You have an amazing product idea. It’s something you believe will make life better for everyone. Many stumble in taking the next step, designing an awesome user experience. Here’s how.

Many startups and enterprises alike fail to be thorough enough in vetting their killer idea and subsequent product or service. According to Gartner, less than .01% of mobile apps will be a financial success. Forbes cited CB Insights recent poll with startups in which 42% of them identified the “lack of a market need for their product” as the reason for failure. They might not ask themselves (or others) the right questions and put themselves at a serious disadvantage. Questions such as, how do I know real people really want this? How do I know it will work, with all of the other products out there? How do I attract consumers to my product and keep them coming back for more? Lots of great minds have given their opinions on this topic but looking at it from the point of view of designers, we want to share what product teams need to be thinking about when they are designing a winning product.

Design for real people


Taking the time to answer this question is essential to the success of your product or service. If there are any missed assumptions about the necessity or purpose of the product, it’s doomed to fail and no amount of PR, tweeting or marketing budget will help to save the sinking ship. So you must ask yourself these questions. What real human need is driving the creation of this product? Has the market changed creating new demands? Do people truly want your product? Or is it to be created only because the technological advances have made it possible? Do we simply have access to the technology and are throwing it at the wall to see if it sticks?

Let’s take a historic perspective. Apps such as Transit, that track schedules for public transportation through a beautiful UI. Or AirBnB, to find affordable and reliable rooms to rent through a delightful website and app combo. Or Kickstarter and Indiegogo, to fund projects that otherwise wouldn’t be created all occupy a space that was needed to be filled. Each one of these products provide consumers with an advantage they did not have prior to its creation. They eventually market themselves just by being filling a user need, even if initially people didn’t think so.

Design, test, repeat


There are numerous methods to which the user experience can be iterated on and tested. The founding team and UX designers can get together for one or more ideation sessions to flesh out the original idea from conception to completion, leaving nothing to chance. Following the well established lean UX model, it would make sense to “pretotype” the idea, which is a very rough paper prototype to get quick visual confirmation around the idea. This pretotype could even be shown to end users to see if you’re headed in the right direction. Braden Kowitz of Google Ventures recently did a great job explaining this approach. Watch the video from the Warm Gun conference.

Next, the design team should produce low-fi and high-fi wireframes for deeper iteration with the team. Interactive prototyping is the ultimate step in testing the product design, taking the entirety of your ideation, sketches, workflow, wireframes and then adding an interaction design layer to create a fully clickable product. Formal user testing can then be implemented (we like to judge whether the product has a validity in the world and if its design approach is works from the point of intuitive navigation, completion of tasks and actual willingness to use it.

Create a lasting brand


Have you considered that fact that digital users today are much more sophisticated than even 2-3 years ago and now expect a brand experience on the level of Airbnb and Uber? After working on the UX, prototyping and user testing, your design team should craft a brand, binding the essence and core values of the startup or company to the aesthetics of the product or service. This visual design would encapsulate the beliefs and culture of the company through logo design. For example, a mascot can elicit an emotional response from the users. Interaction design can be branded, crafting the user interaction to evoke an overall tone and ease of use. Of course, a highly visual UI design is a key to developing a brand using, including color, type, photos and layout to conjure an emotional response and engage users.

Even your content design should be considered as visual and text-based content can convey your product and startup in a provocative way. Ultimately, the intention of consciously creating a brand identity, if done correctly, is to create an entire experience easily digestible, navigable and engaging for the user and for it to be emotionally galvanizing.

Design for growth


This aspect of marketing the product can be answered in a few different ways. A UX lead and interaction designer, will do everything they can to incorporate marketing into the product design itself. There are very few startups that hit the market and immediately have thousands of users regardless of the concept. It takes time to generate a groundswell and to build a brand. So how can we use product design to handle this challenge? Let design thinking do the work. One way to effectively accomplish this would be growth hacking. The growth hacker strategy I’m mainly speaking of here is to create a product that encourages people to invite their friends by the very nature of how it’s designed. A good example of this is Kickstarter where the only way for a Kickstarter to reach its goal is for the creator to promote it and get the weird out on social. This is share by necessity. WhatsApp doesn’t make sense unless you invite other people to chat with. Fitbit user numbers grow because people like to share their activity which gets other people inspired to do the same. Good product design means the product is self-perpetuating.

Design it to not market it

As Fred Wilson has famously said “marketing is what you do when your product or service sucks”. These four design tips, we believe are a big part of making sure your product isn’t relegated to the 90%. We believe your product design can crush it! Just remember – fulfill a human need, iterate and test your assumptions, create an strong brand identity and finally make sure your design has growth built into it. Of course, lots of other things can go wrong but making sure you’ve invested attention (and money) on good design can get you that much closer to the 10%.

Put your faith in good design!