Losing money on improper design process

and most importantly, what to do with it.

What kind of business can be described as successful? At first glance, it might seem like some useful features appreciated by users, a good LTV to CAC ratio, an excellent team of developers writing product code, and marketers pushing it. The office is buzzing like a beehive, and reading the reports making you feel cheerful.

Quite often, given these conditions, the design is taken for granted. Lack of consistency, low professionalism, and falling behind the trends are signals that design in the company is poor. A tool designed to add value to products with this approach is now subtly but massively hurting the whole company.

Let’s talk about the way and how much money a poor design is stealing from the development and marketing departments, as well as what impacts will it have on a company in the future.

What are these leaks?

We will talk here about a perspective on brand problems through the eyes of our design-driven team. These are bottlenecks where the money is wasted in many companies, it the same time it’s their chance to become stronger by adding more focus and expertise to product design.

Valuable Developer Time

Work without a system approach in relation to the design makes developers work extra hours. The system approach means teamwork with the single source of truth including guidelines and design specifications, patterns in code, and good practices. Without a such system all actions are scattered and unproductive, and implementation of new design elements of product developers again starts from scratch.

Let’s talk about it in terms of money. The system approach saves 30–35% of our partners’ time spent on labor. Suppose that the development department has 10 people, and the annual salary of each is $50k. Savings, in this case, would be $150k.

Investments when changing course

We realized that by simply maintaining your product without a system approach may cost a fortune. And what happens if a company has a tendency to experiment with plans? Or, what if you make urgent fundamental changes to keep up with changes in the market? The answer is simple. All experiments and innovations will have to be created from scratch because there is no framework to rely on and build a new model on top of it. And this is unplanned spending again, now on new things.

Marketers’ time (no less valuable)

The guidelines are a byproduct of a system approach in design. They help the whole team to have the same view on how to represent the company in the public. Without this understanding, marketers, guided by good intentions, often rethink the company’s image. And without any standards, they spend more time creating their marketing materials. The result is a double blow to the reputation of the brand: these materials come out late, and the design does not match the image of the brand in the minds of customers.

Lost conversion rates

Controversial marketing materials that are created by marketers are ambiguously perceived by users. They do not read authenticity, do not respond to triggers, and therefore do not react to advertising.

Let us assume that the loss of conversion, in this case, will be 1%, and the annual advertising budget will be just $100–200k. With such investments, even this 1% is a big loss. In this case, there are examples with a much wider range of increasing conversion rate with help of design, sometimes it is from 30 to 300%.

Chaos in a big office

If you don’t know about the hidden causes, it seems that one of the natural ways out is to recruit new people to the team. This will help to keep up with market demands and user needs. But this assumption is only partially true. We won’t talk about money again. There is something else. Meetings are one of the headaches of software companies. As staff grows, these meetings become even more uncontrollable and stressful.

With a system approach to design, the process becomes more smooth, and teams are more effective in the same company. The company uses internal resources rather than spending them on external ones. But if under these conditions, the team stops dealing with commitments, it’s a good reason to think about increasing the number of members on the team.

Visual Aesthetics

The poor design literally drives users crazy. At one point, everyone becomes an expert in design as Jony Ive. And more often than not, they learn about it from personal experience with the product. But their opinions can be based on reviews and feedback from opinion leaders. In other words, the audience has not yet used the product, but already expresses distrust.

Generally, you will not satisfy everyone, but with bad design, the risk of getting an army of critics is much higher. And to restore the necessary level of NPS, designers with their system approach will not be enough, you will have to spend more and more on an expensive PR.

Road to the Startup Cemetery

This section will stand a little apart. We’ll tell you how startups lose money when they fail in their round A. They demonstrate a great idea and show MVP, convincing investors at pre-seed and seed stages, but then get rejected. Why does this happen?

These are not the times when foundations are throwing money. They are not just looking at the potential of an idea. The reason for a negative decision can be a design that is not well designed for users and is likely to fail. Or worse, if the pitch deck design is not good enough and loses to similar products of other startups. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Whatever design (Any old way)

Bad design of websites and application user interfaces of 2005 standard looks like a treasure map with a dotted line and a cross. It says, “Oh if you need something, try to find it by yourself”.

The top-tier design reduces the cognitive load when navigating a user from point A to point B. It’s a highway with intuitive GPS navigation and a great view from the window. Comprehensive friendly, and at the same time unnoticeable at every second of travel.

Retro is currently trendy, but people appreciate usability and time the most.

And this is not a complete list

We have collected only the most common losses that occur if you underestimate the importance of design. Of course, there are also individual problems that are worth paying attention to. We hope that these examples will give you useful insights and form the basis for rethinking the place of design in business.

Do you have to invest in design?

We don’t think it’s up to us to answer that question. Everyone who reads this article or listens to us at the first meeting has the right to make their own conclusions, taking into account all the details of their business. In our work, we analyze the status quo, highlight the financial leaks that have occurred due to bad design, explain how to make money with world-class design, and then offer the best solutions.

Where there’s one “but”

We are now talking about a situation when there is a desire to raise the design level of your product, but unfortunately, you are only at the beginning of the validation phase of the project or your budget is limited. If you want to solve the problem of bad design, here are some tips on how to do it:

  1. Find a ready-to-use solution from the library like UI8.
  2. Build a website on a WYSIWYG-builder that does not require writing code. This one is good: Readymag.
  3. Use the component kits for front-end developers Material UI.
  4. Build your own first prototypes of the UI kits you bought in the free version of Figma.
  5. Read the book Atomic Design by Brad Frost. The author uses clear examples to explain what the system approach to design looks like.

With these recommendations, you will save between $10k and 200k and hundreds of calendar days.

If you are ready to invest in design, then tell me about your problems.

Leonid Stern

I help digital startups to look and work their best.