HomeNewsUX Design for Startups: Even Lemonade Stands Need a Strategy

UX Design for Startups: Even Lemonade Stands Need a Strategy

UX Planet — Medium | Akar Sumset

As entrepreneurs, we have a lot of problems to tackle with very little resources and time. We don’t have time to listen to how we need all these resources to provide great user experience (UX), and how hard it is to actually do it even if we had the resources.

What we need is a set of easy to understand and easy to implement tools and tactics for building UX. And, of course, principles to guide us when we are in between choices. So, what are those principles?

Guiding Principles

Put users in the center… and business right next to it.

If we solely focus on the user and disregard business goals then it’ll be impossible for the company to survive.

Work in an iterative, flexible and collaborative manner.

The ultra fast evolving user needs and competition leave us no choice but working in an iterative and flexible way.

Remember, we are not designing things. We are designing behaviors.

All products attempt to change, create or reinforce certain behaviors. The “things” we design are just means’ to those ends.

You can’t manage, nor improve, what you don’t measure.

Measurement is at the core of management and lean. We need measurement to observe the results of our decisions and course correct. However, we should never forget that measurement itself is not enough to design products.

Ask ‘why?’ and answer with a test (not with an idea) as fast as possible.

We can’t solve even the easiest of the problems if we don’t frame it well. That’s where asking why comes in to play. It helps us find the core of the problem and thus test and answer the right thing.

Don’t re-invent the wheel… unless you have to.

Design is to solve problems in the best (what the best is needs to be defined for each individual problem) way possible, not to artistically express ourselves through it. And don’t forget people don’t want something truly new, they want familiar done differently.

Know what branding promises and go beyond it.

To delight people we not only need to live up to our promises but go beyond them. And that starts with branding. Brand is a promise made to the users. And product tries to live up to it.

The above are my own, generic principles for UX and product design. They stem from very core methods, frameworks and other principles like Lean, Agile, OKR’s and AARRR. The important thing about principles is that teams should define their own principles as a collective in order to really internalize and use them during design process.

OK, back to UX design strategy. First, let’s clarify, again, one very important thing. UX isn’t just about the interface design. It is not about how usable the product is, either. Yes, these are critical elements but not the whole. User experience is literally the entirety of the experience our users have before, during, and after interacting with our products. It is the whole thing. And it is based on the user not the product, company or anything else.

This is relevant especially for startups because in the end, a startup is all about finding the pain points and then the solution for their users. Only then can we think of growth, monetization, exit etc. First, we should focus on the user and the experience we’ll provide for them.

5 Planes of User Experience Design according to JJG

This article is based on J.J. Garrett’s 5 Planes of UX Design model. It is a great guide to structure our thinking, and an awesome tool to make sure our activities are in line with our goals.

Like most management vocabulary, the word “strategy” has its roots in military. It means an overall plan to defeat an enemy or reach a goal. In terms of UX design, we’ll refer to strategy as a set of guiding information about:

  • Our users
  • Our business
  • Our competitors
  • The market we are in
  • The brand we’re trying to build

By collecting and framing this information, we will have a much better understanding of our business, users and the market. Additionally, by collaborating with our team, we will make the best use of the resources we have, and build cohesion.

Understanding Your Users

When it comes to users, starting with the Proto Persona exercise is a great way to understand who they are. Basically, Proto Persona means creating personas in-house instead of using field studies, ethnography etc.

Obviously, it is not as good as the field study alternative, but it has a great ROI if you have people around you who are like your personas o and can openly discuss and utilize dialectical thinking.

Even if you don’t have any of the above, you still can create Proto Personas if you research user behavior on platforms like nngroup, Baymard, Google Scholar, CBInsights, fivethirtyeight etc, select five of your most popular competitors and use them for a week or so, or research benchmarks on your competitors.

By doing this you’ll develop a deeper understanding about your users and become ready to create Proto Personas.

Below, you can find useful Google Sheets templates for above mentioned techniques.

UX Design Templates – Users

Understanding Your Business

During my time at Startupbootcamp as a program manager, I interviewed at least 200 startups. You wouldn’t believe how many of them were unaware of the basics of their business. As a “product guy” I definitely favor focusing on the need / problem before any attempt for monetization. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we shouldn’t contemplate how the company would operate once we’re ready to scale.

A very efficient and fun way to understand our own business is working on a Business Model Canvas. Creating a business model canvas forces you to think about the big picture, and see all the moving parts. Here is a useful, online tool to create Business Model Canvas.

Business and users are the very core of our strategy and by spending just three to five days in total, you’ll gather a lot of information, generate insights and most importantly build trust and focus your people around a common understanding.

Of course that is not all when it comes to strategy. We need a strong understanding of competitors, market and brand positioning to complete the picture. Here are practical sources for you to complete the picture.

If you enjoyed this article I strongly suggest you to sign up for my Methodical Product Design Newsletter.

I share handpicked articles that follows a First Principles based approach, similar to Aristotle, Elon Musk, Charlie Munger.

This article is first published on unreasonable.is and is slightly adapted for UX Planet.


UX Design for Startups: Even Lemonade Stands Need a Strategy was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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