What role does the designer play

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Design is not just a well-chosen decoration

In order to understand how success and design are related, one essential question must first be clarified: What is design? The product philosophy of Apple founder Steve Jobs is certainly not new to you: “Design is not just what something looks like. Design is also how something works. "

Good designers define how a product should be, what it should do, how it should look and what it will say. Yes, even how you feel when you use it. Design and user-friendliness are closely related. Seeing design as a decorative accessory, like baubles on a well-developed Christmas tree, is an absolutely outdated and wrong approach. Often start-ups stay true to this methodology. Seeing added value in design, especially in the early stages of the company, is still a challenge for many founders.

While new technologies and unusual ideas are often treated as a guarantee of success, the user experience is often left out, says Laurence McCahill, co-founder of The Happy Startup School. “Design is not just about aesthetics and function, it is about the emotional connection we make with our customers. Start-ups have the opportunity to build a loyal, enthusiastic customer base, especially in the early stages. Instead, many focus on getting the most out of the few customers. "

Design is the best seller

Even if the majority of customers may not know how to create good design, they still have a good feel for what good design is. A potential customer spends 0.05 seconds to form an opinion about a website based on its design, confirmed Kinesis Inc. And if that is not convincing, the customer is gone again.

So design influences our interest and buying behavior before even the world's best content could. The connection between well-designed products / user experiences and customer loyalty has long been scientifically proven. Users who have a positive experience aren't just ready to tell their friends about it. They are also willing to pay more and more frequently for a product. iPhone owners who pay hundreds of euros for their smartphone without pain - and that year after year - know what I'm talking about.

What does this mean for founders and product development?

Good design leads to higher profits, of course only in combination with functioning technology. Design and user experience go hand in hand. The figures on ROI (Return on Investment) from Forrester Research from 2013 are all the more worth knowing: every dollar invested in usability brings back a hundred of them.

“I think design is the way to positive word-of-mouth, and therefore a key to free marketing,” says Laurence McCahill. “Customers have a completely different feel for design than they did five years ago. Today nobody looks at a badly designed website when there is a better alternative. If you leave a negative impression with your product or website, it is more than likely that these customers will never come back. ”So before start-ups have the opportunity to explain their sensational idea or revolutionary product, the design becomes the get ahead. Reason enough to include design in the early development process.

The challenge: attracting attention among thousands

When looking for investors, design can open doors that would otherwise remain closed. Investors in demand get 50 to 80 pitches on their desks every week. It works the same way as with conventional applications: Only those who stand out positively have a chance.

Fancy a little self-test? Pitchenvy shows a gallery of different start-up pitches. Scroll down the homepage for three minutes and see which deck will catch your attention afterwards. Certainly not one that meets the standard.

“A pitch shouldn't be like Disneyland. Potential investors shouldn't have to wait for the cool stuff to come, ”says Bing Gordon, former Chief Creative Officer of Electronic Arts, among others. The first idea doesn't have to catch on right away, but the performance is right. "Don't waste time on a boring slide."

Investors primarily invest in the founders and their teams. In the founders who convince with charisma and passion. Burning for their idea. So how passionate can you be with the standard PowerPoint template, a black Times New Roman and plenty of bullet points?
A presentation with large pictures and the illustrated vision of a better world will blow you away and blow your mind! And first and foremost, she pays one thing: attention! It can be worth gold. Especially when potential investors have a pitch marathon behind them and their receptivity is dwindling.

There are even investor associations such as Designerfund, which specialize in companies founded by designers. You are convinced of the importance and influence of design. The question still arises as to whether one should do without outstanding design in the pitch?

Get the designers on board

Because design is more than just a nice look, it is so close to customer happiness. A good designer not only helps founders to make the product beautiful, but also to understand the customer: How he ticks, how the offer has to work, why and what he is buying for. At the same time, only design opens the door to uniqueness for a product. The following also applies: Technology can be copied. It is the design that creates emotions that we are willing to pay for. The different smartphones are a good example of this.

So when is the best time to involve the design team in the development? As early as possible! The sooner a good designer can be brought in, the more you benefit from it. A designer will help sharpen positioning, better understand customers and tailor the product. Once the site has been launched, the product manufactured or the system developed, the design task not only becomes more difficult. It will also be significantly more expensive. And more time consuming. In addition, not every target group reacts positively to major changes and a new level of acceptance has to be worked out. All of this is saved by integrating a designer into the development team or using an experienced freelancer.

Is the idea still decisive?

I admit it: As a graphic designer, my heart beats for design and I am convinced that it is necessary. Of course, apart from the pure “beauty function”. The numbers and success stories paint a similar picture. But of course the idea plays a decisive role in the end. However, if you look at design holistically and in conjunction with product development, it is clear that clever designers can protect against wrong decisions, bad investments and bad products.

Those who deal intensively with their customers in the course of their design process will recognize what they need. And can develop a product that makes customers happy and companies successful. Loosely based on Thomas J. Watson, the former CEO of IBM, good design does not make a bad product desirable. But, good design helps a good product achieve its full potential. In short: "Good design is good business."