensure that only the most viable features are developed. In product-led startups, designers serve as the advocates of the customer and influence changes in the product based on direct user feedback or engagement data. During an interview on the UX Cake podcast, Cassie Wallander recounted a time when the designer saved the day. “I was tasked to run a pilot project to analyze support tickets for a B2B dashboard. I concluded that 50% of the tickets were being raised due to bugs in two features and fixed those features. As a result, the support tickets fell and freed up time for the developers to build out new features. So the customers were happy and the developers were happy, it was a win-win” she said. To conclude, designers are expected to make the product fast, functional, and reliable, and the icing on the cake is to make it visually pleasing as well.
The ability to raise funds is critical for startups to hire top talent, expand product offerings, and penetrate new markets. While pitching to venture capitalists, the startup needs to showcase its mission, current product prototype, and future product vision. This is where eye-catching and engaging design can add tremendous value.
A UI/UX Designer in tandem with developers can help a startup build an M.V.P.(minimum viable product) to demonstrate the functionality of the product to potential investors. If it’s a pre-seed round then the designers can build no-code product screens via tools such as Figma or Adobe xD to demonstrate the in-product experience. In addition, the designer can also help validate the product idea by presenting the results of user interviews and research.
In Conclusion: UI/UX Designers are indispensable at Startups
Startup entrepreneurs are a unique bunch of people. They live and breathe the product, debate each screen, obsess over prototypes, and go over each detail for months. It becomes difficult for them to get outside their head and look at the product from the user’s perspective. Perhaps, this is the principal gap that UI/UX designers can fulfill. They talk to users and provide first-hand insights on which aspects are working and which ones are not. By building, testing, learning, and iterating, designers provide the impetus for the growth and scale all startups are chasing.Works Cited
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