Startups

5 fundamentals startups need to succeed

Dec 2018

5
min read

Getting a startup off the ground isn’t easy, but with these design fundamentals, you’ll be able to help your brand fit seamlessly into your customers’ lives.

By Simon McCade
Dec 2018

5
min read

It’s not easy to get a startup off the ground these days – there are a number of factors that can keep it from cutting through industry noise.

The way it looks is just one of them, but it’s certainly one of the most critical factors in a world with increasingly short attention spans and ever-expanding expectations.

Why is design important for startups?

Most startups in this day and age have to be reliant on the internet to reach and engage with their potential customers – there are no two ways about it – but with this comes the territory of understanding and adapting to user behaviours.

If a startup doesn’t align with a customer’s innate behaviours within seconds, it’s tripped over its laces before it’s even set foot on the playing field. This is where design comes in because customers’ online habits and behaviours are based on the best experiences they get in any industry, not just one and certainly not just the one in which you’re operating.

The varied design experiences we get from apps like Uber, Just Eat and Instagram set the precedent for how people expect every design experience to be: easy.

If a design doesn’t make a new experience easy, it won’t become an experience at all.

Even way back in 2012, Google had established that ease of use was “the fastest path to mobile customers” because 74% of people surveyed said they would be more likely to return to a site if it offered a mobile-friendly experience that made their lives easier.

Let’s take a look at where user expectations have taken us over the past six years to see what the fundamentals of success for a new business today are (Spoiler Alert: not much has changed):

1. Understanding what problem you’re solving

We’ve all been going on about user-centric experiences for long enough to know that the user comes first in any UX or UI pursuit, but it is especially important for startups. What is the specific itch that people need to scratch? Drill down into individual cases if you can – speak to people about their frustrations with ‘the problem’ at hand and work out why their current ‘solutions’ are falling short.

Don’t underestimate your power to solve a problem with great design. If you know the problem is there, but the solution seems complex to you, your users or your competition, a well-executed design can make it all seem so straightforward.

2. Understanding the market you’re entering

It’s one thing to know that there’s a problem to be solved and it’s another to know the solution to that problem, but it’s a different beast altogether to know whether your potential customers are even ready for it to be solved.

Will it be necessary to work an education piece into the designs of your company’s first encounter with the public or will it be immediately obvious what the concept is and why it exists?

In his 2015 TED talk, Idealab founder and the man behind many a startup success, Bill Gross, discussed the one key factor that defines the success or failure of any new business: timing.

Ask yourself if your customers are genuinely ready for your startup

Timing is everything. The excitement that comes out of a new idea might seem like the most important factor in a startup’s inception, but if the world isn’t ready for it yet, it will most likely flop. Look at Airbnb, look at the iPhone, look at apps like Headspace – they are all perfectly timed products that entered the market at exactly the right moment.

3. Understanding what your competitors do and don’t do

The timing consideration comes down in part to what you might or might not come up against in the market. There’s no doubting that gaining a full understanding of (1) your users’ needs and (2) your competitors’ abilities to fulfil those needs will stand you in good stead to design the kind of experience that really resonates.

If the competition doesn’t yet exist, you need to know the reasons why; it might be because nobody has thought of it yet, but it might be that people simply don’t need the product and aren’t crying out for it. All of these factors need to influence the design because the first impression that users get of your company and its ability to solve a specific problem will come precisely and immediately from the design.

4. Understanding your founding members and team

A business is only as strong as the talent within it, so building a people-first environment is one of the fundamental principles of launching a successful startup.

Get the founding team right to build and launch your business and you will not only create a meaningful relationship and impactful product, but you’ll impact on the world around you for the better because the product will make a genuine difference to people’s lives.

Great ideas come from great environments in the workplace and great ideas can, indeed, change the environment outside of that workplace with the right people behind them.

5. Understanding when it’s ready to take to market

We have already mentioned the importance of timing for any new business when it comes to its introduction to the wider market, but timing is just as business critical for the internal team responsible for its creation.

Startups simply cannot afford to cut design corners on the experience they plan to take to market. Nothing good ever comes from rushing a project, even if it means pushing back on predefined deadlines, so it’s crucial to test and test again to be sure that your product design is robust enough to put in front of the critical eyes of the masses.  

It’s not just about the launch either; knowing when to adapt to and learn from public reactions to the user experience you’re offering is arguably more crucial to success. All too often do businesses ignore bad reviews or even what could be construed as constructive criticism and, unsurprisingly, all too often do they fail as a result.

Listen to your users. They’re your own best critics.

Getting the basics right

A thorough consideration of all of these fundamentals will provide a great platform for the design process for your startup. Ignoring them can be disastrous (and has been for many a failed venture), so don’t let a great idea be ruined by bad planning - lead with the design basics first and the rest will follow.

Why not get in touch today to discuss design consultancy for the launch of your startup?

The good stuff

The not-so-good stuff

This article represents the opinion of experienced designer, Simon McCade, who has no association or affiliation with the company or the app in question.

Are you experiencing issues with your app?

I can help you enhance user engagement, reduce friction with customers and develop your digital products in a user-centric way. Get in touch today.

By Simon McCade
Design for Ambitious Startups

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