“We spend a lot of time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it.”

Do you know that 90% of the startups fail? The top reason for the bleak statistics is : they build products nobody wants. 

Why does this happen? 

Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute explains the malady in simple terms: 

“We spend a lot of time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it.”

Startups are keen to launch market-disrupting products quickly and anticipate extraordinary results.

While speed and innovation are crucial, they often overlook a fundamental aspect: understanding and meeting user needs. 

Design thinking, a human-centered approach to problem-solving, is key to creating products that resonate with users.

When design thinking is neglected, startups find themselves scrambling in the dark, unsure why their product fails to gain traction. 

This article will explore why design thinking is vital for startup success, and how neglecting it can lead to a product's downfall.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking goes beyond aesthetics. It's a human-centered innovation process (https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/design-thinking), that puts users at the core of all activities.

Think of it as your empathy engine, allowing you to see the world through your users' eyes and design solutions that resonate with them. 

“The main tenet of design thinking is empathy for the people you’re trying to design for. Leadership is exactly the same thing – building empathy for the people that you’re entrusted to help.

David Kelley, Founder of IDEO

This iterative approach shares similarities with UX design process steps and involves:

  • Understanding: Through user research (interviews, surveys, etc.), you gain a deep understanding of your target audience, their needs, frustrations, and behaviors.
  • Defining: Based on your research, you define the core problem your product aims to solve from the user's perspective.
  • Ideating: This is your brainstorming playground! Get creative and generate a wide range of potential solutions.
  • Prototyping: Build low-fidelity prototypes (think sketches or mockups) to quickly test your ideas with real users.
  • Testing: Get user feedback on your prototypes and iterate based on their insights. This cycle of testing and refining continues until you develop a product that truly meets user needs.

Why Does Design Thinking Matter for Startups?

Startups often operate with limited resources and tight deadlines. Here's where design thinking shines:

  • Reduced Development Costs: By focusing on user needs upfront, design thinking helps avoid costly rework later in the development cycle.
  • Increased User Adoption: Products designed with a user-centric approach are more likely to be intuitive and solve real problems, leading to higher user adoption.
  • Enhanced Brand Differentiation: Design thinking sparks innovation and helps startups create a unique brand identity that stands out in a crowded marketplace.

Cautionary Tales of the Perils of Ignoring Design Thinking 

Several high-profile startup failures illustrate the importance of design thinking:

  • Quibi: This short-form video streaming platform reportedly invested millions in content creation but neglected user research. The interface was confusing, and the content lacked audience appeal, leading to its demise after just six months. The unfriendly platform was so heavily criticized that it earned the moniker, 'The streamer that was doomed to fail before it launched.  Read more about this from here. 
  • Google Wave: Google Wave was a collaborative editing platform launched in 2009. While it boasted advanced features, the user interface was incredibly complex and overstuffed with buttons and options. This complexity created a steep learning curve, leaving users bewildered and frustrated.  The lack of a clear value proposition and a UI that failed to guide users through core functionalities ultimately led to Google Wave's shutdown in 2012. It was called then as a collaborative platform with no collaboration. 

Design Thinking in Startup Success Stories 

The inciting incident of these startup success stories is design thinking: 

  • Robinhood: This investing app for millennials disrupted the financial industry with its user-friendly mobile interface and commission-free trading. Their focus on a sleek and intuitive design has been a key factor in their success.
  • Figma: This web-based collaborative design platform has grown rapidly due to its intuitive interface and focus on user needs. The ability for designers to work together on projects in real-time has made Figma a popular choice and has made it one of the best prototyping tools. 

Putting Design Thinking into Practice: A Startup's Guide

Here are practical steps for incorporating design thinking into your startup journey:

  • Understand users, not just features
  • Brainstorm solutions, not assumptions
  • Prototype fast, iterate often
  • Validate with users, not guesswork
  • Build for needs, not trends
  • Prioritize usability
  • Design for real people, not imaginary personas 
  • Embrace empathy
  • Fail fast, learn faster 
  • Design thinking = happy users, happy startup

The Role of UI/UX Design Agencies in Supporting Startups

Partnering with a leading UI/UX design agency in India  can be a valuable asset for startups:

  • Agencies bring a wealth of experience in user research, interaction design, and visual design all in the ambit of UI/UX design services for startups.
  • They can guide startups through the design thinking process and ensure a user-centric approach.
  • Agencies can create prototypes quickly and efficiently to test with users.
  • Agencies offer corporate workshops to train startups to develop their design-thinking muscles.

Design Thinking Is Your Startup's Lifeline

The startup grind can feel like a frantic search for the right solution. Design thinking flips the script.

By prioritizing user needs and iterating on their feedback, you transform from scrambling in the dark to building a product that solves real problems.

Keep your doors open to design thinking and watch your startup succeed.

And finally, the entire concept of Design Thinking is hinged on the tenet.

“It’s not ‘us versus them’ or even ‘us on behalf of them.’ For a design thinker it has to be ‘us with them’”

quotes Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO

It is about time that we start thinking about the people that use the digital products we build. 

As a UI/UX design agency, we have the expertise and support to ensure your startup thrives in the long run. Talk to us. 

Aparna K S

Aparna is a content creator who is passionate about UX design. Her works are informed by her deep knowledge and understanding of the field. She blends creativity and her unique perspective of the field to create engaging and informative articles. Aparna seeks to inspire and educate readers by providing valuable insights into the world of UX design. Connect with Aparna via www.linkedin.com/in/aparna-k-s-7aaa2576

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