38 comments

  • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, almost 8 years ago

    you've gotta be trolling here. most obvious attempts:

    • misunderstanding that "design is how it looks."
    • assumes designers have no role in product development.
    • states a belief that designers aren't worth your money. (yet posted to a community to designers)
    • suggests sending unpersonalized, mass messages to dribbblers.
    12 points
    • Matt Goldman, almost 8 years ago

      Not trolling, but definitely getting trolled :-) To address your points: 1. My mistake for not being clear about referencing visual design, see my reply to Chris above. 2. I assume this because I drive product development myelf (no team - bootstrapped). If I didn't have experience with it, then it would make sense to hire, but I do. And many bootstrapped product devs do as well. I should have been more clear here as well. 3. Not true at all. I stated that hiring a designer from day 1 is a bad choice (given experience working with UI - which isn't a designer-specific skill). With a bootstrapped product, it takes time to cover salaries. My co-founder and I are a lot to cover. Add on a salaried designer, and in the early days of a bootstrapped product, that is a hard expense to justify. This doesn't mean I think designers aren't worth paying, at all. That couldn't be further from the truth. 4. Did not suggest this at all. I said to spend considerable time following designers who you admire. Then to reply to the few of them once you know you like their work.

      I could have been much more specific with the article, but wasn't since it was primarily emailed to my list who know a bit more about us (bootstrapped, experienced with product design, etc.) My bad!

      1 point
      • John LockeJohn Locke, almost 8 years ago

        God, the design community baffles me on a daily basis. People are ready to smash things over this article, yet many of the same people will tell people to "shut up and work more, start making things...you're a jealous designer" if someone suggests that Dribbble has made designers associate design with pretty visuals. It's pretty bipolar, if you ask me.

        I agree that design is about how it works, and how it looks is a lter consideration. I actually thought this article had some very useful and portable ideas. I like the idea of just getting a style guide together at the beginning of the project, so the exact implementations can occur when the time is right.

        I wouldn't let the holy wars deter you from putting your process out there. A lot of people can learn from it,

        1 point
      • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, almost 8 years ago

        well then.

        1. this point is probably why you're getting so much flame. cardinal sin in the design world.
        2. that's fair. definitely doesn't work for most, though. from my experience most developers have a rough time following style guides.
        3. this is where the distinction of visual designer is important. having a designer on board to create userflows/wireframes/prototypes, smooth out interactions, and validate ideas before they're created are an invaluable asset to any start up. vastly improves agility and efficiency. but i think a few other people have mentioned this.
        4. quantity was not specified, neither was personalization. mass-mail was implied.

        very confused that you've created a homepage with many unique elements from such a generic style guide.

        also very confused that you've posted a shot to Dribbble of a design that you didn't create.

        0 points
        • Matt Goldman, almost 8 years ago

          Good points - thanks for replying. Re: the Dribbble shot I didn't create...I've only posted a shot once. And I did create it. The color came from a style guide. But I designed the form, layout, sizing, icon placement, responsiveness, copy, etc.

          0 points
  • Chris MeeksChris Meeks, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    If you think of a designer as someone that comes in after you've defined the product and the UX, then of course you're right. But that's a really bad misrepresentation of what designers are supposed to do for products.

    The fact that you can boil down a designer's contribution to a tiny style guide is revealing. If you'd ever allowed a good designer to help you rethink product assumptions, you never would have written this.

    7 points
    • Matt Goldman, almost 8 years ago

      Hey Chris, I think where I was thin in the article, was stating that I'm a pretty good product designer. I'm not perfect, but I have been making product for years, so I'm able to make decisions without hiring someone for that. It's easy to make the assumption that others have this same experience. So in that area, I'm wrong.

      As far as working with designers, I spent years working with designers in an agency, and have been surrounded by great designers since I left the agency.

      Where I struggle the most is with visual design, which is why I seek the assistance of great designers. That means I absolutely respect the power of visual design, and it's a skill that I haven't been able to master after years of trying.

      But given the maker has product/UI experience, the method I detailed is great for taking a well-planned interface and giving it a unique feel, different from other products. Thoughts?

      1 point
      • Jonathan ShariatJonathan Shariat, almost 8 years ago

        If you are a "pretty good product designer" than you are, in fact, bringing in a designer from the beginning and it is designer driven. But my guess is that since you described yourself as a "pretty good" product designer, you should have a designer who is strong on UX, interactions, and IA.

        Again, back to my comments above, you need to "design" a product, iterate on the "drawing board" and be communicating with users before you start the "release and test often" part.

        6 points
        • Matt Goldman, almost 8 years ago

          The idea that the product needs to have a perfect UX from day 1 just isn't true. You have many iterations early-on to get everything right, and people will work with you as things improve. In fact, our entire products have changed over and over, as we get things right. Trying to nail product experience from day 1 as if you were working on a client-project is silly, IMHO.

          That's not to say we neglect any of it. But the incremental value of bringing on a high-cost UX expert would absolutely not cover the additional cost when working with a bootstrapped product.

          But I can see where your thinking would apply with other high-budget, mass-market products.

          3 points
          • Ben Henschel, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

            I don't think anyone is saying perfect UX, it's never going to be perfect. But don't you think by not having a UX expert you will waste time iterating on things that a expert could of helped you avoid.

            Simple example:

            With out a UX expert:

            • We had to iterate 5 times on our payment form because users kept being confused.

            With a UX expert:

            • I know the best practices for payment forms and have experience creating great payment form experiences in the past.

            • Our first go at it and users are not confused. Now we can focus on other parts of the app that users are confused on.

            I mean that's why they are experts, if you have experts you don't have to iterate and try and try again over and over again because your experts have been doing that for years, and they know what works and what doesn't

            It's like if I started a company and didn't hire a CFO or an accountant, because since I don't know what the right answer is, I can just iterate until I get it right. Or you know I could just hire the expert and avoid all of that work.

            2 points
            • Matt Goldman, almost 8 years ago

              Lots of truth in this, I'm more of a believer in being good enough at several skillsets (which usually is what would be considered an "expert") and reaching out to other entrepreneurs for help/feedback when I struggle. Nobody has a clue what they're doing with product. The best product people are learning every day from their mistakes...and you and I both know that there is no pefect payment form. It varies based on product and audience.

              No individual knows all the answers, and I'd rather be learning as I go on a macro-level and working with experts occasionally, rather than hiring someone who thinks they know everything about a micro-topic.

              1 point
              • Ben Henschel, almost 8 years ago

                Sure I agree even people in the top of their field will get it wrong, or what is a great solution for one use case, doesn't work for another. But working with people who have experience and who have devoted a lot of time to learning their craft will get things closer to being right and will do it faster then people who don't have experience.

                So instead of 5 iterations it takes 2. But I also think that people who are not designers, don't take into account that their are some universal design principles and some things that are tried and true. Not everything, but there are some assumptions that can be safely made based on these principles. Sometimes I get the feeling that people who are big proponents of agile development (My company takes a agile development philosophy and I have really embraced it) take the attitude that when starting a product feature we know absolutely nothing and that any assumptions are pure speculation, which I just don't believe to be true. I think there are some principles and philosophies and people's experiences that can allow you to make some safe assumptions.

                Also hiring someone who thinks they know everything is just making a bad hire. There are plenty of experts, or people with expertise who are humble.

                0 points
  • Thomas PetersenThomas Petersen, almost 8 years ago

    As I wrote on HN

    Some startups are so early in their field and creating a new industry that design isn't important. Others are later to the game and can use design to differentiate from those early in the game who didn't get around to it. And finally some need to think long and hard about their design because it's become a hygiene factor. That pretty much sums up my take on things.

    4 points
  • Ben Henschel, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    This seems like a silly argument. Matt G, you are a product designer (or UI designer or UX designer or whatever you want to call it) who lacks execution (Photoshop/sketch etc), and visual design skills (most professional UI designers also have photoshop and visual design skills). If you didn't have that product design experience then you would have to hire a UI designer from day 1.

    I completely agree with you that for a company just starting out, or even one that is pretty far along there would be no need to hire a strictly visual designer if you already had a UI designer.

    I'm the only UI designer at a pretty early startup. I do both user interaction design and visual design. It would be stupid for us to hire a strictly visual designer (do they even exist?).

    So you have a designer at day one (yourself). The fact that you have to supplement the work by hiring outside help to fill in the gaps of your own skill set is really just commentary on your set of skills.

    3 points
  • Taylor LeCroyTaylor LeCroy, almost 8 years ago

    Why pay the $900? Just grab a trendy color palette from the Adobe Kuler website, use Proxima Nova, say 32px for the h1, 24px for h2, Go to Squarespace Logo for a mark, then maybe throw in something from Subtle Patterns. Boom, designed.

    3 points
  • Matt Pinheiro, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    I've read all visual design stuff posted before

    Assuming that we're replacing "Design" with "Visual design", I still disagree.

    My point is: A style guide is nothing without a good product behind it. You can't say: Okay, please make a styleguide. At least, I wouldn't do that, if you'd ask me.

    Why? Because the visual style guide is something you build over time, not something static. You will face matters like "I need two headings on this page now, but the ones on the style guide look awful for this case" or "I've realised that this colours have a different meaning in Eastern Cultures, we need to change it", et cetera.

    If you ask me: "I have these wireframes. This is what my app/site/whatever does, my target audience is that. Can you please do the visual design of these three pages? Ah, and I also need you to make a style guide of the elements on these pages.", I would probably work for you. Why? Because that's a proper design request. It have context, it have meaning. I will not feel like doodling around on Photoshop. Serious designers don't doodle around and download UI Kits.

    And of course you could come and ask me later to review the style guide and the new pages that you've built. I agree that startups may not need a visual designer all the time (I think they should have if they have the money, though)

    And what about going to Dribbble and ordering by likes? That's just the worst thing one can do. Dribbble is a great community to get feedback on design, but judging people based on small snippets of what they have done is just not right. How do you hire a good visual designer? Look at their portfolio, look what they've done, look the solutions they've created to a specific client. Of course you could find things you like on Dribbble, but please go deeper and get to know the designer and he's work. Don't spam everyone.

    And, maybe I'm the only one, but I'll charge more than $900 for a logo+visual design project. A well thought, well done work will take at least (and at least is a simple project) one week. That's 40 hours. At a rate of $25 per hour (which is cheap for a freelancer that have to deduce tax and many other fees from that) it's already costing $1.000.

    If you can find someone that can give you a good visual design project in less than a week, they'll either charge waaaay more than $25/hour (because they're the best) or deliver you a trendy (the kind of "5 new ui kits" listing from blogs) photoshop file that will be as good as bootstrap.

    And no, no one is trolling you. Maybe some people lose their s* when they read something like this because this kind of thinking is EXACTLY what we're fighting against.

    Some designers work only with startups (like yours) and make their living from it. And you post on a site called "Designer news" something about how useless their work is, saying that you could pay hundreds and not thousands for something they've studied their entire lives to do. You should be prepared to the outcome of that.

    3 points
    • Matt Goldman, almost 8 years ago

      To your first point, it's easy...open the PSD and update it. Click Save. Done.

      "Why? Because that's a proper design request." << I could look back at my original emails to the designers I wanted to work with. They were incredibly detailed, down to the needs for specific screens. Far more detail/meaning than what you consider desirable.

      As for making changes, we have already done a second round on HookFeed, this time designing the marketing site - since we have a better idea of where things are headed. FYI the product is entirely different from what was originally planned (a year ago). Hence why we are so anti-designing everything from day 1.

      Regarding Dribbble, I don't see the problem with how I work with it at all. It's a great place to find good designers. Obviously, I peruse their portfolio before hiring them, but you can't tell me a better place where I can find as high of a concentration of talented designers of all kinds. Liking shots is step 1, learning more about the designers that keep popping up is step 2, and submitting a proposal to a few of the best is step 3. What is possibly wrong with that?

      If you're charging $25/hour, you are seriously undervaluing what you do. That should be at least $60-100. And if it takes you 40 hours to produce (without revisions) what I included as examples in my post...then you need to work faster.

      Put yourself in my shoes...as a business owner, there is no way in hell I'm paying someone to spend 40 hours on a deliverable like that. I'd be much more likely to pay $100/hour for 10 hours because it tells me a) you value your time and b) you are fast, for both this project and future projects. Versus paying $25/hour for 40 hours (same cost) but I perceive you as being slow, and undervaluing your work.

      That being said, to work with a great designer, I'm happy to spend thousands, but only if that work will live for more than a week or two...which doesn't happen until a product is more established.

      And you, as a designer, should be able to empathize with that. If you can't, then you're not selling what is best for your clients, based on the stage they are in, in their business. You are simply selling what you want to sell, regardless of how it will benefit them.

      1 point
      • Matt Pinheiro, almost 8 years ago

        Well, then I think you've not written your post well. All the reaction on this thread is because of some things people thought about what you've written.

        About Dribbble It sounded like you were spamming people on Dribbble. I agree with you: Dribbble is an awesome community and a great place to find designers. Just don't judge people based only on what you see there. Go to their portfolios, talk to them, read what that say on twitter, see what they think design is. That's my opinion.

        I'm not against Dribbble. I'm against liking stuff and saying "Hey, please, do something like these for me".

        About designing from day one I'm not saying you should design everything from day one. I don't think you need a visual designer from day one. I've been a designer for 8 years now, working for companies with both 1 and 100.000 employees, designing things thousands of customers use everyday. I can say I have a little experience in it. I've also worked at startups and at big companies, so I've seen both sides of the coin.

        What's the difference between a custom designed UI Kit and Bootstrap? It looks like that's what you were saying people need. A visual design project that consists on UI Kits is nothing but a skin for Bootstrap. If that's what you want, why not use bootstrap already?

        About how much I charge I charge at least $115/hour. I was just giving an extreme example to show you how it can easily cost over $1.000.

        Working faster Paul Rand usually took something around 2 weeks or more to design a brand with a team of designers. I can't accept that the work a single designer do in one day to be any good.

        A brand will takes, at least, 2 days of work. And I'm being very, very kind when I say 2 days. You need to understand the market and the competition, you need to understand the client and the business objectives, you need to understand all the cultures involved. And much, much more.

        After that, I would need to visually design three pages. That means creating a color palette, understanding all the possible interactions between copy and the interface, sketching some ideas, trying some ideas. After that, I would still have to create the style guide. Oh, not talking about any illustration we may have in the process.

        5 days to create a brand and visually design three pages seems pretty fair to me.

        Of course you could ask for a pictogram (designing a pictogram with some text underneath is, in no way, a brand) and a customised UI Kit. I would take a couple hours to do that, if I'm feeling lazy. But a) I would never do that and b) that's not design, it's doodling around.

        Or, in a couple words Of course I empathise with you. I've worked for 4 years in 2 different startups. I'm trying to build my first product. I know it can be though and that looking at your banking account may not be pleasant at times. But that's how it is.

        I'm always offering the best for my clients, and that's why I almost never do what they ask me to. When I get a request I always call them (and if within reach, go to their office) to understand their needs. Maybe they need someone to provide guidance as a Product Designer. Sometimes they need someone to do Interaction Design and Information Architecture when they thought that was Visual Design. Sometimes they ask for Interaction Design but visual design is what's needed. You can never tell.

        Work living more than 2 weeks Yes, of course. You shouldn't pay thousands for something that will live a couple days.

        But I really doubt that your brand will change in a couple days. If you have a strong product vision, the brand will last for years. And after a couple, you would need to refresh it, not completely redesign.

        About visual design, If you have a strong product vision and a brand, it will not change that much. Your wireframes will change, your product will change, but not the visual design. The headers will still have the same color, the links will still have the same behaviour, the sidebar will still have the same background color. The content there may change.

        My point is: If you have a good and strong visual design style guide (not just a UI Kit) you shouldn't change it for a couple months. And when you change, that's only an adaptation not an overhaul, which will take the same designer a fraction of the time.

        People often think that they need to overhaul everything every time, and that's absolutely not true. Design should evolve. When your style guide is not being enough, ask the designer to update it. Tell him the problems you're having. Updating a style guide is way faster (and cheaper) than creating a new one every time.

        Final note I see your points and I empathise with you, but maybe you could have explained yourself better in the article. I've said it before: You've made all designers that work for startups feel like shit. I believe that wasn't your goal, but that's how some people felt.

        0 points
  • Jon MarshJon Marsh, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    Funny how Bootstrap is mentioned as some sort of crutch, yet those "style-guides" look a lot like this: http://designmodo.com/flat/

    2 points
    • Matt Goldman, almost 8 years ago

      You know what, if someone can pull it off and they're happy with it, and it solves the problem they're trying to solve...why not?

      1 point
  • Mark DurrantMark Durrant, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    Think a lot of people are missing the point here.

    The article isn't trying to describe the perfect way to build any product, instead it's a pragmatic solution to getting design work done in early stage startups.

    If I'm working on a product that is changing rapidly I'd rather have a robust style guide than a set of page mock up that are obsolete in a week.

    2 points
  • Julian LloydJulian Lloyd, almost 8 years ago

    I’ve seen a couple teams using this strategy of creating style guides and reusable front-end components.

    I actually know of a couple agency guys who completely renamed and restyled Bootstrap classes, and use that as the starting point for every project.

    However you go about it, having a library of front-end components and style guidelines that are congruent with your brand and visual identity is proving to be one of the best ways to keep up with the fast paced iteration cycle of software.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1 point
  • Mike BulajewskiMike Bulajewski, almost 8 years ago

    I like the idea in general, but I'm not sure a few hundred bucks is the right budget for something so critical.

    It’s about having a distinct brand that people recognize… …fork over a few hundred to solidify your product’s brand…

    Beyond mistaking visual design for design, Matt thinks of visual design as just branding. But what happens if your customers don't click on a button because it looks disabled? What if they don't understand your icons?

    Visual design is more than aesthetics. There's also an important usability factor and ignoring that is a big risk. Imagine you roll out a new feature and your analytics shows no one uses it, so you chalk it up as a failure and iterate in a different direction. But in reality, it was a great feature, but there was a usability problem. No one could find the feature, or they thought it was broken or whatever. So now you've dropped a valuable feature and your understanding of users needs is thrown off by a misinterpretation of the data.

    Many startups are obsessed with scalable forms of customer feedback like analytics, customer emails, forum posts and the like. But these rarely catch usability issues.

    More generally, startups often talk a good game about iterating on customer feedback. I applaud the intention, but if you have a superficial understanding of the various research methods, how and when to use them, how to interpret the results, and the importance of triangulation in qualitative methods, it can do more harm than good.

    tl;dr Don't forget to usability test your style guide

    1 point
    • Matt Goldman, almost 8 years ago

      Everything you just described is valid, and worth a ton.

      However, it's not worth shit with a brand new product. And if said brand new product is charging its customers ( as it should) then it likely won't have (for months) enough customers to even run research/testing to analyze deploys, usage, etc.

      It's fun to dream of high usage, but with a paid, bootstrapped, brand new product - it's just that...a dream, and a distraction.

      So what I'm proposing is to nail the majority of your visual design in the early days, with the lowest cost. That doesn't mean design will not be revisited later on. It absolutely will (when the product has some validation/revenue to justify and properly evaluate the result of the investment in professional UX/UI enhancements)

      0 points
      • Mike BulajewskiMike Bulajewski, almost 8 years ago

        That's exactly why qualitative research methods (usability testing, contextual inquiry) are more useful for small startups. They don't require large sample sizes.

        I absolutely agree you should nail your visual design, and nailing it means ensuring that basic usability problems aren't confused for product feedback, especially if you are restyling native controls.

        0 points
  • Alasdair MonkAlasdair Monk, almost 8 years ago

    Valid points that boil down to the ubiquitous release early & often mantra

    1 point
  • Robert Gilles, over 3 years ago

    That's an interesting approach to the design and development process. I wonder how it works in other startups. I've run through this list of successful startups in 2017 and I'm glad to see the variety of ideas and industries. I'm used to creating the design first and then proceed with the development stage. Because if we are talking about startups like these are, first the user experience should be designed. The colours and fonts could be added after because the tends are changing every day and, really, who knows how your product will look like in a month or two.

    0 points
  • Shawn BorskyShawn Borsky, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    It seems to me this article is just mistitled. You probably should have gone with something like "Your early-stage start-up can start with simple visuals".

    It seems that you are talking about design in a much different way then most of the community. I don't even mean visual vs. problem solving. Imbuing products with cohesion, end-to-end strategy and personality is hard.

    If you just want your buttons and fonts to look consistent: there are tons of perfectly fine style-guides available for $10, why even pay the hundreds? But, honestly : with such a simple style-guide , why not use Bootstrap? The difference is negligible.

    To build a valuable brand and by extension a valuable company you will need more than a quick style-guide. Start-ups aren't over-thinking it. Good design is powerful and while you may not need an expert designer on the ground floor, you are unlikely to get very far without someone who can see the forest for the trees.

    0 points
  • Beth DeanBeth Dean, almost 8 years ago

    The real takeaway here isn't that you're overthinking visual design, it's that consistency goes a long way in terms of making a product look intentional and polished, and consistency comes early in the project.

    0 points
  • Matt Goldman, almost 8 years ago

    Curious to get feedback from designers on this topic...what do you think?

    0 points
    • Jonathan ShariatJonathan Shariat, almost 8 years ago

      I think you mistake visual design with design.

      Product design should be done before everything. Before development, before visual design, before even Bizdev.

      I'm talking user interviews, wireframes, testing, validating, etc.

      Visually, I think your ideas are right on. Go off a style guide until you can spend more time on better visuals.

      But you cannot afford to build and throw out stuff to see if it sticks, thats WAY too costly itself. You need to spend more time by that whiteboard, talking to users, and iterating on both the problem being solved and the solutions.

      15 points