A few years ago I was a partner in a local coffee shop. The day the shop opened, a well meaning team member decided it would be a good idea to let people know that the shop was set to open soon. They were eager to get the word out….so they grabbed an old metal folding chair, a marker and a sheet of paper. They created a handwritten sign and taped it to the chair and set the chair in the middle of the sidewalk.
When I noticed it later in the day my stomach was sick. We had been working on the design and branding for this coffee shop for months. We’d painstakingly crafted the space with an eye towards creating a rich, welcoming experience. We wanted it to be beautiful and we wanted to delight our guests. Now, here we were on opening day and our first impression to the neighborhood was a duct taped sign and a metal folding chair.
I’ve often wondered how many people walked by that morning and what impression that old metal folding chair had on them. What feelings did it inspire? What story did it tell? Cheap, thrown together, unprepared, anything goes, hodgepodge?
Similar to that coffee shop, a beautiful digital project is one where users instantly feel at home. Just like a beautiful physical space, it invites people in, it makes them comfortable, confident and want to spend more time in that space.
Often the powerful features of software are touted as what matters most. Sometimes it’s the tech stack, the speed, the functionality. Of course, all of these are important, they all add up to create a great experience. However, for some reason, (and maybe I’m just extra sensitive to this) I often see design (by design I mean the UX + UI of your product) relegated to the least important ingredient. It’s perceived as a decoration or extra icing on the cake. The thinking goes: “We can bolt it on later, when we have extra time”. When will that be?
This is a costly misstep.
One of my favorite design quotes:
“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”Dr. Ralf Speth
Companies like Apple, Nike and AirBNB are shining examples of “design first” organizations. They prioritize design first. From the very start, they consider how a user will feel when they experience the product. Not later, not down the road, but from the very onset.
Good design is a feeling.
It can be hard to quantify but we know it when we feel it. Every visual detail of your product (buttons, padding, white space, tone, colors) speaks to this feeling. Each element on the screen serves to reinforce the story of why you’re different, why your customer should select you over your competition and why you can be trusted.
Good design shows that you care about your users.
Yes, your software product is digital and yes, it is consumed and experienced on digital devices. But when you prioritize good design, you help humanize that experience. You subtly and perhaps even unconsciously remind users that humans made this thing for other humans. And that matters. And people can sense it.
Good design also keeps your product feeling fresh.
SaaS is moving and innovating faster than ever and new competition enters the market seemingly every quarter. A dated UI is an easy way for customers to classify your product as old, tired, out of date and behind the times.
Take a look at your SaaS product. Do the visual details attract or repel the customer you most want to connect with? Every detail of our customer’s experience matters. Every detail. The settings screen, the login screen, the tiny micro-interactions, the UI labels – No matter how small, each piece speaks to the larger story. The little tiny details matter because together, they all add up to the whole experience.
When you decide to invest in design, your company will grow faster and your sales teams’ job will become much easier. Your product will become “sticky”. Your users will be happier. Your engineering teams will be energized. Your marketing teams will have the firepower to start hitting home runs and triples.
Maybe it’s time you take down that hand written sign and put away the old metal folding chair.
Invest in good design. Invest in delighting your users. The ROI is beautiful.