Here at Ninja Otter we’ve attended a number of startup conferences on a few continents, often invite other startup founders to come into the office and meet our team, and we keep a keen eye on the world’s top startup books and blogs. In doing this we’ve spotted a scary trend: some people in the startup world have begun to claim that design doesn’t matter. However, in our experience it does matter; sometimes a lot.
The “unimportance of design” seems to stem from some interpretations of the lean startup movement. These interpretations seem to take the stance that spending too much time on design unnecessarily delays product launch and iteration, which in turn delays the learning that is fundamental to building a great product. However, design can also be a driving force behind your startup’s growth, and a key factor in whether or not your startup is successful. Dave McClure, venture capitalist and founder of 500 Startups, has even gone so far to say that design (and marketing) and more important than engineering to your startup’s success.
Design and Your Conversion Rate
A few weeks ago we wrote a blog post on the importance of good logo design, and in this blog post, we want to share some of the early results this redesign has had on our conversions.
The graph above shows the number of times Wakeful has been downloaded in BlackBerry App World over the past month; the data drops to zero at the endpoints simply because there is no data selected for those dates. On the 15th of October we changed the icon that our Wakeful Talking Alarm application uses in BlackBerry App World to reflect our recently redesigned logo. Although we only have about a week’s worth of data, our downloads have increased by roughly 60% after changing the design of Wakeful’s icon.
Does this mean that a redesign will necessarily double your sales? Of course not. But…does this mean that you should be wary of startups saying design doesn’t matter? Absolutely.
When you do a redesign you might find that your conversion rate and other important metrics remain unaffected, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that your redesign was a waste of resources. Your design is the face of your startup, and integrally related to how the world’s perceives your startup, and even how your startup’s team perceives itself. When Jason Cohen tested a redesign for his company WP Engine, he didn’t see much change in his company’s key metrics. What he did see was a change in how his company was perceived both externally and internally; customers were no longer “embarrassed” to refer their friends to the website, and the company’s employees took pride in the redesign and its reflection on them.
Figure Out What Works For You
Design matters…well, most of the time. As with everything in startups you can’t take what has worked for one startup, apply it to your own, and expect to have the same results. Your startup is unique, and you always have to evaluate what may or may not be the best course of action in your own particular situation.
We just hope you’ll take a few moments to think about it the next time someone says to you “design doesn’t matter”.
A Good Logo Makes a Good First Impression
One area where Ninja Otter never cuts corners is when it comes to logo design. In many cases our logos are the first impression that our customers and partners have of our products. A good logo design may not be important to all of your customers, but these first impressions are certainly important to some.
If you’ve ever applied for a job, we’re sure you’ve heard that first impressions are often based on looks. If a highly qualified candidate arrived at her job interview wearing torn and dirty clothes, this first impression is likely to overshadow the fact that she may otherwise be well-suited for the job. In contrast if a relatively less qualified applicant arrives well dressed and well groomed, by making a positive first impression she may be selected for the job over her poorly dressed counterpart.
It’s not rocket science, but what many of today’s startups fail to take into account is that when you are asking a customer to hand over their money, you are in the exact same situation as any job applicant. You are applying for the customer’s money, and make no mistake, first impressions can be an important factor.
A beautiful logo will not convince any customer to pull out her checkbook; what’s will is communicating the value that your product has to offer. However, just as in a job interview a good first impression is an impetus to opening the channels of communication that allow you to express this value.
With this in mind, it is important to know if logo design is relevant in your specific situation.
Your Early Adopters Don’t Care
When you’re building a Minimum Viable Product, a good logo really isn’t that important. Your early adopters are more concerned with the value your product provides, and likely won’t judge you based on your logo (or website’s) design. If you need a great logo in order to convince your early adopters to try out your product, then your startup probably has a fundamental problem with its core value proposition. With early adopters, it is best to keep design considerations out of mind, and focus on opening a dialog to discuss the value your product seeks to provide.
When you move beyond early adopters, and into a more mainstream marketplace, logo and design become more important. This was the case recently with Wakeful, one of our own products. Wakeful is a smartphone alarm that wakes you up by reading aloud customized news and weather. We built a Minimum Viable Product and released it to early adopters on the BlackBerry platform, iterated on this product for several months, and released an Android version of the app last week with an iPhone version soon to follow. We have gotten to the point that we are moving beyond early adopters and into the mainstream market, and as a result, yesterday we launched a new and improved logo. It was time to shift to a mainstream market, and as a result, it was time to leverage design as a way to build a quality first impression and open the channels of communication with mainstream customers.
It May Not Be Important For You
Wakeful is a B2C product, and this was an important factor when considering the relevance of a new logo design. A logo may or may not be important in your own situation. When making the decision on whether or not you want to invest in a new logo, the important question to ask yourself is whether or not a good logo design will open relatively more channels of communication with your customers. In our case Wakeful is sold side-by-side with hundreds of thousands of other smartphone applications; a good logo helps us stand out from the crowd. Standing out from the crowd means more customers visit our product’s dedicated page in the application marketplace, opening these channels of communication, and resulting in more conversions.
In other scenarios a good logo design may not be important, and it is important to critically evaluate potential impacts in your own company’s context.
Know Your Limits
This post is being written by Ninja Otter’s in-house designer. I’m a good designer in general, but I have never designed a good logo and probably never will. Logos are my achilles heel, and many designers have told me that logos are theirs as well. If you are your team’s designer, be honest with yourself about your logo design skills. If you’re not capable of designing a great logo, outsource it to someone who is.
Above is a picture of the logo re-design that we recently released for Wakeful. We outsourced it, and the designer did a better job that I ever could.
Prove Us Wrong
If your company has seen great and/or poor results from a logo re-design, we’d like to hear about it; leave us a comment and let us know how logo design has affected your business.
- Large Expectations
- Big Networks as an Unfair Advantage
- Raising Capital
- About Startup Clones
- How a Canadian Company Took an Investment From a European Incubator?
- Design Matters: And We’ve Got The Numbers to Prove It
- The Importance of a Good Logo
- Follow up on your churned accounts!
- Understanding How Long Your A/B Test Is Going To Take
- Our New Office
Ninja Otter Inc.
8 Oland Cr., Unit G2,
Bayers Lake, NS, Canada
Every piece of code we program, graphic we design, and copy we write is derived from marketing research papers from notable firms in our industry, optimizing results early on!view portfolio