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Design for startups: Tips & Tricks

Nov 19, 2023

Boost your startup with heartbeat's techniques: Find out how we boost conversion rates by up to 30%.

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Heartbeat's Design Essentials for Startups

Choose a Font

Selecting the right font is crucial for conveying your brand's voice. Think about whether a serif or sans-serif font suits your brand's personality better. Serif fonts, like Times New Roman, suggest tradition and reliability, while sans-serif fonts, like Arial, convey a modern and clean look. Remember, the font you choose will be on every piece of content, from your logo to your emails, so it must be legible in various sizes and contexts.

Analyze Your Competitors

Take a deep dive into your competitors' design choices. What fonts and colors do they use? How do they position their logos? This research isn't to copy them, but to find opportunities to stand out. Notice any overused trends in your industry and think about how you can do things differently to capture attention.

Keep It Simple

Simplicity in design helps your brand to be more easily recognized and remembered. Avoid overly complex logos or color schemes. The simpler your design, the more effective it is at conveying your message without the noise of unnecessary details. Think of Apple's logo; its simplicity is its strength.

Know the Brand

Your design should be a reflection of your brand’s essence. If your brand is about innovation, use modern design elements. If it's about heritage, maybe a classic approach fits better. Every design choice should align with what your brand stands for, from the logo to the color palette.

Use Colors Strategically

Colors can significantly impact customer perception. For instance, blue often represents trust and dependability, which is why it's popular in financial institutions. Understand the emotions and messages different colors convey and use them to your advantage. Also, consider color combinations that are accessible to all users, including those with visual impairments.

Be Literal with Your Logo

A literal logo can be a very effective tool, especially for startups trying to establish themselves in the market. If your brand name or function can be cleverly incorporated into your logo (like a book for a bookstore, or a coffee cup for a café), it can make for a memorable and self-explanatory design.

Consider Negative Space

Negative space, or the background space in and around your design elements, can be cleverly used to add a hidden element to your logo. The FedEx logo and its hidden arrow is a classic example. This can make your design more engaging and memorable.

Create Contrast

Contrast helps your design stand out and be more legible. This can be achieved through color contrasts (like black text on a white background), size contrasts (combining large and small elements), or font contrasts (mixing font types or weights). Proper contrast ensures your design is easy on the eyes and effectively draws attention.

Ensure Scalability

Your design should maintain its integrity whether it's on a small business card or a large billboard. Test your design in various sizes to ensure it remains effective and legible. Scalability is key to a consistent and professional brand image across all platforms.

The power of the Aesthetic-Usability Effect

This effect is all about the impact of design on user emotions. During product testing, you might notice that users pay more attention to the design than the functionality. If they like what they see, you're heading in the right direction.

The internet moves fast, and people decide quickly — often within 10-20 seconds — whether to stay on a site. A well-designed site can lead to a 30% increase in keeping users around. Interested in learning more about how design impacts user experience? Check out our blog post on the differences between UI and UX.

A case study: AirBnB's design strategy

AirBnB's success story is a testament to the power of good design. They faced financial challenges and identified that poor property photos on their site were a problem. By upgrading these images, they turned their business around almost instantly. It's a perfect example of how effective design can lead to real results. For more insights on how design can drive your startup's success, take a look at our branding exercises for startups.

Below are a few real-life examples of digital products we’ve worked on:

Case Studies: CleanCloud and Product Collective

In the startup landscape, design is not just about aesthetics; it's about functionality too. Let's look at two examples: CleanCloud, a POS software provider for laundry and dry cleaning businesses, and Product Collective, known for their industry conference website.

CleanCloud shows how design can enhance a specific industry tool. A user-friendly interface and visually appealing design can make a significant difference in user engagement for niche business software. Product Collective's website revamp is another example. They didn't change much structurally, but the design update led to a doubled conversion rate on PC platforms.

And here is a new version of Industry Conference pop-up:

The Double-Edged Sword of the Aesthetic-Usability Effect

While the Aesthetic-Usability Effect can lead to immediate benefits like increased conversions, it's not a cure-all. Focusing solely on aesthetics might hide underlying issues in your UI/UX design. It's a short-term strategy. Users initially attracted by a site's look will eventually notice if it's hard to use.

This effect can be a starting point, but remember, users are looking for solutions that ease their problems and bring comfort. Over-relying on aesthetics might initially draw users in, but without addressing functional needs, they'll eventually leave. To understand how to balance aesthetics with functionality, read about our UX design frameworks for future projects.

“Okay. Now how do I make it pretty?”

Finding the Right Design System

Design doesn't have to be complicated. There are many design systems with helpful guidelines out there. We've been working on our own for over 3 years, called .pulse. It's full of design rules and tips from our experience with digital products. .pulse has ideas on how to make your website look good and feel right. You can start using some of these ideas on your site right now to see improvements. For more insights into enhancing your startup's design, check out our thoughts on the importance of branding in 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you do conversion rate optimization?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) involves analyzing user interactions and making adjustments to your website to improve the likelihood of visitors taking a desired action. This process includes A/B testing, user feedback, and analyzing data to identify areas for improvement. Learn more about our approach to optimization in our article on designing for SaaS and best UI practices.

What is conversion rate design?

Conversion rate design focuses on designing your website or digital product in a way that maximizes the likelihood of visitors completing a desired action, like making a purchase or signing up. It involves strategic use of layout, color, text, and user journey mapping to guide users toward conversion goals.

What is startup branding?

Startup branding is the process of creating a unique identity for your startup in the market. It involves developing a brand strategy, visual identity, and messaging that resonate with your target audience and differentiate your business. Effective branding is crucial for startups to establish a strong presence and build customer loyalty. For startups looking to craft a compelling brand, our guide on startup branding essentials offers valuable insights.