SaaS business

UX Strategy: What It Is and How to Create It


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UX strategy, or user experience strategy, lies at the intersection of UX design and business strategy. It allows businesses to reasonably prioritize tasks and make sure that they don’t spend their resources on non-essential aspects during the product development process. This way building a UX strategy helps to deliver a product with the needed functionality within the expected timeline and budget and align your expectations of the product with customers’.

Eleken is a team of product designers. And being a product designer means we not only have a good grasp on UX design principles and decent visual sense, but also an understanding of the product strategy, the customers’ needs, and business objectives. 

Though we believe that every particular project we work on is unique and it is difficult to come up with the exact system/plan with checklists or something like that, in this article, we want to share with you our understanding of what a user experience strategy is, its importance for your business, and steps we take to create the strategy in Eleken.

I guess it will be logical to start with the definition.

What is a UX strategy?

What is a UX strategy?

UX strategy is a strategic planning process that takes into account not only the goals of the business but also the needs of the real consumers of the brand and connects each customer touchpoint with a user experience that the company intends to create. 

A UX strategy program includes an understanding of the current state of your project, the development of a vision for the future user experience, a priority plan for achieving goals, and defining what UX KPIs and metrics to use to measure the progress.

All of the above points are connected with the overall business strategy, including the long-term plan for the development of organizational capabilities and company culture.

So, a UX strategy should present a clear statement of the product vision and the results that we want to achieve for the business and end-users and can have the following structure:

plan of a UX strategy

Challenges: what issues you are trying to solve

  • Aspirations: what the perfect desired outcome is
  • Focus area: what you will focus on for the most impact
  • Guiding principles: how you will solve the issues and overcome challenges
  • Activities: what types of activities are needed to complete the strategy
  • Measurements: what type of metrics you will use to gauge your success

And finally, when developing a UX strategy remember to share it with all your team members and stakeholders (if nobody sees your UX design strategy document it is useless). 

Properly done UX strategy will become a strong foundation for further project development while jumping directly to design will multiply efforts during the edits.

How to create a UX strategy? 

As we have already briefly mentioned, at Eleken we don’t have some strict UX strategy framework. But when providing our UI/UX design services we never jump straight into the design, we invest time in bringing order to your requirements and understanding what we're about to create. 

When building a strategy the designer needs to understand the main idea of the product, its goals, and objectives. It is also a time of market research and understanding the business model behind this project. During this period the core functionality of the product should be decided and discussed, as well as some basic schedule and roadmap for the design milestones. That’s why during this period we usually have a lot of calls (in some cases, even meetings and workshops) related to product discussion and iterations for clarifications regarding future user experience strategy.

UX strategy process may include different steps, and various types of research may be required. Below we will provide you with the basic ones.

6 steps to create a UX strategy

When creating a UX strategy most companies stick to the following sequence of steps:

Steps to create a UX strategy

Now, let’s learn about each phase in more detail.

Step 1: Evaluate the current state

It is worth starting to prepare a strategy by looking around and assessing the current state of the product and what global challenges the business faces.

It is very useful if there is a business plan that you can rely on. But even if there is none, you will have to fill in the gaps of missing data through interviews with stakeholders. 

What is important to pay attention to at this phase:

  • Common tasks that the business should solve. For example, test the effectiveness of a business model, win over users’ loyalty, retain customers, and so on. Understanding such basic goals allows you to set the right focus from the very beginning. UX strategy cannot (and should not) be created without considering the needs of the business.
  • Problems that you already know about. For example, user churn increases, annual recurring revenue does not grow.
  • The resources you have.

Step 2: Set your goals, UX vision, and proof of concept

Once it becomes clear what is happening with the product and with the business right now, it's time to think about how you would like the product to be perceived in the future. 

For example, one of our clients, Textmagic, a SaaS product in the field of sales and marketing, wanted to avoid becoming complex as they add new functions and products. And the appearance of new features often leads to a poor user experience. The goal of Textmagic was to become a new version of Zendesk, only simple from the user’s perspective.

Maybe you’ve already understood that we are talking about the value proposition here. Textmagic’s value proposition sounded like this:

value proposition example of a SaaS service

You can learn more about this project in Textmagic’s case study.

Step 3: Define focus areas and the strategy scope 

We adopt the strategy for a certain period of time. It can be 6 months, after which we hold a retrospective and discuss whether it needs to be updated or you can take a longer period (but then you need to have intermediate control points).

When talking about focus areas, we usually highlight several points.

User personas
user personas example
User personas example created by Eleken for HandPrinter

If you still don’t have your user personas defined, you can think of your target audience (still, it is not that effective). The goal of this focus area is to discuss with the team for whom exactly they solve this or that issue or create a new feature.

Usually, businesses have more than one type of buyer personas and it is better to prioritize them. In situations where you have to choose whose needs to satisfy in the first place, prioritization will come in handy.

For example, every day the support team receives requests for feature A from some individual users. And at the same time, your salesman says that one potential client-enterprise is almost ready to buy your biggest subscription plan if only you add feature B to the product. Focusing on a target audience in your UX product strategy helps to decide what feature to start developing first.

Services and products

Focus on services/products is relevant for big companies, in case you have a small project your focus area will be parts of a product or interaction stages. To find this focus area we should get back to the two first steps - business issues and goals.

If the product performs only one function there probably will be no problems with the allocation of resources. But what if there is more than one feature, and besides, users at different interaction stages use different functions, your team faces a problem of what to do first: design onboarding, work on increasing conversions to paid subscriptions, or develop new features. 

Competitor research
competitor research template

When you look at competitors, questions arise about how people use certain features of your rival’s product and how important these features are for users. This way conducting competitor research helps to understand what to focus on in your own project.

UX Areas
UX design areas

Of course, everyone would like the product to be consistent, useful, beautiful, easy to use, and at the same time affordable. But you may not be able to combine it all in one product. Therefore, it is worth deciding what UX areas are paramount and examine the current state of each UX area. Perfectly, you should prioritize areas based on feedback from users.

Step 4: Create guidelines 

One of the most important parts of the strategy is a set of specific rules, adherence to which will allow you to achieve your goals. Guiding principles define what approaches to take to solve the issues your business is facing. 

This can include a particular sequence of activities, like "mobile-first." But these rules should not be too narrow (for example, should not be limited to visual design only). Creating guidelines helps everyone move towards the same objective.

Step 5: Develop a plan

Everything we talked about before had a single purpose: to understand what actions to take in order to reach your final goal.

For that reason, you need a high-level plan. This “plan” is rather the list of activities you need to take to solve the business problems and meet user needs.

For example, a part of your plan may look like this:

  • Conduct user research
  • Develop user personas (or validate existing ones).
  • Create a prototype.
  • Start usability testing on prototypes.
  • Develop a design system.
  • Conduct the content audit and align it with the strategy.

Step 6: Define what metrics to track

An essential part of your strategy should be defining metrics that will help you assess whether what you are doing is helping you achieve your goals.

It is better to immediately determine how often you will track changes in metrics. It depends on the metrics, but you can take checkpoints every 2-4 weeks as the base case.

To learn more about which metrics to track read about 9 Key SaaS metrics.

To sum up

Creating a UX strategy itself is a useful exercise because it forces you and your team to ask important questions, identify problems, and reflect on them. But it is very important not to stop at simply “creating a strategy”. Make sure that each member of your team uses it as their guide to achieve positive results. 

And once again let’s summarize what to pay attention to make your UX strategy effective:

  • UX strategy document: Once presented to the team, we make it available to everyone. It should contain links to all other artifacts (user personal, customer journey maps, product roadmaps, and so on) so that no one has any problems with quickly accessing the needed data/document.
  • User personas, design principles, and KPIs: These are the parts of the strategy that directly affect daily tasks, so it is useful to keep them in sight all the time.
  • Activities from the plan: After discussion, you divide those activities into tasks, each with a performer, a grade, and a deadline.
  • Calendar: After discussion with the team, you can set the dates of the retrospective and adjustments, so that everyone knows about it.

At this point, it may seem like creating a great user experience and aligning it with your business goals is a lot of work. Well, it is, but it is definitely worth all your effort. And if you need professional help in creating a simple and coherent product experience drop us a line and we will answer all your questions.

Kateryna Mayka


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SaaS business
min read

Designing a Sales Funnel for SaaS that Delivers Results for Your Business

Ten years ago, you wouldn’t need this article. The SaaS market wasn’t oversaturated yet, and each product could easily find its audience. But times have changed, and now, looking for a solution, buyers usually have several choices. They became more selective, demanding, and cautious.

Additionally, you can’t push people to purchase without the risk they’ll quickly get off the hook. You should carefully guide potential clients through your selling process until they’re ready to pay for your product. Simply put, to become a customer, they have to reach the bottom of your SaaS sales funnel.

The good news is that there are quite a lot of methods to optimize the sales funnel so that it seamlessly guides your prospects from initial awareness to purchase. And of course, as a UI/UX design agency for SaaS, we couldn’t help but share our knowledge on how to do it with UX design.

So, rather than discussing traditional marketing tactics, this article primarily sets its sights on the design aspect of the sales funnel. We will explore its key components and focus on how UX design positively influences the overall funnel performance and helps businesses achieve more revenue. 

Still, to be on the same page, let’s start with some basics first.

What is sales funnel and why is it important?

The SaaS sales funnel (also known as SaaS marketing or conversion funnel) is a multi-staged selling process that starts with building the awareness of your brand in clients' minds and extends beyond the first payment.

Unlike e-commerce businesses that focus on getting new customers through short marketing promotions, the SaaS customer acquisition process requires a more delicate approach. Customers need to be sure - your product is the best solution for the problem they face. While interacting with leads down to the bottom of the sales funnel, your ultimate goal is to raise their trust through engagement, expertise demonstration, and values communication.

On the way to purchase, users hit various touchpoints. So the way you treat them along their journey may strongly impact the conversion. Understanding your sales funnel for SaaS will help you find the gaps and analyze where and why prospects drop out and never convert. And in the context of all the above-mentioned, UX design becomes a strategic tool for shaping seamless and engaging interactions with your prospects, ultimately driving conversions and business growth. 

We're now moving closer to the sales funnel stages, but at this point, I want you to understand ​​— customers' journey through the funnel is absolutely under your control. 

SaaS sales funnel stages

In the marketing books, you'll come across the acronym AIDA that stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.

These four stages represent a user's behavior flow based on human psychology. Each step requires a special approach to move a lead to the next funnel level seamlessly (and since we are talking about sales funnels from the design perspective, I will focus on design approaches later on here). It's crucial to stay relevant and consistent, keeping in mind that the wrong treatment at the wrong time can be a reason the lead will drop out of the sales funnel.

stages of SaaS sales funnel AIDA
Image credit: Xprexity

AIDA concept has many variations, but I find the HubSpot approach the most applicable for the SaaS industry. As the principal B2B SaaS sales funnel stages, they define 

  1. Awareness
  2. Engagement
  3. Exploration
  4. Conversion

Why I like HubSpot's definition is because it says that raising customers' interest is not enough to get them converted. You should engage your leads and build trust. Also, in the SaaS world, the word "exploration" describes more accurately than "desire" the transition stage, when people finally start showing real interest in your product.

stages of a sales funnel for SaaS

You will get better my idea while learning about all the SaaS sales funnel stages, so let's move on.

Awareness: raise interest, build trust, educate

At this stage, your potential clients are asking questions and looking for information. They may even not fully realize the problem, so not searching for a specific solution yet.

Your potential clients are becoming aware of your company. More likely, they found one of your blog posts in an organic search or came across a mention of your brand in the media. 

So, at the awareness stage, potential users come to your website from various channels and your task is to put all your efforts into catching their attention and increasing brand awareness.

Traditional marketing tactics at the awareness stage include promoting your content through paid ads, enhancing the SEO strategy, and so on. Still, SaaS companies can effectively increase brand awareness through strategic UI/UX design as well. Here’s how:

  • Incorporate consistent branding elements such as color schemes, typography, and visual styles that align with the company's brand identity to help users recognize and associate the design with the brand.
  • Present valuable and engaging content, such as blog articles, tutorials, or case studies, in an aesthetically pleasing and accessible manner to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry and attract a wider audience.
  • Use unique and memorable design elements, such as creative illustrations, animations, or interactive components to create a distinctive brand experience that stands out and increases brand recall.

For example, Zapier uses a colorful and eye-catching landing page with animations to raise awareness about its workflow automation tool. The page includes clear messaging about the benefits of their product, as well as a bright call-to-action to sign up for a free trial.

Zapier raise user awareness with a eye-catching landing page

Engagement: become a credible resource

When people come back to your website to consume more content, they're gradually moving to the next funnel stage. The entry point to this SaaS sales pipeline stage is providing an email address to download free material or a lead's sign-up for your demo. These actions show the lead is interested in your content, and it's the right timing to provide them with more detailed information about the product or service to pique their curiosity and engage potential customers.

The engagement stage may be the longest part of the acquisition process as your potential clients need to determine if they trust you enough. They also want to be sure they need a solution to the problem your product solves.

We have some more tips on how to build a successful user engagement strategy in the dedicated article. And here’re several tips on how you can optimize this stage of your funnel with design:

  • Present information in a clear and concise manner, ensuring that users quickly understand the key features, benefits, and value proposition of your SaaS.
  • Incorporate social proof and testimonials from satisfied customers into your website’’s interface, reinforcing the credibility and desirability of the product. 
  • Make sure you have intuitive navigation and user flows that guide users through the information and content relevant to their interests. By providing easy and seamless access to relevant sections, you help potential users discover more about your SaaS, deepening their interest and engagement.
  • Design interactive elements such as clickable prototypes, interactive demos, or product tours to allow users to actively engage with your product. 

Stradigi AI, a low-code AI business automation platform and one of Eleken’s clients, offers its users a detailed demo of their product.We helped them improve the UX of their demo version and turn it into a full-fledged MVP so that now its intuitive design helps potential customers understand the capabilities of the product, build interest and engage leads.

demo version of a business automation platform to engage users and make them convert
Demo version that Stradigi offers its potential users

Exploration: show up your product values

If you managed to hook leads attention and win their trust, this stage should be all about highlighting the benefits of your product and warming the leads up for the purchase. This stage involves showcasing the unique selling points of your SaaS, addressing customer pain points, and emphasizing the benefits that differentiate you from competitors. The aim is to convince customers that your product is the best solution for their needs. 

At this point, offering a free trial will give leads a possibility to test-drive your product's full functionality within a limited time period. During the trial, the experience they have will influence their decision whether to become a paid user or not. That’s why taking care of user experience is super important here.

And an intuitive user onboarding will help you show the value of your SaaS in a shortest and most effective way. A well-thought-out onboarding can provide options for personalization and customization, allowing users to tailor the product to their preferences, remove friction and obstacles, and lead your leads to the Aha moment when they realize your product is exactly what they need.

Here’s how Busuu, a language learning app uses personalization to help potential customers explore the app and guide them to the Aha moment. It asks a short simple question.

how Busuu uses personalization to help potential customers explore the app and convert

Once the user has chosen an option, Busuu makes sure that the onboarding, as well as lessons, newsletter, and special offers, will be customized to fit one of these categories of users.

By the way, you can sign up for our free email course on how to spark an Aha moment.

Conversion: sell and make customers stay

The paragraph's name conveys the main idea. To sell is important, but to retain is crucial. The SaaS businesses are subscription-based, so it is vital to secure monthly recurring revenue. That's why focusing on customer acquisition only is a short-sighted sales strategy. Retention should always be a part of the discussions related to the company's acquisition strategy.

Here is how you can work on customer conversion and retention:

  • Simplify the conversion process by minimizing form fields, reducing steps, and eliminating unnecessary friction. A smooth and streamlined process reduces user frustration and increases the likelihood of customers retaining.
  • Ensure your SaaS offers a seamless experience across different screen sizes. The mobile-friendly design increases the chance to convert users who prefer to take action on their mobile devices.
  • Incorporate feedback mechanisms and communication channels within the product to encourage users to provide input, report issues, or seek assistance.
  • Optimize the checkout page of your SaaS so that it facilitates a smooth and secure transaction, ensuring that customers successfully complete their subscriptions.

For example, a SaaS cloud banking Wise, uses a clear and concise checkout page to encourage potential customers to sign up for their platform. Plenty of white space and a bright CTA helps users easily understand what they are supposed to do on this page and lead them to conversion. 

example of a conversion stage of a SaaS sales funnel. The checkout page of Wise

The magic of customers advocacy

I'd also add one more stage to the SaaS conversion funnel. Do you know what all brands' biggest desire is? To be referred by the customers. Customers' loyalty is a powerful weapon against competitors and a valuable asset for business growth. In today's world of social influencing, those who can get mentioned by satisfied clients have much more advantages. Reviews are new money. Keep this in mind, crafting your sales and marketing strategy.

Ok, I think we're done with the theoretical part. Now let's talk about how to design your first (or maybe not) SaaS sales funnel.

Simple steps to design your SaaS sales funnel

At the heart of every exceptional user experience lies a well thought-through design. In the context of a sales funnel, UX design plays a pivotal role in crafting seamless and delightful journeys for your prospects at each stage, nudging them closer to conversion.

Know your audience

This step, being absolutely obvious, is still ignored by many businesses, and I can understand why. When you make a great product, you tend to think - oh, yes, that's what everybody will appreciate. However, the product for everybody is the product for nobody. You should focus only on people who potentially need your product and can be easily turned from leads to customers.

Map out customer journey

Start by identifying the key touchpoints where customers interact with your brand throughout their journey. These touchpoints can include website visits, landing page views, sign-ups, trial activations, purchases, and more. Once you have identified them, create a customer journey map by visualizing the steps customers take from initial awareness to final conversion. This mapping process helps you gain a comprehensive view of the customer experience and enables you to identify potential bottlenecks or areas for improvement.

B2B customer journey example
Example of B2B buying journey. Image credit: gartner.com

Create a website

It can be a simple landing page or a nicely-versed website. Ideally, it should clearly articulate your value propositions, main differentiators, product offerings, and price plans. Optimize the performance and loading speed of your landing. Slow loading times can frustrate users and lead to abandonment. Compress images, minimize code, and implement eye-catching CTAs to ensure your leads move further down the pipeline.

Simplify the signup and onboarding processes

When users see a poor sign-up flow that asks for too much irrelevant information, they often become frustrated and quit. The same fact is true for SaaS onboarding (as it often goes right before or right after the signup), if it’s too long or consists of too many steps, it’s likely that people will skip it. 

To ensure users complete the sign-up process, prioritize creating short and frictionless forms. Eliminate unnecessary questions and avoid any extra details that can be addressed later on. Instead, focus on asking relevant questions and personalizing the initial interaction.

As for the SaaS onboarding, there are numerous methods on how to optimize it and help the lead experience your SaaS’s value, like creating intuitive product tours, using Wizard design patterns to make complex steps simpler, designing the onboarding in a form of a to-do list, and more. We’ve discussed all of them in detail in our article about SaaS onboarding examples.

simple user onboarding design to optimize SaaS sales funnel
An onboarding checklist designed by Eleken for a workflow management application

Take care of the upgrade process

As SaaS companies often use freemium pricing or provide free trials, they need to actively prompt their leads to upgrade their accounts. You can optimize the upgrade process by minimizing steps and reducing friction. Provide a seamless and streamlined experience, such as offering a one-click button to upgrade, allowing users to complete the upgrade with minimal effort and time.

Also, implement in-app modals strategically and use them to highlight the benefits and value of upgrading, showcasing premium features, additional functionality, or exclusive perks available in higher plans.

how Loom uses a modal window to prompt users to upgrade
Loom uses a modal window to prompt users to upgrade

Work on retention

As I've already mentioned above, retention is vital for every SaaS business to be successful. So, don't forget about your customers as soon as you see the first payment, as this is not the end of your collaboration; this is just the beginning.

The SaaS sales funnel is a dynamic system, which you should watch and analyze, finding the weak points where the leads drop out and never come back.

Track sales funnel effectiveness

Here are the metrics you should check to evaluate your SaaS sales funnel effectiveness.

Revenue growth

The SaaS revenue growth rate is one of the most critical business metrics indicating a company's sustainability and profitability.

(Second Month Revenue – First Month Revenue) / First Month Revenue * 100 = % Revenue Growth Rate

The growth rate depends much on the stage the company is at and can significantly change over time. I won't go into the growth rate details here, but you can learn more in the average SaaS revenue growth article elaborating on this topic.

Customer churn

Another metric crucial to track is the churn rate. It shows the percentage of users who left your product over a certain period.

Customer Churn rate = Number of churned users / Total number of users

The average churn rate benchmark varies from 5% to 7% annually. However, this is not the ultimate rule for companies of all sizes—read the SaaS churn rate article to get more useful information.

Customer lifetime value

This metric shows how much money your customers will bring you over time.

To find your LTV, you have to calculate the average revenue per account (ARPA) first.

Then, you can use the formula:

LTV = (ARPA x Gross Margin) / Churn Rate

Customer acquisition cost

CAC measures how much money you spent converting a lead into a customer. This metric is crucial to determine the SaaS business profitability and is calculated by this formula:

Customer Acquisition Cost = Cost of Sales and Marketing /Number of New Customers Acquired

Certainly, the SaaS sales funnel metrics listed above are not the only ones you should use to measure your sales funnel effectiveness. Still, they can help you understand if you have to start working on your marketing funnel optimization.

Optimize your SaaS sales funnel

Firstly, you need to check which stage doesn't work well and where are the "holes" your leads may drop out from.

Let's say you get lots of leads, but they eventually don't purchase your product. It means you fail to properly demonstrate your SaaS differentiators during the engagement and exploration stages.

If they reach free trial but don't convert after trying your product, then probably your onboarding needs improvement.

If your users churn soon after the subscription, you failed to show your product's real value or pay much attention to customer retention.

So, here is what you can do to optimize your SaaS sales funnel with the help of UI/UX design:

  • Make a unique and memorable design for your landing page and ensure it clearly communicates your values.
  • Design visually prominent and persuasive CTAs that clearly communicate the desired action and entice users to take the next step in the sales funnel.
  • Streamline the user onboarding experience by minimizing steps, providing clear instructions.
  • Ensure your SaaS product has a responsive and mobile-friendly design.
  • Optimize your conversion forms by keeping them concise, removing unnecessary fields, and using visual cues to guide users.
  • Continuously iterate and refine your UI/UX design based on user feedback to enhance the overall sales funnel experience.

Drive your growth through UX Design in SaaS sales funnel

In the fast-paced world of SaaS, a well-optimized sales funnel can be the differentiating factor between remarkable success and mediocrity. By realizing the paramount importance of UX design in enhancing the performance of your sales funnel, you are taking a significant stride toward unlocking the true potential of your SaaS project.

Awareness, Engagement, Exploration, and Conversion are the stages your leads should go through to become your clients. It's under your control to track the sales funnel effectiveness, analyze its weak points, and work on your sales pipeline optimization. And in case you need professional help, we at Eleken focus on designing SaaS products that align with our clients' business objectives. By placing user needs at the forefront and transforming complex interactions into exceptional experiences, we can significantly contribute to enhancing your users’ journey at each stage of the funnel. You can schedule a call with us to learn more details about how we work.

Meanwhile, thinking of your sales funnel strategy, you might be interested to check the stories of the best SaaS companies and the secrets of their success.

SaaS business
min read

UI/UX Trends: Balancing on the Dizzying Path Between Unique and Usable

Two decades ago, in the year 2000, Jakob Nielsen declared that Flash design is 99% bad because it kills usability. What's being said between the lines is that everything that kills usability was bad. 

Mr. Nielsen was the voice of a new trend that revolved as a reaction to the websites from the 90s — the ones with acidic colors, prominent blue hyperlinks, wild graphics, and all those amazing GIFs.

gifs from websites from the 90s
All those amazing GIFs. Image credit: cameronsworld.net

Web design took its very first steps back then. It wasn’t limited by user-centered principles, Nielsen Norman Group guides, or Apple’s flat aesthetic. First websites weren’t made for users, they were made for “pure art”.

No wonder that new UI/UX trends turned to simpler, cleaner, and clearer interfaces. In one word, minimalistic. Over decades of user research, designers figured out minimalism is what people want from interfaces. Jakob Nielsen’s voice was heard.

The voice of Minimalism

In the same year, in response to Nielsen’s minimalistic manifesto, Joel Spolsky wrote a little note stated the following:

“You get the feeling that if Mr. Nielsen designed a singles bar, it would be well lit, clean, with giant menus printed in Arial 14 point, and you’d never have to wait to get a drink. But nobody would go there, they would all be at Coyote Ugly Saloon pouring beer on each other.”

It was a voice of brutalism in web design, manifested 15 years ahead of its time.

The voice of Brutalism

Minimalist UI/UX design

A minimalistic movement encourages designers to simplify interfaces by removing unnecessary elements or content that doesn’t support user tasks. Google, Microsoft and Apple pioneered such simplification two decades ago, and since then, the UI and UX design world has gradually come to be dominated by minimalistic aesthetics.

Apple's website in years 1996 and 1999

Minimalism is very commendable. It helps users understand the content and complete their tasks, it looks polished and professional, it is a really good trend on so many levels that it’s no surprise this trend has become so… hmm… popular. 

When we all have one recipe that works better than anything else, we naturally end up in an almost homogenized web. It was clearly felt, but not so clearly seen (for me, at least) until this tweet from 2018 by Jimmy Daly.

Jimmy is speaking about almost identical anthropomorphic illustrations top SaaS brands have, but you still can’t tell the difference between which landing page is which even if you forget for a moment about pictures. Look at those rounded sans serif fonts, black & white interfaces, rounded rectangle buttons.

App design blurs even more and becomes literally invisible: link is link, text is text, navigation is all the same and suddenly everything in your phone feels like one big white application. 


Is it bad that our designs look like clones? 

Not really. The product’s visual identity and junior designers’ ego may suffer. But for users, uniformity in product design is a good thing, because...

When people use their GPS navigators and banking apps or scroll through a long article like the one you’re reading, they don’t want to focus their energy on an interface. They want to focus on the job. And since they have dozens of apps on their phones, uniformity across everyday digital products helps to switch between them smoothly. 

If you want to set yourself apart from the rest of the apps by unique design, consider the case of Snapchat’s redesign disaster. 

In 2018 the company shocked its fans with innovative user interface design and unfamiliar navigation patterns. The reaction was not long in coming — you see the dramatic drop in consumer sentiment.

Close to a quarter of all downloaded apps are deleted after just one use. And annoying people with overloaded interfaces is not the best strategy to stay afloat, even for the brightest brands. 

What is the best strategy is to spend designers’ time working on little touches that matter for user experience — like Figma’s animated onboarding or Asana's celebratory unicorns

When minimalism is not enough

For a few months already, I’m struggling through Ulysses by James Joyce, probably the most challenging text I have ever read. The plot of the story is pretty elusive, buried under the layers of Greek myths, Irish history, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Dante, and 19th-century memes. Most of the time I hate this book. But in the moments when tiny dots come together in my mind, I’m the king of the world.

Sure, I don’t want all my life, or, God forbid, my apps, to feel like Ulysses. But there are situations when people want to be annoyed with some level of mystery and complexity. When they want to solve some puzzle. 

Minimalism’s aesthetics feels way too boring sometimes. When we've had enough of well-lit, clean bars with giant white menus, we started looking for Coyote Ugly saloons. 

Brutalist web design

Remember Morgan Freeman’s office in Bruce Almighty? That pure white sterile space recalls me of some bare-bones minimalist white websites. Brutalist web design came as a reaction to standardized visual design and spray-painted some punk stuff onto walls of minimalism.

Since 2014, the Brutalist Websites page has been collecting the brightest brutalist web design examples. Back then, these were personal portfolios of designers and coders who were tired of the mainstream.

In 2016, the Washington Post said that “the hottest trend in Web design is making intentionally ugly, difficult sites”. And that was the point when businesses started careful experiments with their interfaces. Digital agencies, creative media and fashion labels, all the cool kids turned their attention to provocative brutalist tricks — broken grids, random colors, ugly fonts. Some experiments turned out to be more successful than others.

In October 2017, Dropbox’s rebranding blew the collective mind of the worldwide designer community. The company was known for its design system that helps users handle files with minimal distraction. And suddenly it went wild with a plethora of colors and 259 (!!!) fonts. Sounds like lots of destruction.

Image credit: christian-beck.medium.com

The idea of rebranding was to change Dropbox’s positioning from being just a place to store files to being a workspace for creative teams. So the new design was speaking to creative teams. But it looks like the target demographic turned out to be more moderate than Dropbox expected because most of the feedback I’ve seen on the Web was negative.  

You’d say that we can’t judge the effectiveness of a redesign by comments from the web, and you’d be right. But we have something much more valuable to consider — how the users behave in the redesigned pages. 

Here’s how Arlen McCluskey from Dropbox comments on pricing page redesign:

The bold rebrand color palette negatively affected trust and clarity. As a result — a drop in several key metrics. So shortly after the makeover, Dropbox returned its pricing page to a more discreet design. 

You may want a creative web page, and your brand may need a brighter identity, but any moves towards design diversity may decrease usability. And if you're in business for money, you can’t ignore users voting with their dollars against bad usability.

So current UI/UX trends are all about balancing on the dizzying path in between great usability and a brave outstanding brand.

Some of 2021 UI/UX design trends

#1 Edgy typography

Making fonts bigger and bolder is a very noticeable trend. Complex typography looks fresh and entertaining, it adds some spice to your design but doesn't usually impact its functionality and navigation performance.

Quirky fonts often act as design accents on SaaS landing pages. Take Dropbox’s squashed-up Sharp Grotesk typeface or Whyte Inctrap font that earned Figma a place in Eleken’s landing pages ranking.

Dropbox’ sharp typography

#2 Consistent visual language

UX is not an excuse for lack of visual identity. If you don’t want to dissolve your brand’s personality in standardized interface elements, you may come up with your own visual language, just like Miro did. 

It all started with shapes that reflected the company's key values — spatiality, fluidity, agility, and distribution. Later, Miro incorporated brand shapes into all the UI elements. They use them as photo frames, backgrounds and illustration patterns, creating a recognizable look.

using brand shapes as photo frames, background elements and illustration patterns
Miro’s brand shapes

#3 Going loud with colors

Moving away from white is a drastic change from minimalistic designs that makes your landing page stand out for users who go through hundreds of light-colored websites in a day. 

Look at Zendesk's website. This one, in its 2018 edition, appeared in Jimmy Daly’s tweet as one of four identical websites with creepy illustrations. Since then, Zendesk differentiated itself with colors, and today you can barely mix up their page with any others. 

Explosion of colors by Zendesk

Psst… If you want more trends, we have more trends.

Spice it up, but keep it functional

Latest UI/UX design trends are definitely moving from perfection to uniqueness, but it’s all about context.

If we’re speaking about a SaaS product, your first concern is making the app extremely functional and pleasant for the user to navigate. You probably want some experiments with a landing page that works as a colorful wrapper for your product, but be careful and check how changes impact your bottom line. More experiments with design probably make sense if you’re dealing with a personal portfolio of a website of a creative agency. 

The main thing you have to remember is that any design should be usable, because if it isn’t, no matter how pretty it is, it is a bad design

Eleken product design agency can help you with good design, great from the user experience perspective and still unique. 

Interested? Let’s talk.

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