With limited funds and so much to think about when founding and running a startup, UX design can often be the last thing on the minds of many entrepreneurs. However these days great UX is no longer simply the differentiator between a new startup and its more advanced competition, it’s a necessity.

Experts in the field are now saying that every type of organisation, both large and small, will soon have at least one in-house UX professional responsible for shaping their products and services. These professionals will be tasked with ensuring that employees at all levels of the organisation are working towards the same goal of providing unforgettable user experiences for the target audience.

So What Is UX Design?

UX Design or User Experience Design is very much a buzzword at the moment. However it’s a great deal more than a passing fad. UXPA define UX design as:

“Every aspect of the user’s interaction with a product, service or company that make up the user’s perceptions of the whole. User experience design as a discipline is concerned with all the elements that together make up that interface, including layout, visual design, text, brand, sound, and interaction. UX works to coordinate these elements to allow for the best possible interaction by users.”

Put simply, UX Design is the process which ensures users have the best possible experience they can with a product, recommend it to their friends and come back for more.

UX is becoming more and more important due to the sharp increase in both the number of mobile devices now available such as smartwatches and exercise trackers (the ‘Internet of things’) and consumer expectations. Users expect to comfortably use sites and apps on all of their new products in an easy, enjoyable and intuitive way.

According to Internet Live Stats, in 1995, less than 1% of the world’s population had an internet connection. Fast forward twenty years and that has now risen to 40.4%, a number that is still growing significantly year on year. For a more detailed look at 54 years of internet history and what is to come check out this cool timeline.

What we can learn from this is that demand for UX is only going to increase with internet usage. As more of our interactions move online, we will expect an experience that allows us to reach our goals in a way that not only comes naturally to us but that is fun and engaging too.

Why Does A Start-Up Need A UX Designer?

Forbes report that 90% of startups fail. The number one reason for this is that no one wants to buy the product - there just isn’t a market need for it.

  • A UX designer will research everything from what’s already out there, to your potential target personas before you’ve even started on the visual design for your website. This indepth research into the market before launching a product will save you time, money and heartache later on.

A site or app is the shop window of the startup whether it is a new type of software, a café in New Zealand or selling canoes in Canada. With a poorly-crafted or confusing website potential customers are likely to get bored and turn to competitors instead. The average time users spend on a website is eight seconds so first impressions count for everything.

  • A frustrated user will not return to your site, or recommend it to their friends. A UX designer will spend time with real users finding out what their real pain points are with your product and how to make their experience not only meet their expectations but exceed them, significantly reducing that high bounce rate.

Let’s not forget how many business transactions are now conducted online. Mashable state that ‘online sales expected to account for by 15% of total UK economy by 2017’. The Centre for Retail Research also noted that mobile commerce, accounts for 28.6% of online spending in the UK and they are closely followed by Germany and US.

  • With such a large percentage of our business transactions taking place online you need to ensure that everybody in your target audience can successfully find and navigate their way through your site to reach their end goal. You’d have a ramp into your shop for a wheelchair user, and it’s the same principle online. A UX designer will ensure that your site accomodates all users so they can get what they came for, and leave with a positive impression.

How Does A UX Designer Work?

Here are five processes a UX designer will use to ensure your startup is one of the 10% which succeeds:

  • Conduct competitor analysis to see what similar products are already on the market and where the opportunism and threats lie
  • Develop a unique value proposition (UVP) outlining what sets the product apart from others
  • Conduct user testing and research to refine the UVP further
  • Develop user personas (detailed examples of people who will use the product) with their own goals and task models
  • Iterate the design through several paper prototypes and wireframes using usability research until it is exactly what the target user needs and wants

Incorporating UX Design At Your Startup

1.) Use Lean UX principles to ensure the deliverables are reviewed early and often and all employees are ‘on the same page.’

2.) Encourage designers to find an outside mentor - my CareerFoundry mentor, Sophie Lephinoy was instrumental whilst on the course and I now have another mentor, Pete Pavan who has been practising UX for over fifteen years and is always there to offer advice.

3.) Allow time each week for designers to research new trends and to have time to think and innovate. Google famously allows employees to spend 20% of their time at work on innovative side projects.

Conclusion

As we move into 2016 UX design will only become more vital to new startups, as consumer’s demands and expectations with their online experience increase. When recruiting, look for someone who is the right cultural fit, who ‘gets’ your company initiatives and has prior experience either out in the industry or via a rigorous course such as the Career Foundry UX Design pathway.

[What experiences do you have of UX design at start-up companies? Let’s start the discussion in the comments below!]