Today, I get to talk to you about two of my favorite things: Design and Startups.Jackson Fish has around for 5 years now. And we’re a little different than your traditional startup in that we have a designer as a co-founder, haven’t taken any outside investment, and we spend a portion of our time helping startups such as yourselves with design consulting.And with double life as a design consultancy and developing our own products, I wanted to share with you today some things I think you should know about Design as you venture into startupland
Let’s clear the air a bit first. This is a very LOADED phrase. A lot of people talk about it but very few really understand it. And even fewer know how to manage it. But EVERYONE wants it.
Only 2 brave souls on Quora attempted to define User Experience. The first one talks about it as an umbrella term for a bunch of different disciplines.The other quotes Wikipedia which says it’s about the how a person feels about a product. It’s a perception and it’s subjective in nature.Both are right.
And if UX really was the umbrella term for all these disciplines, that could get really expensive, very quickly. Truth is, UX is everyone’s job even at a startup. But when I look at this list through my LEAN STARTUP goggles and ask “what are the disciplines that a non-designer must have?”
these are the disciplines that I understand provide immediate and concrete value to defining the product.More and more these types of designers exist.
And while the disciplines interaction and visual. The ROLE of UX is to be the advocate for the user – not in how they just use your product but even how they perceive it.
Ok. So the biggest and most common mistake I see in the startup world is getting started without UX design.Having a UX vision for what you want to create is not only critical to building a great product that people connect with, it’s way faster/easier/cheaper to prototype using UX methods first.Take the time to figure out what the UX vision is before you run off and build. And do it with a professional designer.
Focus on the experience you want to create and let everything else support that:
We’re seeing more and more examples of user experience making a huge difference in tech products.
Just a simple RSS Reader with a beautiful reading experience sets this startup apart from the rest.
The folks at Mint.com had a UX vision for managing personal finance and simpler, integrated and beautiful way. They did that first and bought their technology (Yodlee) second. It sold it for $170 million dollars to Intuit.
\\Design is important! And can make a difference in the bottom line.
Ok. If you buy into the idea that UX design makes a difference. Get it into your startup ASAP.
I think first you have to ask the question, what kind of CEO are you? I’m going to steal this great analogy from my husband about parachutes.So going out on your own and doing your own startup is like jumping out of a plane and is very dangerous. Your going to need a parachute. Are you the type of CEO that packs her own parachute? I mean, your life depends on it. Or are you going to let the professional parachute packer (who does this for a living and has been doing it for 10-15 years) do it?Find a good designer/developer/partner, Find a GREAT one (not just a good one) and TRUST that person.
The second fork in the road to getting design into your startup consulting agency or hire in house.
The first fork in the road to getting design into your startup is Contract vs In HouseSalary/FeesEvery hour of design generates 3-4 hours of dev work(former is expensive but fast, latter is an investment & equity accrues within the startup.)Agency problem.Bored.
What I would recommend is axing the info architect, figure out a way to build the content,HIRE a designer who has strong interaction and visual design skills. And don’t put coding responsibilities on the designer. Hire a separate person to do that.It’s not that good designers don’t know how to code. Most actually do. But it’s not an effective use of their time. My business partner likens it to making authors bind their own books.
Another big mistake I see startups AND big companies make is in the job description.
NOT Program Managers. Not graphic designers. They are called Product Designers or UX Designers.Don’t use: Graphic Designer, web developer, User Researcher, Information Architect or Usability EngineerUse: UX Designer, UI Designer, Product Designer or just to be safe DESIGNER
Must have visual design skillsPASSIONATE about technologyCreativeUnderstand BrandShould not be expected to codeHUGE PLUS if they’ve shipped something
You can probably assess attitude, professionalism, articulate, thoughtful and even sense passion. Assuming you aren’t a professional designer yourself.You’re probably going to look at a bunch of resumes and online portfolios and not really know what to make of it.
Get a SENIOR Designer to help you interview (I would never interview a developer about their coding skills.)
First of all, they are going to ask a bunch of questions about WHO you are designing for. Get a good understanding of the user.
Raw creative talent is really hard to find.
Should be responsible for communicating the UX vision to customers AND investors.
Raw creative talent is really hard to find.
That’s just the starting point.Don’t expectfor Design to save the day. Design is iterating and getting humble.
Usability can be EXPENSIVE and my philosophy is, if you can afford it, of course, It’s always interesting to observe real people using your stuff. You can learn a lot. You can also do this on the cheap with showing static screens to friends/family/potential customers.But sometimes, it’s just OK to start with something that expresses why you are doing it. It’s ok to be design centered before you ship.Stick to what you think is best. Distinctive, reflective of your passion.The moment you ship, it’s all about the customers. And then you tweak.Get HUMBLE.
Design is a distinct profession not. D.I.Y.You don’t want designers to code. Whether they can or not.Get an Experienced Designer to help you interview candidates or potential co-founder!Design will fail. Iterate, understand, iterate.
Finding a GOOD design is HARD. Maybe a needle and haystack? Or binoculars?
Good Designers are… (each bullet below can be a separate slide or not.) Must have visual design skills PASSIONATE about technology Creative Understand Brand Should not be expected to code HUGE PLUS if they’ve shipped something
Local Resources AIGA – Professional Association for Design IxDA – Interaction Design Association IDSA – Industrial Design Association Online Resources http://www.alistapart.com/ http://www.coroflot.com/ @odannyboy @lukew @jmspool