Why you should invest in design
Many founders know that design is essential for their product. Yet investments in design initiatives are still seen as secondary.
For many, the lack of knowledge is what stops them from investing more resources in design. They have an idea that investing their budget elsewhere would be better.
This article will show you why this vision is wrong and how it can negatively impact your success.
What does design mean?
Most people believe that the purpose of design is to create something extraordinary, new, and different from everyone else. This is only the surface of what design means.
Design has a lot of implications that can go from making your product look appealing to improving your user conversion rate or even giving your company a distinctive mark in the market.
Investing in design is like going to the gym or eating healthy: you see the results only after a long period. Fortunately, unlike going to the gym and eating healthy, investing in design will always pay off, and you don't need to wait for something great to happen: it already has, but we don't notice it.
The impact of design cannot be so easily identified because of what we think is cool: after all, you are not your user. However, if your product succeeds, what you think is excellent will be seen as "the reason why."
This is the simplest way to identify good design: how does it make people feel like using it? Do people want to use it? This is the first thing that any founder needs to understand to invest in sound design.
The obligatory Jobs' quote that every design article must have
What are the benefits of investing in design?
As you can imagine, there are many benefits, but the main ones are:
Increased customer satisfaction
Using a product that helps your reach your goals feels great. If it helps you, makes your life easier, or is faster, then using your product will make you happy. There's nothing that drives repeat business like making people feel good while they are using your product.
Improved competitive advantage
Taking the time to reason and experiment with your product will give you a better understanding and improve your effectiveness in achieving your goals. It's hard to rank with features alone when the user experience is better than the competition.
Improved product usage
When people feel good using something, they'll use it more frequently and for more extended periods of time. This increased frequency allows them to go beyond the surface of your product, offering more value.
When people are happier with your product, they'll happily recommend it to others, which leads to increased sales. Also, if you're able to show increases in conversion rates or customer retention, this will positively impact the bottom line.
Reduce support costs
Developing and launching a product without designing it will lead to a low-quality product. This means users will be frustrated and more likely to call support, which is costly in terms of time and money for your company.
Companies which invest in design can create products that offer superior customer value and keep their customers loyal - with the help of this loyalty comes increased sales and profits.
Investing in design helps you achieve your business outcomes
What does it mean to invest in design?
But what does it means to invest in good design as a company/founder? We could talk a lot about usability tests, design systems, and other design tools, but I think these are the top three action items you should follow:
Talk to your customers
Have multidisciplinary teams
Adopt an outcome-oriented mindset.
(See, no drawing or branding things in the list!)
Talk to your customers
If you already have customers, the easiest thing you can do is ask them how they feel about the product you have built. You can go to a physical or online meeting, run an interview via Whatsapp or Google Meet, add a question on your customer feedback survey. Just make sure you do something! This is good for designing better products and will gather the information even other departments can use.
When I say this, everyone likes citing the (overused) quote by Henry Ford "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
Now: when you do research, your job doesn't consist in taking what people say verbatim and just doing as they say. You should evaluate their words and understand what the pain points or the goals are. In the case of Ford, the main objective of his research wasn't to develop a faster horse but an efficient alternative for the then-dominant type of transportation. So, doing good interviews doesn't mean that you should do something your customers say. It means understanding their issues/needs and trying to give them what they need.
Have multidisciplinary teams
In many companies, the process for building a product consists of a variation of:
someone in the leadership team has an idea
they talk to the product/design team with some vague requirements
they try to mockup a couple of pages to visualize the idea
this "design" is passed to the development team while the design team starts working on the next iteration
the development team is filled with questions and tries to interpret the design as better as they can, filling in the blanks
the product gets launched well past the deadline; customers don't use it, the leadership team is angry, the blame game starts.
What's the issue here?
If you notice, information passes linearly from the leadership team to the product team and then to development.
This leads to many misinterpretations, assumptions, and a lack of clarity on what is expected from design.
This way of working is restrictive and fails in cases where teams have separate objectives. Also, they're not working as a team but as a series of freelancers at best.
What could you do? Involve everyone right from the beginning: share the mission, outcomes, and possible downsides with the team. Make everyone feel safe and let them share their ideas and their concerns.
It doesn't matter how many people are in your team: having multidisciplinary individuals helps set up different visions, and as a result, you'll have a better product.
Adopt an outcome-oriented mindset
Often when thinking about design, the first mental image we have is some pretty illustration or some user interface for a mobile app or worse, banners.
It's a pretty common thing: we as humans are used to thinking about outputs, tangible things that we can see and "touch".
We're less comfortable with outcomes: why have we created those illustrations? What prompted us to design those UIs? What were we really trying to accomplish with them?
There are many ways to reach an outcome and you as a founder shouldn't get in the way of your team's creativity. Just set the destination, communicate it to your team, set a checkpoints to get informed, and move out of the way! Trust your team to do the best possible job!
A multidisciplinary team can maximize your investments
I thought you'd be talking about Design Systems, UI, or Usability
And you're right: investing in design also means funding specific design-related initiatives like Design Systems, a good-looking UI, and excellent overall UX.
But design initiatives don't exist in a vacuum, and they need a safe space to grow and develop. And your job as a founder is to create that space.
Let's take Design Systems as an example: they are a company-wide months-long effort that needs clear goals, people with different backgrounds working on it, and should consider what your customers' needs are to be helpful.
You won't reap the same benefits from a Design System if you don't invest in it with the right company setting. Otherwise, you'll end up with a boring component library that no one will ever use.
We've discussed many ways that design can help your company, but we want to emphasize just one more time why it is so important.
Investing in design-related initiatives will not only help you grow and succeed as an organization; it will also lead to increased revenue and customer satisfaction, among other things.
Start by talking with customers about what they need from your product or service, then use multidisciplinary teams to develop solutions for their needs.
Finally, adopt an outcome-oriented mindset instead of focusing on designing something beautiful for the sake of beauty alone.
And if you are looking for a partner who can make all these strategies come together seamlessly while delivering high-quality work (and we know there are many), we would love to help.
We would love to hear from you! Have you tried implementing some of these advices? Did it work? Was it difficult?
Tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @donuxcom.
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