The Design DNA every start-up needs

by aishyza

A year-long frustration came down to me writing this article so fellow entrepreneurs can take design a little more seriously. Surprise, surprise, it’s more than just about making things look pretty. Design, allow me to simplify, is about influencing your customers through understanding and communication.

2 reasons why design must exist in the startup world

  1. So start-ups can understand what their customers desire and translate that in their product offering
  2. So customers can understand what the start-up is communicating and translate that into purchase decisions

Lets start with Part 1 – understanding your customer 

ok so you have a solid business idea and a prototype… what next? Easy. Time for user-testing, collect feedback and make changes. A process summed up in a single holy word called iteration.

My question to you is… how?

Which method are you using to collect feedback? Quantitative or qualitative? AB testing or focus group? Teams with design DNA usually ask the why. They question processes and brainstorm on the best ways to seek useful feedback in the most time-efficient manner. You’re a startup damn it. It’s all about bootstrapping and moving fast. So  I’d churn that design DNA so I get the most out of every iteration, and minimise any possible mistakes made from misunderstanding my customers.

What questions do you ask when you seek feedback? Do you know what to look out for? You are as efficient as the amount of insight you get from each interview or observation session. If you don’t know what to look for, you’re wasting both your time, as well as the interviewee’s time. Shame on you. Spend enough time designing your interview questions to suit the scope of insights you are looking for. No leading, loaded, hypothetical questions. Don’t know where to start? google it.

Create a practice that engages your market as you grow your business. You will create a product that you can sell and that your customers will buy because they are part of the process – Heike Van Geel on Design Thinking 

Once you’ve received all the feedback, do you know what to do with all that rich data? Now this is the tough part where design really kicks in. Assuming you’ve collected enough data and insights, the design DNA kicks in to translate all that customer input into incremental improvements to the features of the product. This is how you engage customers during the creation/growth of your business. So when we hear that an innovation failed because it was “ahead of its time”, we know design wasn’t taken seriously. The customers were simply not involved enough in the process.

So designers must not only synthesize functionality and aesthetics, they must understand a consumer’s thought process and emotions in order to motivate behavior change. – role of design in business

Moving on to Part 2 – customers understanding you

As mentioned in my previous post about branding, design is key in creating an identity which people can feel belonged to.

What is your start-up message? How would you go about crafting it?  Your startup identity is manifested in the values that it hone as well as the words it speak. Just like how lego is fun and google is smart. The message crafted should align with the business’ product or service proposition. Values on the other hand, sets you apart from competitors providing similar offerings and buys you your customer loyalty. Be it iPhone vs Samsung. Spotify vs Grooveshark. Whatsapp vs WeChat. The customers should understand you. not your product. you.

Design is becoming a key differentiator for companies to acquire funding, press coverage, and loyal users – this is how design works

When presenting yourself, how do you speak a consistent brand language across all the aspects of your business? We could go on till next millennium with this, but for the sake of this blogpost, I’ll drill down to a few more common customer touch-points to tackle.

Orange Hive, a startup+design community aimed at cross-pollinating startup energy with pragmatic design.

  • As a community, we show collaborative fun in how we present ourselves – from the energetic orange visual front, friendly typography, down to the tone of language in in each of our emails, speeches and copywriting.
  • As a community, we learn together through sessions that are purposely designed to be interactive. When I mean interactive, it’s not just us talking. People do participate.
  • As a community, we use open communication platforms and tailor the content of each event based on the input from the community itself, and we make that obvious so our customers feel acknowledged.

Consistency is key. Then make as many aspects of your business speak of your brand. It’s that simple!

So 2 takeaways. 1) Involve your customers in your business growth 2) Build a strong brand. For this your team will need to inculcate the design DNA, if don’t already have a designer on board the core team.