11 Things Startups Should Know Before Rebranding

Redesigning an existing brand can be an extremely challenging process, especially for fast-growing startups. We launched our new brand a few weeks ago and these are a few things that we learned along the way at HelloSign.com.

1. Let go

The very first step in the redesign process is evaluating existing flows. A huge part of a redesign is replacing elements that aren’t successful with ones that are. You may find that it’s difficult to let go of certain things due to familiarity. There may be a few darlings. A few near-and-dears that make everyone’s heart flutter. Even nostalgia is involved. The best way to let go and convince others to do the same is by reasoning it out. Show them why it’s important to throw away certain brand equity. Are there metrics to prove something isn’t working the way it should be? Maybe you can gather user feedback to prove that people aren’t using a feature the way it was initially anticipated. Data always wins over feelings. Well, almost always.

2. Don’t over criticize

It’s easy to start picking on existing designs. Don’t waste your energy and valuable time critiquing. Just don’t. Instead, look at the opportunity for improvement. I do think that it’s worth doing a quick audit of the existing designs to learn from all the mistakes, something we did early on in the process. Once you’ve done that, just move on and start creating something better. Something that moves the product in the right direction.

3. Great work takes time

Of course the rebrand needs to launch yesterday. I get that. I understand why. But rushing through the process never helps. Spend a lot of time iterating. Sketch. Draw. Create wireframes. Discuss them. Create some more. Get to the core of the problem and work towards the best solution possible. Don’t stop until you get there. Setting up a foundation for a brand may seem like a huge investment of time but it’ll be well worth it in the long run.

4. Divide the project into phases

Plan the project in such a way that ensures that you’re not aiming to ship everything all at once. Because startups are usually low on resources, unrealistic targets are more likely to fail. If goals are separated out into 3–4 phases/releases it relieves some of the pressure off of the teams. We divided the redesign project into 4 phases. This gave everyone a chance to focus on a few things at a time and polish them instead of trying to get everything done in a limited amount of time. In other words, choose quality over quantity.

5. The experience is all that counts

At HelloSign, we truly believe that making our users awesome is our true north. The best way we can make our users awesome is by designing an immaculate experience for them. We achieved this by changing a few things that had a huge impact. Things like displaying the most important information on the homepage, making all the pages responsive, to state a few. Your number one goal should be to continuously improve on what exists and work towards a better experience. It was also important for us to keep in mind that there are tens of thousands of people that use HelloSign everyday. They have certain expectations from the brand. We constantly reminded ourselves of this so we wouldn’t drift too far away from flows that our users are already familiar with. It was also important to note that some of these flows are crucial to our product. A sudden change in major flows can be jarring for users which can result in some major frustrations. This is not to say that taking risks is an absolute no-no. It just has to be done in a way that doesn’t end in a chaotic disaster.

6. Validate your decisions

Ask for feedback. This is true for any design process but it’s especially true for a redesign. With a redesign, there are certain expectations already set in place. It’s important to show others what you’re working. Doing this will help you see your work in a new light. Collecting feedback can add a lot if done right. An important point to note about feedback is that not all of it is great. Some of it, like “I don’t like that color” is subjective and based on one individual’s preferences. So, be careful about what you choose to keep and what you discard.

7. Standardize everything

Set rules around things like typography, colors, padding, margins, icons, photography, etc. Develop a style guide that documents all these rules. Doing this will make it easier on the engineering team when they’re working on future projects. It will also ensure that everything looks and feels consistent. I’ve always believed that consistency is key. Doesn’t matter if a brand is great or not, as long as it’s consistent, it will work as a unified entity.

8. If it doesn’t make sense, no one is going to buy it

The “make sense” part starts with the bigger vision. Is there a big picture for this rebrand? Is there a story to be told? Is the story relevant to the intended target audience? The answers to these types of questions help establish what the company and brand are striving to be. It’s easy to get lost in pixel perfection but quality products come out of knowing exactly where you’re headed and why.

9. Creative block is real

It happens to the best of us. The best way to get over it is to have a bank of resources that you can refer to as you proceed with the redesign. I do think that inspiration is usually overrated but it sure helps when you’re stuck. The “bank of resources” can be anything from Pinterest boards to a visit to a museum to watching 4 episodes of House of Cards back-to-back. I’ve actually had some pretty awesome ideas in my sleep. So, take a nap, maybe?

10. Be patient

There are usually a lot of moving parts in a big project like a brand redesign. Several teams like Marketing, Creative, Engineering, Product are a part of the decision making process. When there’s collaboration involved, not all parts function the same way. Sometimes design takes longer than development or a project may get delayed due to copywriting. Just hang in there. Take minor delays into consideration from the get go. Plan the project accordingly to avoid frustrations.

11. Pay attention to the metrics

To really assess if the new designs are successful, metrics are key. In our preliminary discussions, we decided we wanted to validate a few assumptions with the redesign. These assumptions were based on past user behavior. We came up with a list of different pages and components that we wanted to A/B test. One important thing that I learned about split testing is that it’s only effective with 2 versions of a page with just 1–2 changes. For example, changing just a headline or the color of a CTA. It’s almost never a good idea to make a bunch of changes to the second version because you’d never know why the conversion rate is higher on one variation versus another. Is it because of the headline or the copy in the CTA or the color of the CTA?

It’s easy to ignore some of these things because they may seem obvious at first but it’s important to deliberately focus on each one of them to ensure that you not only have the best work environment but also results that you’re proud of.

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