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February 4, 2016


min read

What we've learned designing for Startups

At Bons we work closely with entrepreneurs to create digital products. This article intends to share a little bit of our experience as well as some reflections to help entrepreneurs and other designers make awesome things.

All startups start with an idea, a really simple one. The idea is so simple that it’s mostly just a sentence: “I’ve discovered a problem and I want to build a product to fix it””

As product designers, our job is to shape this idea into a successful product. But to do our job well, we need a broader understanding. Getting familiar with the business’s goals, mission and strategy, as well as the founder’s vision, is fundamental. We need to understand the whole to be able to create the parts. If we dissociate the product from the business, neither one can succeed.

Design is no longer collateral material to support the business. Design is what gives life to digital products, and it is a fundamental part of any business. As designers, we are creating the front line with the customer; we are what the customer thinks and feels about the business itself. If we fail, the business fails. So if we don’t understand the business behind the product, it’s very likely that the product won’t represent it.

The best products are not coming from isolation; collaboration is key.

After this discovery stage, we start planning the product and its features, goals and strategy. At Bons we like to think of planning as a living organism. It’s not something you intensively do at the beginning that serves forever. Instead, we like to move into action early on, and our planning adapts based on what we learn throughout the process. So we start with the base (roadmaps, core feature planning, etc.) and go quickly into designing, prototyping and building.

Creating a successful product does not come out of repetition and standardisation. There is no magic formula. Projects are like people: every one has different needs, qualities and weaknesses. By recognising every product as unique and challenging the old ways of doing things, we encounter new solutions and reach that thing some people call innovation.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”— Albert Einstein

Once a new product (or a new feature of a product) is live, our job still isn’t even close to being done. Everything we do in this industry is an experiment, a hypothesis that needs to be proven. We always base decisions on gathered information (research, previous experiences, case studies, etc.), which helps reduce uncertainty. That’s a great start, but until the product or feature is released, we don’t know how users are going to take it. We are constantly gathering feedback and learning from the users. This way we can make better decisions and, most importantly, keep improving the product!