Leading an agile, innovative, and disruptive company called a startup is more and more often a career choice made not only by students who dream about the Silicon Valley, but also experienced entrepreneurs who polished their skills working on various managerial positions in large private companies and corporations.
Vision of a quick growth and creating traction (steadily increasing profits) that attracts business angels and investors tempts many people. Startups have gained popularity in Poland on the rise of additional funding from various ventures based mainly on resources from European Union that aims to increase the pace of innovation and economical growth in the area.
Although a majority of startups doesn’t survive the first two years on the market, every year brings new companies that hope to succeed.
Short tale about an average startup
Every Smith or Joe starts his startup adventure in almost the same way. After burning out in his daily job, he teams up with a few friends and founds a technology company to create a product that would solve some troubling issue for businesses willing to pay for it a monthly (usually) fee.
Initial assumptions are often optimistic but reality tends to get in the way at every opportunity. That excellent idea, supposed to be something unseen before, turns out to be pursued by at least few other companies in the world. Without growing profits, finding an eager investor is close to zero while team’s morale vaporizes as quickly as money saved for long years.
First-hand example of a success story
Despite of difficulties that accompany every business owner at the beginning of their way, there are more and more examples of startup founders in Poland who – often working after hours and late nights – have nurtured their companies to grow. They’d solved problems troubling thousands of companies, created new jobs on their own terms, and attracted talented people and partners from other ventures.
One such example are Joanna & Dawid Piskowscy – our loyal clients who tasked us with building their first startup (website and mobile apps Okazjum.pl, which have later been sold to the Interia Group). Looking at our three-year-long partnership from perspective, we see and appreciate their deep involvement directed at systematically improving different parts of the tools they create.
Productz – case study
When Interia Group bought their previous company, our partners began working on a new project: product compare tool called Productz. Tasking us with creating the basic identity for the company, Joanna & Dawid Piaskowscy accentuated how important for the team’s motivation is a solid logo and branding. Many startups do not pay attention to such details, assuming that their image is not important until their product sees daylight. In case of Productz, coming up with a polished identity was part of the company’s DNA from the very beginning.
Before starting a project, we provide clients with a brief that describes the specifics. The document we received from Joanna & Dawid was scarce on detail which in this case was a good thing – it gave us plenty of creative freedom and meant that our client trusted us with responsibility for the full scope of work – from branding to wireframes to design.
The project’s fundamental issue was coming up with a way to present product specifications (smartphones, electronics, appliances, etc) in an attractive, visually pleasing form, allowing users to easily find important features and information. To many people specifications are simply dull which is why our biggest challenge was to design an interface that would offer an experience so pleasant that people, instead of browsing dozens of pages on a manufacturer’s website, would come back to Productz and search for new products.
Tasking us with creating the basic identity for the company, Joanna & Dawid Piaskowscy accentuated how important for the team’s motivation is a solid logo and branding.
How to stand out from the competition
While websites where people spend more time just three minutes often benefit from use cases and user scenarios designed during the wireframing and prototyping stage, these days mockups themselves – often implemented using ready-made skins and systems like Bootstrap or Material Design – do not stand out (and often even blend and mix) in the eyes of an average user.
The real design challenge is to create such interactions, information architecture, and screens – which we have had a few dozens in the desktop version of Productz alone – that would work well with branding, fonts, and colors to create a seamless and pleasant user experience on the site. They help people make use of the tool and catch their eye – all while positioning the project’s visual style in people’s memory and helping them remember it.
Workflow in the project
For every company that pays attention to its image on the web, design stage does not end on website alone. On the contrary – it often takes many months, allowing the product to improve and grow through countless iterations and changes. Testing different solutions in this way, supported by observing user behavior and analytics, helps collect valuable information that can be used to increase the effectiveness of certain features or pages.
We had worked with many clients in this fashion. They would often praise the workflow, saying that lasting collaboration helps create a mixture of different skills and perspectives at a much lower price than hiring just one person who rarely is able to combine different roles – creative director responsible for the brand’s core, brand designer, illustrator, and graphic designer who creates wireframes and visual style for the site.
Every technology startup sooner or later must face user feedback. In Productz’ case the first version of the app was quickly implemented by the client’s team of developers and after a few weeks we could draw first conclusions to start making changes and improvements.
The design of the product specs page, to be interesting enough for the people, must present vital information first and details later. Average time on the site – the key metric of any modern website or app – is influenced by such design elements as legible heading, properly sized fonts, high quality pictures, well-designed icons, tooltips and descriptions for less obvious elements and many, many others.
Being able to look at things from perspective is a great convenience for a business owner who outsourced some parts of design work. Joanna & Dawid Piaskowscy didn’t have to be personally involved in designing their new tool, could look at it from the final user’s point of view, and focus on polishing the elements that influence the core experience. Such approach makes it easy to make quick decisions and allows startup to freely change directions for their growth, all while steadily optimizing costs.
We’ve been designing Productz almost two years. Our studio is responsible for working on improved pages, polishing the final user experience more and more with every iteration. While big companies can theoretically hire many talented, creative people to build a design team, small & agile startups really do benefit from partnership with a branding studio. It helps them save time and money on recruitment, give the ability to look at the project from the sidelines and focus on what’s important – the pace of growth, increasing client base, and optimizing sources of income.