We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Design is the face of your product. A catchy design helps you distinguish the company from competitors and increases revenue. Veronica Shendo, the UX / UI manager at Blink agency, shared the best approach to building your brand and doing design.
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Blink is a young, fast-growing design agency with extensive expertise and experience in UI / UX, created by UX designer Anton Blinkov. Blink has worked with Hint (astrology app with the revenue of $2.5M + per month), Sport Investing (a blockchain-based sports investment platform), Gem4Me (project for instant text and audio messaging for mobile platforms), Flirt (now waka, an “anti-dating” dating app inside Telegram).
— Why is a startup design important already at the initial stages of product development?
— Our team is well aware of what a startup is, because many of us have had our own projects. At the very beginning, it is important to quickly develop the technological part in order to launch and attract first users. Designing the brand book and developing design at this stage are often not the first priority tasks. To some extent, this is understandable: there is no point in creating beautiful packaging for the product that brings no value to the client.
You need to invest in a brand book and design after the hypothesis has been validated, and you can sell it to the investor. It is the design that helps you stand out since usually, founders have to speak at events where there is often a lot of competition among startups.
Now it is important to focus and understand what the character of your brand will be, what emotion you want to evoke in your user, and what value you want to bring. It is important to understand your startup makes a public promise with its brand. You’re saying: “My product will solve your problem”. The brand is basically one of the products of a startup.
Yet, when you are just starting a project, you don’t want to create a complicated design that will be very hard to change later on, because your startup will grow and change, and so will the design. But still, it’s important to have the basic design elements. Our agency helps startups not only choose the design but also improve metrics such as Adoption (a quantitative metric that evaluates new users of a product or feature. For example, the number of accounts created in the last 7 days, or the percentage of Gmail users who use the labels. — Startup Jedi), Retention (one of the key metrics in-game and app analytics that shows what percentage of users entered the app on the Nth day after installing it, has a direct impact on revenue. — Startup Jedi), Conversion (the percentage of users who have completed a targeted action. It can be clicking the “Register” button on the landing page, clicking on an advertising link, or, for example, making a payment. — Startup Jedi).
Brand more than a brand book. It is what inspires customer trust and makes your company memorable. Jeff Bezos said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”.
— How does design affect startup monetization?
— UX / UI design and startup metrics are indissolubly tied. According to a recent Study by Forrester, user-friendly UI design can increase customer conversion rates by up to 400%. The UX monitoring market keeps growing:
Forrester predicts its value will rise from $1.5B in 2019 to $3.7B by 2023. Every $1 invested in the user interface generates a return of $100, which amounts to a 9.900% return on investment.
Research also shows shoppers prefer brands with personalized digital self-service. Forrester predicts that digital customer engagement will increase by 40% in 2021. This means that startups will face even greater competition, and the competition for clients will intensify. In this situation, UI / UX will become one of the most affordable ways to attract and retain your client. And we are ready to help startups in this.
— How do you organize your work with clients?
— We do not have a strict concept, since everything depends on the client, and we try to find an individual approach to every client. This is what the process looks like, a stage by stage.
First, we discuss with the client what problem they think the design should solve. The agency’s goal is to satisfy this request. Then we propose to conduct a mini UX / UI audit. It allows you to collect additional information about the audience, structure all the data about the company, or collect it from scratch if the startup hasn’t been doing it. Based on the information received, we start working with frameworks and figure out what the agency can do and how it will affect the customer’s business. We always try to put ourselves in customer’s shoes and offer a solution to their business problem.
We do not work according to the “make it beautiful” principle. Our approach is primarily based on a product analysis, user research and metrics. In design, everything is based on the user, so before doing something, you need to study your audience well.
Next, we propose a solution. If there is already a clear technical task, then we design in accordance with it. But more often startups come with some ready-made developments in design, which they have had since MVP days. This design often does not meet the current user and business requirements. In this case, we propose to conduct an audit that lasts up to 100 hours in order to correct the shortcomings in the current solution and propose improvement options: transform and improve user experience, generate hypotheses for product and design development, and conduct tests.
This is our package solution for customers who are ready to delve deeply into design. As a result, the client has all the necessary data to develop the product, relying on their user. In addition, we make sure to produce a detailed design task in case the client wants the design to be done by freelancers or designers other than our agency’s. Of course, we are also ready to complete the work and fully implement everything.
We also sometimes send our designer to the startup team, where they work for a week. During this time, the designer generates and brainstorms ideas, finds growth points that the company can then work with. Something like a Trial Week to get to know each other and get used to each other’s working style.
In addition to the above proposals, we work under the terms of the Time & Material contract with clearly defined deadlines and a pool of tasks.
— You said the “make it beautiful” principle does not work, but that’s exactly what many customers say they want. How can a client improve agency — client communication?
— “Beautiful” is always a matter of taste, it is very subjective. We can’t read the thoughts of our customers, so we rely on already approved, psychologically certified frameworks and standards. And even in this case, there is no guarantee the design will turn out beautifully.
Before getting started, we invite potential clients to fill out a brief with details about their product, competitive advantages, target audience, values, and budget. This helps us significantly improve communication with the customer, which ultimately leads to an “agreed beautiful”.
— What budget should a startup allocate for design?
— It depends on the scope of work. If there is already a clear technical task, we can estimate the cost based on how many hours the work will take our designer. But in practice, it often happens differently. A client comes in and says: “I need this”, having no data on their audience whatsoever. Some clients also come and ask for a design “like Loóna’s”. In such cases, we can also determine how much a similar project will cost.
We work with budgets starting from $2 500- $3 000. This is the price of an audit, which includes a detailed technical task for a designer from your team. For micro-projects, the minimum budget starts from $5 000, depending on the complexity of the design.
— How do you find clients?
— We are still a young agency, so we use a personal network. We carefully select the community that we feel we can have win-win cooperation with. If we talk about niches, we focus on those where we have the better expertise: lifestyle, business, fitness, entertainment and education. We find our clients through different communities and word of mouth. We are also trying to enter European markets through Social Selling via LinkedIn.
We select companies in different areas by ratings and investments and do a mini-screening audit for each of them. Furthermore, we offer to evaluate the design for free and show their mistakes. The company may hire other designers, but we want to be useful for our part. And only then there is a sale.
— What is better for a startup: working with a design agency or hiring an in-house designer?
— First, it is important to understand whether we want to design quickly and get fast results, or we are ready to go our own way, go over UX expertise in-house and only then do the design.
There are a lot of people working in the agency. The more designers there are, the more expertise and years of experience. By working with an agency, you will definitely save time. The agency can also act as a consultant. I think this combination is cool for a startup, when the team has its own designers who close the “burning” tasks, and the agency prepares a UX strategy, develops a plan and helps with its expertise.
The work of a full-time designer in a startup will definitely be limited by time and speed. One person is unlikely to be able to handle the volume of tasks required to release an application.
— What are the trends in design and how to use them?
— Trends spring up like mushrooms, and many startups are trying to keep up with them. And yet, none of them should be used without a fundamental understanding of the business and your target audience. For example, in some HealthTech startups, the user is not at all well-versed, since they are medical professionals who are accustomed to working with tools that have a Windows XP style design. They may not understand fanciful motion designs or 3D models, although these are trendy and cool things. So I suggest thoroughly studying your business and getting to know your user well, and then making a unique design based on this data.
— It is important for startups to test hypotheses. At the beginning of the journey, I suggest using the PR-marketing-sales approach. It lets you quickly validate your product with an audience. Make a small PR event online or offline, gather a micro-group. Next, prepare marketing materials where you can communicate the values of your product. And then try to sell.
How did it work in my case? My startup Spiritup.me raised the problem of entrepreneurs’ mental health. The topic is interesting, we organized meetups that generated a lot of applications. People wanted to work with us or collaborate exchange databases. We got a lot of feedback. Then we prepared marketing materials and looked at how relevant we are for our target audience, and then tried to sell. We realized that the topic was relevant, but our market was not ready yet. People wrote in feedback that mental health is for weaklings, and real entrepreneurs can do anything. The hypothesis has been verified, it is necessary to pivot.
— What problems does a design agency face?
— Many founders understand the importance of implementing UX, but they lack understanding of what they need exactly. When we try to explain how it actually works, customers don’t like it. And it is important to explain the whole process step by step.
There were cases when we did an audit, and then the customer did the design with other designers. As a result, we decided to make the audit and technical assignment a package proposal. If it is more convenient for the customer, then why not?
There is a lot of competition among design agencies, so in search of our niche we decided to apply The Five Ones methodology: focus on one narrow target audience, make one service our flagship product, leave only one conversion tool, choose one traffic source and give ourselves 1 year to implement this hypothesis.
Anton Blinkov — Founder & CEO Blink Agency, UX Expert
Pavel Krivtsov — Lead Designer
Alexander Alekseevich — UX/UI Designer
Veronica Shendo — Head of Business Development & BP
— What are your plans for the near future?
— We plan to focus on a narrow audience: startups that have raised a round of investments from $50 000 and would like to improve their metrics through changing the product UX. We plan to further develop our expertise in data-driven UX design to help our clients correctly collect and use user data — after all, this is a storehouse of useful information for the business. Moreover, by the end of 2021, the customer experience is likely to surpass product and price as a key brand differentiator, as evidenced by research.
Together with Rocket DAO we would also like to focus on the user experience of the product and help startups properly interact with their target audience (TA) because the right target audience is the basis of business success.
We are ready to offer package solutions for developing Customer Journey Map, Competition Map, User Persona & Target Audience, including Web and Mobile Analytics: MAU, DAU, CR, CTR, CVR, Usability Audit and others, if the startup already has data. We are ready to help write the technical task and do the design based on it.
During consultations, we can show and teach how to correctly collect user data and what you can do with it. Of course, we are open to share our experience through brainstorms and masterminds.
To understand how we work and can be useful to each other, we invite startups from the Rocket DAO ecosystem for a free 30-minute strategic UX session where we will identify the problems of your product and discuss opportunities. At the end of the session, we will tell you about the best UX strategies for your business and product that will allow you to:
We will also plan a redesign or product improvement together with you. We will also be happy to share how you can improve UX at any project stage. To sign up for a strategic session, drop a message to @Vershinda on Telegram.