Does a startup need UI/UX design before it reaches product/market fit?

Image has taken from Death to Stock
You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.
Steve Jobs

On its way from idea to a working business model, an early-stage startup has to reach a product/market fit. And it is crucial to find your PMF before you run out of money. If a product offers a new solution to the real problem, it has to attract customers, right? Then it would be sensible to focus all the time and efforts on the development of a minimum viable product and start validating it.

Is there a need for UI/UX design before you tested your assumptions? Wouldn’t it be a waste of time and money to work on UI/UX design before you know whether you fail or succeed with your product? Do startups need UI/UX design before they reached PMF?

Product/Market Fit means you build something people want.

According to an entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen, PMF means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market. Steve Blank in his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany referred to the concept of PMF as a step in between customer validation and customer creation.

In other words, if you have a market for your product and customers who react positively to your product, you’ve reached PMF. To see if a product satisfies a strong market demand, a startup develops a minimum viable product with only some core features and delivers it to early customers as soon as possible.

One metric for PMF is if at least 40% of surveyed customers consider the product or service as “must have.” To put this another way, customers have to admire you.

UI/UX defines how positive user’s first experience is.

According to statistics, the time spent on each app is just around 30–45 seconds. This fact indicates the rather short attention catching ability and ‘app engagement’ of many apps that go on to the apps store.

A good UX-solution provides your product with credibility. Depending on UX, customers will define for themselves how positive their first experience is. It is UI/UX, not a product’s value or technology, that shapes a customer’s first impression. As we know, the first impression lasts forever and sometimes you only have that one chance.

If users have a great first experience, they get activated as customers. In case they like it, they will come back. And this is what they call Customer Retention.

Your product may be a great solution, but if it’s difficult to understand what it does and how to use it, you cannot convince customers it is worth buying.

A survey was made to find out reasons why people deleted apps after installing. 42% said the reason was they did not like the user interface.

Thus, if a user experience is unpleasant, customers will not care about a product’s value. They won’t even care to give it a chance.

UI is a basic building block of how users interact with your product.

UI is what people see when they launch your product for the first time. Users interact with your product via UI. If you ignore UI, this will raise the potential for annoyed users with unmet expectations. Imagine that you run a restaurant and don’t care that it has a rude staff and dirty dishes. People won’t try your food no matter how good it could be. Ignoring UI is quite a similar situation.

A review of dozens of research articles shows some key UI/UX issues that can result in higher uninstall rates for smartphone apps. Reasons why people may delete your product include:

  • non-standard GUI (non-standard scrollbars, text and headlines; buttons that do not indicate an action)
  • inconsistency (using different words or commands or using the same word for multiple concepts)
  • no default values (by not using drop-down menus in your app, you can slow down user interaction)
  • user “dump” (when you don’t provide easy-to-understand setup information)
  • one screen size
  • small click targets
  • feature overload

Entrepreneurs together with designers can use them to think about how to reduce uninstalls while designing or optimizing an app user experience.

To give useful feedback, early customers need to be able to grasp a product vision from MVP. Quite hard to do it without smart UI, isn’t it? Let’s agree that design is the only way to visualize an idea.

If you seek to attract customers, you need not just a thoughtful UI, you need it to be great. After all, this is not you who decide if your product has value — it’s all up to customers. If they like it and want to use it, you can call your product successful.

Dave McClure, an angel investor and founder of 500 Startups, thinks that Addictive User Experience (Design) and Scalable Distribution Methods (Marketing) are the most critical components of success in consumer Internet startups. In his article The Value of Design to Startups he says,

It’s actually pretty easy to write a Web-friendly app or Website these days. But it’s still incredibly difficult to create visually appealing interfaces and, beyond that, to design them in ways that are compelling and engaging, drive calls to action, and are measurably adept at getting more customers to use your products.”

Our view

In Eleken we believe that UI forms the basis for a prolonged interaction with a user of a product. We judge from a user perspective and seek to build a product and create a design that makes a user experience more productive rather than time-consuming.

Recently we were redesigning the entire platform for TopVet, an online service aimed at helping vets deliver their online services.

TopVet on all platforms

Our team thought how to make it easy for both vets and their customers to use this online service. We wanted users to have a pleasant smooth interaction, regardless of their prior experience.

Our another client, Swiss startup Koemei, provides search inside video content. For them, we designed the startup presentation, landing page and web application.

User expectations of a product utility are quite high and continue to rise. A product that doesn’t do what it promises won’t last very long on a user’s device. We believe that users make no difference between product utility and the way they can interact with it.

Customer experience matters as much as your technology.

No doubt that a product itself, a solution it offers and technology it uses are very important. But UI is an essential part of a product. Very often UI is the only thing that makes it clear how a product addresses a market need. If you neglect UI/UX before PMF, there’s a big chance that you might not reach there. Your potential customers might never get to know about your great product.

Steve Jobs said,

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

After all, such successful startups as Youtube, Slideshare, Etsy, Flickr, Pinterest, Airbnb, Kickstarter, Behance, Tumblr, to name a few, had designers as co-founders for a reason.

Let’s craft your product together — work@eleken.co