Top 10 UX Design Tips for Startups: Building Irresistible Products

Jack O'Donoghue Avatar


By knowing your users, designing and testing value propositions, and organizing your efforts around a well-crafted UX Strategy, you can make sure your design activities are moving the needle on key startup KPIs.

Here are ten essential tips to help startups create irresistible products through effective UX Design.

1. Establish a Strong Value Proposition

A well-defined value proposition is crucial to the success of your startup. Investing time in crafting a compelling value proposition that clearly communicates the unique benefits your product offers is essential. As you gather more feedback, refine your value proposition to ensure it remains relevant and appealing.

Everything flows from your value proposition. When you can accurately describe how you will create value for your customers, you can write better marketing copy, design better features, and prioritize your time and attention on the things that truly move the needle.

Everything flows from your value proposition.

It’s easy to jump the gun early on and assume you know what your customers’ problems are and how to solve them. This single bias towards our own ideas is what stops most entrepreneurs and startups from succeeding. No one has ever looked back and said, “I wish we didn’t waste time validating our value propositions,” but I guarantee 90% of people say they wish they had spent more time on this crucial step.

In order to establish a strong value proposition, you need to interview your customers to understand their biggest goals, fears, and motivations. You can then articulate how you will help them achieve their goals and relieve their fears. Once you have this, you need to check to see if you’ve got it right. There are three levels to this validation process:

  1. Speak to customers and gauge their reactions to your value proposition. How positive is it? Do they visibly light up when they hear it?
  2. Run ads to a landing page with this value proposition. Does it get engagement? Are people willing to submit their email address for early access or fill out a survey to show their support?
  3. The ultimate test: create a landing page and offer people early bird prices. Are they willing to hand over their credit card information and vote for your idea with their hard-earned cash?

If you check all three boxes, you can be sure you have a value proposition worth pursuing, and you can move on to the next step in building your irresistible product.

2. Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution

Most people get much more excited about the prospect of solutions, future visions, and creating things than they do about delving into problems and conducting research.

However, when you know the problem inside out, the solutions present themselves, and you can be sure that they’re meaningful and worth investing time and energy into.

When you know the problem inside out, the solutions present themselves.

You can then be creative and shoot for the stars, knowing that you always have the grounding of a good understanding of the problem to anchor you to reality.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s essential to be quick and ship fast to get real data from customers, but there’s a balance, and you need to find it. Take the time to go out and speak to your customers, get them to tell you about their experiences, their problems, and their fears. Watch them experience the problems in context, ask them about their ideal future state, and try to keep them involved throughout the process to provide feedback along the way.

Ask them if they want to join a WhatsApp group or newsletter to hear about updates. Do whatever you can to maintain a connection with your customers so you can speak to them whenever you need clarity on a problem. By focusing on the problem rather than the solution, you ensure that your product addresses real user needs and stands out in the competitive startup landscape.

3. Establish Metrics Early On and Measure Everything

Metrics are essential in tracking your startup’s progress and making data-driven decisions.

Prioritize establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) early on to build up data over time and inform your design and marketing efforts. Metrics anchor everything we do to a meaningful purpose; when we know what we need to achieve, we can make better, faster decisions about how to get there.

Metrics anchor everything we do to a meaningful purpose.

A very useful concept is the idea of leading and lagging indicators. A leading indicator is the final metric that you want to improve, like sign-ups. However, you can’t directly influence sign-ups – you can’t control who does and who doesn’t sign up. That’s where lagging indicators come in.

Lagging indicators are things that you can directly control, such as prioritizing features or emphasizing the sign-up process. You can prioritize social sign-up and have a sign-up incentive on the homepage. Knowing what your leading indicators are helps you choose lagging indicators that you can directly influence.

When you have your metrics established upfront, you can start making sure that you’re building ways of tracking these data points through analytics software and event tracking. This information is critical later on when you want to start experimenting and testing different ideas. By setting up metrics early on and measuring everything, you ensure that your startup stays focused on what matters most and makes informed decisions throughout the product development process.

4. Make it Easy for Customers to Provide Feedback

Offer easy-to-use channels for users to share their thoughts, suggestions, and concerns about your product.

Every piece of customer feedback early on is critical, as it helps you understand your users’ needs, preferences, and pain points.

The more points of contact you have with customers, the better. Get creative with how you collect feedback and ensure that you’re always open to receiving input from your users.

The more points of contact you have with customers, the better.

Some ways to make it easy for customers to provide feedback include:

  • Surveys during the sign-up process: Add a quick and straightforward survey during the registration process to gather insights into users’ expectations and motivations.
  • Welcome emails: Send personalized welcome emails to new users and encourage them to share their initial impressions and any suggestions they may have.
  • Social media posts: Use your social media platforms to ask for feedback directly or create engaging content that prompts users to share their thoughts in the comments.
  • In-app feedback forms: Embed feedback forms within your product to capture user input while they are using your app.
  • Live chat or chatbots: Implement live chat or chatbot support to allow users to share their feedback instantly and provide real-time assistance.
  • User testing sessions: Organize regular user testing sessions where customers can use your product and provide feedback in a controlled environment.
  • Dedicated feedback page: Create a dedicated page on your website that allows users to submit their feedback, report bugs, or suggest new features.

By making it easy for customers to provide feedback, you can gather valuable insights that will help you refine your product, address users’ concerns, and ultimately create a better user experience. Remember, listening to your customers is the key to building a successful and lasting relationship with them.

5. Get Creative with How You Do UX Research

User research doesn’t always have to be a long, drawn-out formal process. The key is to know your most important research questions and find ways to get them answered to a satisfactory level.

By thinking outside the box and employing various research methods, you can gather valuable insights to inform your product design and development.

A well-rounded understanding of your users is the foundation of a successful product.

Here are some creative ways to conduct UX research:

  1. Video calls with customers: Schedule video calls with your users to have more in-depth conversations about their experiences, needs, and expectations. This can help you gain empathy and better understand their pain points.
  2. Surveys through marketing communications: Incorporate surveys into your newsletters, promotional emails, or blog posts to gather user feedback on specific aspects of your product.
  3. Social media polls: Use the poll features on social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram to ask your audience questions related to your product and gather quick insights.
  4. Public forum discussions: Start threads on public forums like Reddit or Quora relevant to your industry and engage with users to learn more about their experiences and opinions.
  5. Social media listening: Monitor social media conversations about your product or industry to identify common user pain points, trends, and opportunities for improvement.
  6. Competitor reviews analysis: Read through competitor reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or Amazon to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas where your product can stand out.
  7. Guerrilla research: Conduct informal, impromptu research sessions in public places, such as coffee shops or coworking spaces, where you can approach potential users and gather quick feedback on your product or ideas.

By getting creative with how you conduct UX research, you can gather diverse insights and perspectives that will help you make data-driven decisions, improve your product’s user experience, and ultimately increase customer satisfaction. Remember, a well-rounded understanding of your users is the foundation of a successful product.

6. Get Comfortable Shipping Before You’re Ready

Don’t wait for your designs to be perfect before launching them. Shipping early allows you to collect valuable user feedback and learning opportunities that can help you refine and improve your product. Embrace the mindset of shipping to learn and gather insights.

Designers love details, such as naming conventions in layers, pixel-perfect UI, and other meticulous aspects. While these things are important in large teams with big budgets where quality is a priority, they can be barriers to progress in a startup environment.

Startups often run on tight budgets, and it’s crucial to prioritize high-value tasks over low-value ones. A high-value task is something that moves the needle on one of the startup’s primary KPIs.

As designers, it’s essential to get comfortable with what it takes to succeed in business so that you can use your talents to contribute to the startup’s growth. Focus on creating value for the customer and capturing some of that value for the business. Here are some tips to help you get comfortable with shipping before you’re ready:

  1. Embrace the minimum viable product (MVP) approach: Build the simplest version of your product that still delivers value to users and allows you to test your core assumptions.
  2. Iterate quickly: Use user feedback and data to inform your design decisions and make improvements to your product regularly.
  3. Prioritize high-impact features: Focus on developing features that have the most significant impact on user experience and your startup’s KPIs.
  4. Learn from failures: Understand that not every feature or design decision will be successful, but use those experiences as opportunities to learn and grow.
  5. Seek feedback early and often: Engage with your users throughout the development process to ensure you’re addressing their needs and concerns.

By getting comfortable with shipping before you’re ready, you’ll be better equipped to adapt to the fast-paced startup environment, make data-driven decisions, and ultimately create a product that resonates with your users. Remember, your job as a designer is to create value for the customer while capturing some of that value for the business.

7. Start with Basic Personas and Build a Knowledge Base Over Time

Be scrappy in your initial approach by creating basic proto-personas representing your target users. As you gather more information about your customers, refine and expand these personas to better inform your design decisions.

We don’t always have the luxury of conducting deep, extensive user research upfront, and it’s not always the best use of time. Striking a balance is crucial.

If your value proposition is solid and you know what your users’ problems and goals are, you can afford to make some educated assumptions on what to build and how to build it.

Be aware of when you’re making high-risk decisions that could be costly.

Just be aware of when you’re making high-risk decisions that could be costly, and reign yourself in if necessary.

Start with proto-personas that collate everything you know about your customers into a simple, easy-to-reference document.

This can be useful for everyone in the business, helping them make decisions about marketing, sales, and product design.

Over time, as you become more knowledgeable about your customers, you can iterate your personas and make them higher fidelity and more informative.

By starting with basic personas and building a knowledge base over time, you’ll be better equipped to create a product that genuinely resonates with your users and addresses their needs, ultimately leading to a more successful startup.

8. Identify Key User Tasks and Create Journey Maps

Determining the most important tasks your users need to accomplish is crucial for optimizing user experience. Creating journey maps to visualize the flow and relationships between these tasks can help you eliminate potential pain points and deliver a product that meets your users’ needs and expectations.

Once you know your value proposition and have established your primary metrics, the next step is to clearly define the core tasks that you must get right to meet your users’ needs and expectations. Focus all your design activities around these tasks.

Here are some steps to help you create low-fidelity journey maps for both current and future states:

  1. List key user tasks: Identify the main tasks your users need to complete while using your product. These tasks should be directly related to your value proposition and primary metrics.
  2. Map the user journey: Create a visual representation of the steps users take to complete each task, including any interactions they have with your product or service along the way.
  3. Identify pain points and moments of delight: Analyze the journey map to pinpoint areas where users may encounter difficulties or frustrations, as well as moments where they experience satisfaction or delight.
  4. Optimize the user flow: Use your insights from the journey map to streamline the user flow, removing unnecessary steps and improving the overall experience.
  5. Iterate and refine: As you gather more data and feedback from users, update your journey maps to reflect any changes in user behavior or requirements.

Creating journey maps doesn’t require perfection; they should be just good enough to help you move forward with your designs. You can iterate on them and improve them over time. By identifying key user tasks and creating journey maps, you’ll gain a better understanding of your users’ experience and be able to make informed decisions that improve their interactions with your product.

9. Analyze Competitors’ Experiences, Improve and Differentiate

Mapping out competitors’ experiences helps you understand what customers might already be familiar with and identify areas where you can outperform them. This gives you a better understanding of the market landscape and assists in differentiating your product.

Competitors’ offerings are a great source of inspiration, as they can reveal existing conventions and customer familiarity. They can also indicate opportunities and threats present in the marketplace and how you can position yourself in opposition to different types of competitors.

Differentiation adds a layer of value that can help attract and retain customers.

Differentiation is a great UX strategy; as long as you’re meeting users’ needs and your product is intuitive and easy to use, then differentiation adds a layer of value that can help attract and retain customers. Here are some steps to analyze competitors’ experiences and differentiate your product:

  1. Identify key competitors: Make a list of direct and indirect competitors in your market space who target similar customers or offer comparable products.
  2. Evaluate their user experience: Analyze the user experience provided by your competitors, paying attention to their design, user flow, features, and overall functionality.
  3. Identify strengths and weaknesses: Determine what your competitors do well and where they fall short, considering factors such as usability, aesthetics, and customer satisfaction.
  4. Find opportunities for differentiation: Look for gaps in the market or areas where your competitors’ offerings don’t fully meet customers’ needs, and consider how your product can fill those gaps or offer unique solutions.
  5. Incorporate user feedback: Gather feedback from your users about their experiences with competitors’ products, and use this information to inform your design decisions and improve your product.
  6. Continuously monitor the market: Keep an eye on new competitors entering the market and any changes or updates to existing competitors’ products, ensuring that you stay informed and can adapt accordingly.

By analyzing competitors’ experiences and differentiating your product, you can create a unique value proposition that will help you stand out in the market and provide a superior user experience for your customers.

10. Iterate Everything

Focus on continuous learning to create incredible products that meet users’ changing needs. Be open to new ideas and information to stay ahead of the curve and create an exceptional user experience. In a startup environment, everything should be iterative: your knowledge base, product, processes, tools, vision, and ideas.

Focus on continuous learning to create incredible products that meet users’ changing needs.

Embrace adaptability and be like water, changing your shape to fill whatever vessel presents itself. When new information comes in, you need to respond quickly. Investing too much time obsessing over details can become a blocker when you need to pivot and move swiftly. You don’t want to be tied to an old system or stuck updating documentation because of extremely rigid processes.

The Importance of UX Design for Startups

Startups face numerous challenges in today’s competitive digital landscape. One of the most critical aspects of success is delivering an exceptional user experience (UX) that meets user needs and drives customer satisfaction.

By focusing on UX design, startups can create a digital product that stands out and achieves their business goals. This includes understanding various elements of UX design, such as UI design, information architecture, usability testing, and responsive design.

Key Components of UX Design

  • UI/UX Design: A combination of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design, UI/UX design focuses on creating visually appealing and intuitive interfaces that facilitate seamless interaction between users and digital products.
  • User Research: Conducting user research helps startups understand their target audience, identify user needs, and gather valuable insights to inform the design process.
  • Information Architecture: The organization and structure of a digital product, information architecture ensures that users can easily find and access content and features.
  • Usability Testing: This involves evaluating a digital product with real users to identify potential issues and areas for improvement in terms of usability and overall user experience.
  • Responsive Design: Ensuring that a digital product adapts to different screen sizes and devices, providing a consistent and optimized user experience across various platforms.
  • Interactive Prototyping: Creating interactive prototypes allows startups to test and refine their digital products before launching the final version, minimizing risks and costly iterations.
  • UX Strategy: Developing a clear UX strategy helps startups align their design efforts with business goals, ensuring that their digital products meet both user needs and company objectives.

Partnering with a UI/UX Design Agency or Hiring In-House Designers

Startups can choose to partner with a UI/UX design agency or hire in-house designers to handle their design needs. Agencies typically offer a range of UI/UX design services, from initial concept development to final product delivery. In-house designers, on the other hand, work closely with the product manager and other team members to ensure that the digital product aligns with the startup’s vision and requirements.

Regardless of the approach, it’s essential to prioritize good UX design throughout the product development process. By doing so, startups can create digital products that resonate with their users, driving customer satisfaction and long-term success in the competitive tech startup landscape.

📸 Shoutout to FLY:D for the cover photo

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Jack O'Donoghue Avatar