UX in context for Startups

I just replied to a great post 500 startups checklist for investing in a startup by David Cummings. Its helped me think more about the difference between user experience work in established companies, compared the time poor, urgency driven, passion rich startup.

In Australia, where UX considerations in startups is pretty low, I’m working on documenting and providing coaching for startups around this, please feel free to reply with your comments or thoughts.

UX in context for startups, addresses the concept validation as well as the usability. These user experience activities are usually held by the founder when discussing the project with customers (as part of validation, not marketing) as well as the rest of the cross-functional team as a frame of mind, rather than a set of build activities. These are ‘softer’ and definitely lean, rather than the rigourous customer/audience insight led work done by a much larger team.

User Experience considerations are present in almost every stage of a startup’s activities, owned by each of the team members in whatever way they can do it. Founders are considering the market constantly and designers know someone has to use the thing they are creating a face for. Developers are deeply occupied by technology concerns which leaves little time for ‘thoughtfulness’ about an end user, but they do understand extremely well that without the technology and/or platform there is nothing for anyone to use.

In context for startups, I am seeing UI and UX being bolted together too often not because it’s a richer skill set, but because they are misunderstood activities.

  1. Good usability and a pretty presentation won’t create a good user experience; it won’t magically transform a bad product or service into a good one.
  2. Weeks of ‘proper’ ux research and collected data synthesis doesn’t cut it for a startup. There is no money and no time.
  3. Lean UX is highly appropriate; engaging a uxer for the long haul can be difficult as the work ebbs and flows

So here’s where every UXer I know is about to yell at the screen. In context for startups, User Experience is a frame of mind; it’s a shared function in a cross-functional team. And the basics can be learned and employed very easily by anyone in the team.

User experience practices help identify conceptual issues, which is especial important with emerging technology and innovation as there are mental models under challenge with customers/audiences. There are simple approaches when talking to customers/audiences that will capture the needs (rather than wants) and not freak you out.

Startups are a punt, they can start out as one thing then suddenly become something else entirely. The user experience work needs to be lean, flexible, disposable and a group effort.

Now having said all the above, if you are lucky enough to find a uxer who can ALSO do UI design, nab them as they (well, we…) tend to solve both issues on the fly at the same time, not because we combine them, but because we understand the differences deeply.

Pop over and read UX advice for start-ups, especially in emerging technology for more about UX considerations and separation of UX and UI work.

WiseHunch have a great poster describing how to talk to customers

Luxr.co do a good job of coaching if you have the time and cash

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