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3 Design Guidelines for Startup Apps: Fluidity, Branding, Experience

Sidebench Team

Designing an app is never straightforward or easy, but when you’re a startup you (more often than not) need to be hyper focused on being lean and staying lean. Design is something you can’t skimp on, it is the main part of the end-user’s experience with your product and if you decide to be frugal with your design team, you will end up regretting it. This is why we think design for startup apps is a different process than enterprise and established company’s apps.

This difference often means you either hire a great designer for equity – which is very, very rare – or you need to outsource your design needs. Upwork has some reasonable designers, but guaranteeing the quality of work can be difficult. Looking for design teams is also hard work, but you can find some willing to exchange consulting for equity. No matter which path you take, you will need to ensure your designer has what it takes to make your app great. We have three (plus a couple extra) guidelines that help create a great startup application: Fluidity, Branding, and Experience.

Firstly, set your goals, which are usually growth and funding. Gaining users is the most efficient step to gaining funding from VCs, nothing proves your concept more than traction. This is why when designing your app you should keep in mind that good design leads to retained users. If the learning curve to understand your app is too steep, if it looks unprofessional, or if it in any way hinders or slows a user from accessing a specific page or function, they are very likely to uninstall.

Next, make sure your entire company, from website and landing page to press releases, are fluid. If you are wondering whether your content is fluid, cover the branding and logos you have on all of your content and see if each of the pages seem like they are from the same company. This includes your social media: make sure your Instagram photos and overall profile follow the same design themes as your sites and products. Nike does this extremely well. Not only does fluidity build a brand (more on that next) but it makes you seem more professional. Your app, logo, sites, and everything else is a user’s or potential user’s direct view of your company. Don’t come up short in this area.

Branding overlaps a bit with fluidity, but a brand is an experience and fluidity is aesthetic. The design you use throughout your company owns your color scheme. Color pallets are important to keep consistent across all of your platforms and logos, but even more so is what your brand stands for. Your brand is a reflection of your culture and your values. How you design the brand image, and the app (often the first point of contact a user will have with your company) greatly defines your company in the eyes of the public.

End-user experience. Our UX article explains the importance of great UX, but in a startup that is without funding, you might have to take some risks if you decide to design the app yourself. MVP UX is different than normal UX because you might not have the resources to user test your app, meaning you don’t know what users will like and what they won’t like about your design. There are a few ways to combat this issue: one is the make your app really simple. Focus on UI and make sure that the emotional reaction a user gets from using your app is from the great functionality you provide them, not necessarily the design itself. Another way of making sure the user experience isn’t hindered by lack of funds in your early days is to limit your apps functionality to only what is essential. This is, of course, what an MVP should be, but some founders go overboard with functionality and without a well designed app in place this can lead to user confusion.

Next, be revolutionary. Yes it’s risky to try and do something bold and different, but it actually increases the chances you get funding if you can gain some sort of traction. A revolutionary app should come with a revolutionary design to match. This can be a big ask for a young venture, but if you manage to do it well statistics show that VCs are more likely to give you the funding you will badly need.

Overall, there is a lot to think about when determining the way you will design your startup’s app and identity. Keeping in mind all of the above will help a lot when the time comes to make harsh design decisions thanks to budget constraints. Always remember that the design – the look and feel – of your app, brand, and company all play roles in the way users perceive your venture. If the design is done well, you will find that it is much easier to onboard and keep users than if it isn’t done well. Read our other articles on design to get some more tips on how to make sure your startup is well designed through-and-through, or give us a call for more info and to see how else we can help!