SaaS business

UX Design for Startups: Not a Luxury but Necessity


min to read

18 Aug



Table of contents

In the dynamic and ever-evolving startup ecosystem, success hinges on numerous factors. And most of them are related to the users you are building your product for. 

In today's era of user-centricity, UX design becomes a critical component in creating products that truly resonate with customers. For startups, UX design can determine their ability to thrive in a competitive market.

We are a SaaS design agency and we’ve seen many new products who needed design to survive and prosper. In this article, we will explore the reasons why startups should prioritize UX from the very beginning and how it can help one gain a competitive edge. 

Why UX design for startups is so essential

Investing in design early might seem like a poor business decision for those who have a vague idea of what UX/UI design is. But if you look closely at what designers actually do and how design work can impact your startup metrics, you will realize it’s a path to sustainable growth.

UX designers consider how users will interact with your product. They carefully plan which features to include on each screen, what information should appear and where, and how users will respond when interacting with different parts of the product. 

The design has a huge impact on how people feel about your product, which can have a significant effect on the bottom line of your business. A well-designed interface and user experience can make it easy for customers to find what they need and complete tasks, while a poorly designed product can frustrate them and lead to churn.

In fact, well-known research by Forrester (2016) states that on average, every dollar invested in UX brings 100 dollars in return. Even if the numbers won't be the same for everyone, the ROI of UX is still very impressive.
The same research by Forrester states that good UI can increase conversion rates by up to 200%, and good UX can double this — by up to 400%. Conversion rate is one of the most straightforward metrics, so you can approximate the revenue increase that investments in UX/UI design can generate. 

In a nutshell, a good UX design can help your startup: 

  • build an efficient minimum viable product (MVP) that will become the backbone of your product
  • align the design and development of your product 
  • engage users and improve customer loyalty 
  • attract investors with robust prototypes

Embracing UX design as an integral part of your startup journey early on will ensure that your product is competitive on the market and meets the user’s needs. 

Effective strategies in UX design for startups

Here are some UX strategies from the Eleken team that you would want to incorporate into your startup business from day one.

Do proper UX research beforehand

A typical startup success story tells us of a person who believed in their idea whatever happened and, after numerous failures, made it shine. It underlines the importance of confidence, but it doesn’t highlight the stories of confident people whose ideas failed anyways. But there are some exceptions still.

Glorify startup founder Omar Farook shared how his startup was close to failure due to several critical mistakes. And among them was a lack of proper UX research that led to building features the app users did not actually need. A painful and expensive lesson was learned and the company had to completely rethink and reorganize its UX process. Now they pay enough attention to the research stage to make sure their users actually need the new features.

Iterate and prototype to be lean 

Iterative approach and prototyping are established practices of modern UX design, and for startups, these are especially important. Designing in iterations allows you to incorporate the famous lean approach that is proven to be the most successful strategy for startups.

Creating low-fidelity prototypes of UX design enables you to test and refine ideas before investing too much time and resources in a final product. And in fact, a good prototype can help a startup to get funding. 

For example, the Eleken team designed a prototype for Tromzo, a code security app, who came to us for their first prototype. Founders that were developers themselves explained to our designers how the app should work and we focused on the visualization of the main screens. Here is the dashboard we designed for the app prototype. 

Tromzo design case study

The design was minimal but functional, and Tromzo successfully got funded after building a prototype and moved forward with developing their product. 

Do not forget to test the usability

Startups are often a result of dreamers daring to make ideas come true. But the idea is good only when it is embraced by others, and by others I mean not only your mom but the potential customers too. Here, a UX method of usability testing can help. 

For conducting usability testing, ask your users to complete a task within a product and let UX specialists observe and analyze every user's behavior to detect friction.

The minimum number of users for measuring usability is five, according to Jacob Nielsen, the founder of Nielsen Norman Group. Five test users can find up to 85% of problems, which gives you a great base for improving your usability metrics

Design user experience, not features

A common mistake of young companies is planning features and centering the product around them. No doubt, features are important. But the startup team should include UX designers in defining what features your product will have. For startups, having a few but thought-through and well-designed key features will ensure faster and better results than building too complex functionality. Focus on great user experience and track metrics to see how design decisions influences your company’s success (spoiler: a lot).

Incorporate design system early on 

And last design advice for startups would be to create a design system whenever you start your design process. UX design system is a collection of components, standards, and guidelines to manage scaling companies’ design. Creating a design system might not be the first thing you as a founder would have in your to-do list. And this is exactly why you need a UX designer that will have a systematic and long-term-oriented approach. By creating a shared visual language you will ensure hassle-free scaling of your product and. 

Real-life UX examples for red and blue ocean startups 

For a startup in a highly competitive red ocean market, you need to provide better UX design to stand out from your rivals. Users always appreciate more intuitive and convenient products and this is your chance to offer a solution that everyone needs with improved interfaces and user flows. 

For example, the personal finance management platform, Prift, competes with many other personal finance management applications. When the Prift founders turned to Eleken, they had a product idea and initial concept but needed professional help with UI/UX design to stand out of competition. 

Prift’s team already done the user research, so we focused mainly on competitor analysis and benchmark research. After studying all the drawbacks of the existing solutions for money management, our task was to make the financial planning process simple, accessible, and clear for everyone.

After our work was done, Prift got prototype with key MVP features, which allowed them to confidently continue their journey to the market. 

Prift startup design
Prift Design case study 

On the other hand, if you came up with a unique product idea and are sailing in a blue ocean, you also need great UX to make the innovative product comprehensive for users. Sometimes, great ideas fail because they were shaped in a product that is too complex or inconvenient for users. Here’s where a professional UX designer can save the day. 

Great Power Influence product is one-of-a-kind data science-powered, web-based application for the US defense enterprise and intelligence community.

GPI is one-of-a-kind data science-powered, web-based application for the US defense enterprise and intelligence community. The startup founders came to us with just an idea, and the design concept was built from scratch.The task was to create an interface that would demonstrate how a pair of states interact along the DIME (Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic) vectors of influence. 

As a result of our close collaboration with the startup team, they got a full set of design assets that are essential for the start: a site map, user flows, the main menu sections, onboarding walkthrough, different data visualization screens, sign in, error, “under construction”pages, logo, and the design system. 

GPI startup design
You can read the more detailed case study here

To sum up

UX design for startups can be a true life-saver giving shape to innovative ideas and leading to seamless execution.

I’d like to sum up this post with the advice that our Head of Design often gives to aspiring founders: “There’s no way to neglect the UX of your product. So better design great UX for startup right from the beginning of your journey than reboot the whole product after launch to fix UX mistakes”.

We hope that today’s tips were helpful and you are already thinking about how to level up your startup game with great design. If you are looking for a professional UX team with expertise in the SaaS market, don’t hesitate to contact us and let’s discuss how we can help your startup thrive in the entrepreneurial whirlwind.

Masha Panchenko

Writer at Eleken