Why does design matter for your startup success story

07 Oct 2014
| Last update: 19 Oct 2016

Whether we like it or not, people judge us based on our looks. First impressions matter more than we’d like to think. In the business world, first impressions are even more important. The visual identity of a company should be able to say the story behind it, and also the mission, the vision. In this article, we’ll get more in depth to see how exactly design impacts on a startup success. First of all, when talking about design, you need to address a few different things. Sacha Greif wrote an amazing detailed article on whether design matters for your startup. According to Sacha (who, by the way, is a designer, so he knows what he’s talking about), design divides in: user experience, visual design, and branding.

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User experience

When you first bump into a new product, website, or app for that matter, the first thing you notice is if it’s easy to use. Are you able to find all the information you want? Is the app, or the website easy to navigate on? Is it missing something? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself before you release it, so that people won’t confront with user experience problems. Especially for your startup’s success, it’s an important thing to consider. If people find your product difficult to work with, they will most likely search for another one that’s easier to understand. Think about it. You would do that too, if you’d be in that person’s place. To quote Sacha, “at its core, good UX” just means “a good product”, and a good product is the first step towards your startup’s success story.

Visual design

This is strongly related to preference, and somewhat subjective. Some people may hate a font I love, or viceversa. As a general rule, rounded letters or shapes are more pleasing to the human eye than sharp ones. I personally think that visual design makes it all come together. While appearance might not seem as important as user experience, or branding, people tend to favor what looks good, what’s pretty, instead of a boring font, and washed out colors. However, there are websites that aren’t pretty at all, but are still really successful to this day. I’m sure you have a few in mind, too.


Last, but not least, branding is the visual identity of your company, it’s what differentiates you from the others. Sacha makes a really good point saying that “if your product was a person, branding would be their personality”. Every business has a brand. Through branding, you are able to control what people think about you. It’s recommended to have a logo, which needs to include visual elements that will represent your brand’s identity. All these three aspects of design are equally important, and one impacts the other in a positive or a negative way, depending on the case. With such avid competition on today’s market, design is what will make your business stand out, especially when you’re in the beginning.

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What does the 99designs survey say about the importance of design for startup success

99designs conducted a survey in 2012, from March to May. The target of the survey were small businesses and startups. The objective was to see what role has design in the business world. As it turns out, 49% of the respondents think that design is important to business success, while 31% think it’s moderately important. Only 3% thought that it wasn’t important at all.

More than 50% of the people that responded are agreeing on the fact that graphic design will become more and more important, as their business will mature. Who does the design for your business is important, too. 27% of the respondents say that they source their designers in-house, an equal percent say they do it themselves, 21% of them hire freelancers, 18% crowdsource them, and 7% hire agencies to do their design.

In design, colors matter, and they can impact the success of your business. 57% of the respondents think that blue is the color they associate with success, 35% of them think that green is, next is white, black, red, yellow, orange, grey and purple. Also, the survey noticed a really interesting fact. While purple is considered by men to be the most unsuccessful related color, women think that way about orange.

Competition will force businesses to understand the importance of design, and invest in it for a better differentiation on the market. 57% of the respondents said that they pay no more than $500 for a new logo, 18% would pay up to $1000, while 14% are willing to spend over $1000.

Though things have changed from 2012, this survey is a really good insight on how is the business world evolving. If you’re asking yourself right now whether design is an important part of the success of a company, compare situations in which you would have to pick between two products, or services that offer similar benefits and have the same characteristics, the only difference being the design. I’m pretty sure you would pick the nicest one, the one that’s easier to use, and is overall more pleasant to your eye, touch, and feel.

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Success is not built ONLY on design

Here are some examples that prove this statement. Facebook Paper is an app with a very cool design, but unfortunately didn’t manage to hit success. Craigslist is an example of bad design – the only difference is that in this case, design didn’t really matter. So many people use it, despite their ugly interface. Or even Amazon. It’s definitely not the prettiest looking website out there, but it still does its job, while millions of people use it every day.

If you can’t seem to get around creating an awesome design for your startup in the early stage, that’s OK. But you will eventually need it, if you want your company to grow, mature, and develop. Design is not what will ultimately bring your startup success. It’s a combination of factors. I’m saying it’s definitely important, and you should take time into designing, but building credibility takes time, hence achieving conversion rate. Good design often takes time, and costs a lot of money too. Focus on things that are important to your startup at the time, and leave the little things for later on.

Successful companies, like Apple, show that a good brand design, right from the very beginning, provides a consistent image of the company. Do you know any examples of a good product that is successful, despite the fact that it has a bad design? Do you think that design is important for a startup success? Let me know what are your thoughts down in the comments.

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Ana Darstaru

Content Writer at Squirrly
Ana has a strong sense of pragmatism and realism. Aside from the articles she writes for our lovely clients, she also loves testing new beauty products, and is obsessed with Pulp Fiction.
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