4 Strategic Design Practices to Future-Proof Your Startup in 2022 by@sergeykrasotin

4 Strategic Design Practices to Future-Proof Your Startup in 2022

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Startups are shifting focus from expansion to survival and laying out plans for the months and years to come. Successful startups such as Instagram, Uber, Venmo, and WhatsApp all launched with success in the Great Recession of 2008.Apply these simple strategies to promote longevity and build success for your startup. The most strategic tool a startup has at its disposal is the feedback of its users. It is the only way to build products and services correctly. Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that aren't.
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Sergey Krasotin

Design Director & Co-Founder at Humbleteam. Startup mentor at Seedcamp, Wework and other accelerators.

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Apply these simple strategies to promote longevity and build success for your startup. 

The inevitability of an economic downturn is upon us. As the economics of physics goes – what goes up must come down – and we are facing the down part of that equation. As such, leaders are shifting focus from expansion to survival and laying out plans for the months and years to come. It is a necessary reminder that successful startups such as Instagram, Uber, Venmo, and WhatsApp all launched with success in the Great Recession of 2008. That said, making big plans in hard times can be challenging, especially for startup leaders.

In a world where we celebrate design-led startups for their high success rate, there are a few important takeaways regarding the Strategic Design process that can help you create a plan for your startup that will future-proof your company for 2022 and beyond. 

What is Strategic Design?

Strategic Design is a way of approaching the problems and challenges of a business using a combination of design and business strategies. Those who utilize Strategic Design use a dynamic and systematic thought process, solving issues holistically. 

Using Strategic Design approaches, businesses are empathetic to their users while conveying complex ideas and changes that move the mission forward. Moreover, because of the current economic conditions and the adaptive nature of Strategic Design, it will be essential in preparing any startup for the future. 

Below I will highlight four of my top design strategies and why implementing them in this economic time is vital for your business’s success.

Invest in Content

Your website is your calling card, your command center, and your business’s central information hub. A great website design can launch your brand into recognition, but quality and, most importantly, updated content is how your business will stay relevant to your target audience.

One of my most indulgent hobbies is scrolling FWA and RedDot award winners and then pulling up those winning sites to cross-reference how they look today (which could be six months to a year since the award). Why do I do this? Because the websites are usually drastically different today than they were at the time of their award. As time passes, a stylized website design is hard to update with new and more relevant content. So websites find themselves downgrading their site design to a more basic yet adaptable layout more apt to content changes.

Content out wins visuals every time.

Content keeps audiences interested, informed, and coming back time after time. No one wants to see outdated references or products. Instead, they want the most current features, the most current specs, and to know that you are continuing to stay vigilant to the changing times. 

Now is the time to bring up the next important question, is you’re content good enough? One of the easiest ways to ensure your content hits the mark is to follow this cheat sheet.

  • Does it match the customer’s hopes and dreams?
  • Does it address the necessary pain points?
  • Does it solve user concerns?
  • Does it answer important questions?

*Pro Tip*

You should be able to describe your product using only words from the website. If you cannot do that, your site lacks the comprehensive content your customers need to feel confident about your product. If the way you speak about your product differs from your site’s content, fix it.

Invest in User Feedback

The most strategic tool a startup has at its disposal is the feedback of its users. It is the only way to build products and services correctly. Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that aren’t. Unfortunately, I have noticed that many startups do not utilize this tool. 

Most startup founders prioritize the advice of their investors (or the other “advisors” on their team) instead of talking to their customers. And for those who know, circling the design Twittersphere says it all. But unfortunately, the advice from these circles is likely ambiguous and does not add value to the design or mission. 

If you are the person who knows the most about the company’s product or service, the best thing for you to do is talk to your customers directly, which is not always easily accessible.

Proper client testing and feedback can take hours, days, and even weeks. A fast and easy workaround to this problem is to utilize the convenience of messenger-based apps to reach out to users and ask them direct feedback questions around essential features and aspects that will help add value to your design and move your process forward. Although it is not a proper replacement for proper user testing and market research, sending 25 WhatsApp messages to loyal users of your product can provide you with quick and reliable answers. Furthermore, these answers can help identify red flags and create a guiding path for improvement. 

Invest in Software

Hiring the right people to be a part of your team is crucial to your startup’s success. However, there is no doubt that the hiring process can be high stakes for your company with limited time and resources. According to data from Smart Asset, one of the most expensive startup costs is payroll, averaging around $300,000 for five employees across the U.S. In addition, hiring and then firing employees is a costly and time-consuming process that should be avoided at all costs.

Combat unnecessary expenses by investing in software that helps automate processes and leads your startup towards lower burn rates and extended runways.

A plethora of software available to startups can substitute a substantial part of their business. Those parts of the business are not key to delivering your company’s product or service but are necessary to keep the business going, such as an HR department. 

For example, your startup needs someone to pay salaries and onboard new hires, but there is now software, like Deel, that can do it all for you for a fraction of the cost of an employee. Or Intercom Bots, a program designed to take the place of entire support teams. These tools can keep your expenses lower and your productivity higher, giving your more flexibility to focus on the key elements that add value to your mission.

*Pro Tip*

Some aggregators can help you connect all these software tools to create an automated flow if you want to streamline your automation. 

Bonus – Invest in Health

You might be feeling anxious to put in extra time at work right now to combat any stress you might be feeling; this is normal during crisis times. But if you believe that the more you work, the more you can achieve, that is not true. Take it from me. 

The fact is that only the bottom 10% of the competition can be beaten by sheer force of work. So no matter how hard we work, I guarantee you that most of the rest of your competition is working just as hard, if not harder.

It is scientifically proven that sleep deprivation impairs cognitive functions and productivity. Pulling late hours and compromising your sleep and physical health may feel productive at the moment, but the inevitable crash associated with overworking will cause more long-term harm than good. In addition, work/life imbalances are recently determined to be one main reason people quit their jobs. Therefore, health is the key to maintaining a hardworking and productive work environment.

The Bottomline for 2022 and Beyond

Your startup can make it through hard times. However, you will need to make some important and strategic design changes to allow for more resilience within your business plan. Future-proofing your startup with strategic design aims to create habits and processes that extend your opportunities and give you the best chance of success for 2022 and many more years ahead. 

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by Sergey Krasotin @sergeykrasotin.Design Director & Co-Founder at Humbleteam. Startup mentor at Seedcamp, Wework and other accelerators.
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