Why Every Startup Needs A UX Designer

Author headshot of Rachel Meltzer.

Startups often have limited funds and an overwhelming amount of details to manage. For many entrepreneurs, UX design is the last detail in terms of priority. These days great UX is no longer the differentiator between a new startup and its more advanced competition, it’s a necessity.

Design-focused startups make 32% more revenue on average than companies who don’t make design a part of their company. Nearly every company will soon have at least one UX professional on-staff to ensure their products and services are providing ensuring that employees at all levels of the organisation are working toward one goal: providing unforgettable user experiences for the target audience.

In this guide we’ll discuss:

  1. What is user experience (UX) design?
  2. What does a UX designer do?
  3. Why does a startup need a UX designer?
  4. How to incorporate UX design at your startup
  5. How to find a UX designer for your team
  6. Key points

1. What is user experience (UX) design?

User experience (UX) design shapes the products and services we use everyday. It can make or break the success of a business or brand because it dictates how their customers will feel when using a product.

UX is essentially any interaction that a user has with a product or service. Every element that makes up this experience is considered during the UX design process from how the user feels to how easily a user can accomplish their desired result through the product.

UX design can be applied to physical products, mobile applications, websites and web applications, and more. The end goal in all of these applications is to design an easy, efficient, relevant, and pleasant experience for the user.

To learn more about UX design, check out this video:

2. What does a UX designer do?

UX designers are responsible for making products, services, and technologies as intuitive and accessible as possible for users. They humanize the product or service by combining market research with product development, strategy, and design. Their work helps a company understand and fulfill the needs of their users in the best way possible.

The four main UX disciplines

UX is an umbrella term that is made up of a number of sub-disciplines. In larger companies (or companies who understand and can accommodate the true nature of each discipline), UX designers may be hired to focus on just one or two of these:

  1. Experience strategy: Devising a holistic business strategy that incorporates both the customer and company’s needs
  2. Interaction design: Examining how the user interacts with a system, designing every interactive element from buttons to animations, and creating intuitive designs that foster an effortless experience
  3. User research: Identifying problems and designing the solution through research with real customers and potential customers as well as usability testing
  4. Information architecture: Organizing information and content in a meaningful and accessible way
  5. Content design/UX writingCreating informative, on-brand, and efficient copy to guide users through experiences effectively and conversationally

As we’ve said, UX designers might specialize in a sub-discipline (and be hired to focus on that area), or they might provide services across the board. Their daily tasks will vary depending on both the size of the company and their needs. At startups, it isn’t unusual to find UX designers taking on a spectrum of tasks.

To learn more about what UX designers actually do, and what skills are essential to the job, read these guides:

Design thinking

If you’re looking to hire a UX designer for your startup (or you’re an aspiring UX designer), you should understand the essentials of design thinking so that you know what you’re really getting into.

Design thinking is an important mindset and process for UX designers. UX designers employ design thinking to find inspiration, conceptualize a solution, iterate and evolve their concept, and present their work. They make the product solve existing user problems in a way that is as user-friendly as possible.

To learn more about the design thinking process, check out this video:

3. Why does a startup need a UX designer?

The value of UX design is immense for both the user and the business creating the user experience. Good UX enables users to go about their daily lives as effortlessly as possible. Whether it’s streaming music or creating an event on a calendar, the ease of executing these actions is the result of good design.

Designing a stellar user experience is key to ensuring customer satisfaction and building brand loyalty. A hassle-free service that is enjoyable and provides value brings the user back repeatedly.

Design-driven companies aren’t just satisfying their customers, they’re also more profitable than those who aren’t focused on design. According to McKinsey, they’re consistently bringing in 32% more revenue and 56% higher total returns to shareholders compared with other companies.

Investopedia reports that 90% of all startups fail with 21.5% failing in their first year. The most-reported reasons for failure include lack of funding, lack of niche, lack of research, bad partnerships, ineffective marketing, and failure to establish expertise in the industry.

One of the top ways that Investopedia recommends avoiding small business failure is research. Researching the needs of your target demographic and designing a product that they actually need, want, and will find enjoyable to use is absolutely key to succeeding as a startup.

Another way they advise seeking success is hiring out the areas in which you aren’t an expert. User research and user experience design is a complex and nuanced discipline that can add exponential value to your product or service. It makes sense to hire a UX designer to help your business save time and money while generating the best possible experience for your customers.

4. How to incorporate UX design at your startup

Three startup employees, sitting on a couch and talking about UX design
Photo by Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels

If your startup’s main offering is an application, software, or digital product, you’ll need a UX designer to be competitive. Incorporating UX design at your startup doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can hire a UX designer full-time, part-time, or even freelance.

What can a UX designer do?

UX designers can help your team be successful in many ways. They aren’t just present for research and mock-ups. UX designers also do things like:

  • Conduct market research, competitor analysis, and user research
  • Develop unique value propositions (UVP)
  • Develop user personas
  • Create prototypes and conduct user testing
  • Iterate the design until it is exactly what the target user both needs and wants
  • Save you time, money, and hassle

…and so much more. A UX designer can lead you through the research and design process to create a high quality product.

What to look for in a UX designer

Whether you’re hiring a full-time UX designer or outsourcing to a contractor, there are a few key traits to look for.

  • Soft-skills: Communication, teamwork, and strong presentation skills are necessary because the UX designer is the liaison between stakeholders, end-users, and engineers.
  • Empathy: It’s a soft skill, but an absolutely essential one. UX designers should be able to identify how a user will feel when using your product and design based on those feelings.
  • Writing skills: UX designers who have UX writing skills will help them succeed with less training on your part.
  • Analytical/critical thinking skills: Research and analysis is a major part of the UX designers job and a passion for collecting and cleaning data will show in a good UX designer.

4. How to find a UX designer for your team

Because UX designers collaborate and communicate with so many people across a company structure (from UI and graphic designers, to developers, to CEOs and other stakeholders), and with customers or potential users, it’s important that you find someone who’s the right fit for your specific team and who can connect well with your users.

First, you’ll want to make sure you have an interview process lined up that will help you understand not only the skillsets of the UX designers who apply, but also who they are as designers and as individuals. Plan to have a good look at their UX design portfolio, to ask the right UX interview questions, and to see them in action by inviting them to complete a whiteboard challenge.

After you’ve got a plan for how you’ll get to know candidates, see their previous work, and witness their design process in action, think about what you now know about what UX designers actually do, the needs of your company, and the needs of the team(s) the UX designer will be working with. With all this in mind, craft your job description.

If you’d like to see a pro UX designer break down some common UX job descriptions and get a better idea of what yours should look like, check out this video.

Once you know what you’re looking for and how you’ll go about the interview process, it’s time to post your job ad or reach out to a recruiter, if you don’t have one in-house. Whether or not you have in-house talent acquisition, there are a number of popular UX job boards you can post to.

Keep in mind that many UXers who are further into their careers may have a desire to specialize in one or two key areas of UX design. That’s not to say there aren’t any highly seasoned “UX generalists” out there! There are. But don’t overlook the fresh talent of a highly skilled UX generalist who’s newer to the field. Some UX bootcamps will help you locate that amazing UX hire from an impressive pool of graduates (check out CareerFoundry Talent as an example)

5. Key points

As user experience becomes the defining factor for user and customer retention, having an in-house UX designer will be an important part of any startup’s business plan. Anyone who is offering a digital product, whether it’s a mobile application, software, or web platform can successfully fulfill their users’ needs with the help of a UX designer.

Consumers are increasingly relying on online shopping, streaming, social platforms and other digital products to do just about everything in their daily lives. eCommerce sales make up almost 10% of U.S. retail sales and that fraction is growing by nearly 15% annually. Plus, mobile shopping is predicted to account for 73% of total eCommerce. It makes sense to invest in user experience to make sure your product is the first choice of users.

Want to learn more? Here are a few guides you’ll find helpful. They’re written with UX designers in mind, but they’ll help you understand UX design and shed light on how UX can make or break your business:

(Header image credit: George Milton from Pexels)

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