Designing For Start-Ups: How To Deliver The Message Across

By Andrew Maier •  February 24th, 2011

Start-up organizations provide an extraordinary example of chaos organized into manageable chunks. Perhaps more than anyone else, the individuals who comprise a start-up team are required to understand their team’s goals across a variety of disciplines — research, marketing, design, development, architecture, etc. — as well as their own responsibility to move the company’s overarching objective forward. Entrepreneurs must choose the direction, designers must think through the options, and developers must cull a functional product or service, all while giving feedback to and receiving it from their colleagues.

At least, that’s the idea. Most start-ups tend to take libertiessomewhere along the way. Some start-ups begin with a novel business model, whereas others begin with a beautiful design. Still others try to test things out first with a functional prototype, even if it is a bit ugly. All of them — regardless of their initial approach — adapt their process over time in order to create a well-rounded product or service. And for this reason, most of today’s start-ups describe themselves as “agile.”

Agile start-ups, as the name implies, should be capable of changing their design, development and/or business objectives on a dime. This is much easier said than done — especially for today’s user experience designers. The user experience (UX) designers who work at agile start-ups are required to do two things exceptionally well: (1) grasp the intent of the product or service being developed, and (2) effectively communicate those good intentions to end users in a language they’ll understand. Neither of these is as straightforward as it might sound.

Ideally, designers will jumpstart their design process by carefully selecting well-reasoned entrepreneurs to work with; but what happens when the designer is altogether alien to the community he is designing for? The breakneck speed of agile start-ups makes it incredibly difficult for designers to craft appropriate messages to their audience at large. Only by understanding the processes and opinions that dominate start-ups can designers begin to reach out and make a difference for the end users of their product or service. [Article]


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