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Wednesday, February 11 • 12:10pm - 1:00pm
Help, I've Joined a Startup... Now What?!

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Increasingly designers are going to start-ups, which have become wiser lately in recognizing the value of having design as part of the core founding team, from inception to later stage evolution as an organization. From pixel pushing to platform strategy, designers provide clear value of substantive impact that shape the business. Popular consumer start-ups as well as venture capital firms, and start-up incubators/accelerators have adopted UX as essential to the process of building a viable business that offer desirable outcomes to customers. The intersections with the emerging Lean Startup models of achieving customer validation and Agile models of rapid iterative development make a natural fit for UX Design. 

But what about the designer who has joined a start-up? What is the tough reality awaiting the optimistic, eager, ready-to-go designer and how to effectively contend with that reality to ensure not just UX success, but also reinforcing the “value prop” of UX overall as a field and discipline? How can we help that designer move beyond initial panic towards productive success? 

This talk looks at the wild frontiers of designing for startups, from two supporting perspectives: that of an early stage “stealth” company, and that of a later stage company with a publicly available product. We’ll look at the challenges of consumer vs enterprise startup, both filled with ample moments for design influence and product impact. Each speaker will jointly offer wisdom from actual experience based upon a core set of areas: 

* Vision: How to identify and marshall a vision for where the product could be, in terms of the visuals, interactions, and overall service model of excellent customer experience. 

* Strategy: What are the integrations of design thinking into overall business model, and defining a platform for design excellence and outputs beyond just “we need an icon here”. How do you cultivate those critical conversations with stakeholders excited about UX but don’t know what it really means for long-term design thinking.

* Process: Lean and Agile are the name of the game but the flavors vary per start-up context. How do you define a design process that plays nicely with others, while respecting the burn rate and time to market pressures?

* Culture: A great culture is vital to having a successful company. What does design have to do with it in a start-up situation, which is fragile and vulnerable to ego and money pressures? There’s also the hype versus the reality, avoiding the lure of a “vanity culture” of hipster-ness. What are steps designers can take early on to plant the seeds for something good and long-lasting.

* Leadership: For many folks, being the solo designer and thus “team of one” (or a tiny few) is the normal state in a start-up. How does one project the vital qualities of being a good design leader, while also being a producer and follower too? What are those “hats” the design leader must wear in a start-up and how to juggle them well? 

* Research: It takes more than cool pixels, but also a versatile confident approach to understanding the customers to deliver UX impact. Is there a place for empathy maps and personas in a start-up? If so, when and how can they be used while running through sprints and scrums? 

Armed with their own personal experiences and a variety of insights gleaned from surveys conducted with designers at startups (including companies like CloudOn, Coursera, Drawbridge, EventBrite, FitBit, Informatica, Redfin, Salesforce, Stealth7, Trifacta, Uber, etc.) the speakers will offer candid and valuable pointers to help start-up designers get traction quickly.

For instance:
“You can't succeed as a designer unless you have engineers that truly care about design. No matter how great your design skills, if it doesn't get implemented, it doesn't matter.”
“Get a win early. Build trust before you ask for it.”
“The designer needs to be a good communicator for other non-design team members to understand UX's role to be able to work on the same page.”[a][b][c][d]

These insights are intended to be actionable, for immediate use, back at the warehouse, loft, garage, or shared co-working space on Monday!

avatar for Uday Gajendar

Uday Gajendar

Principal Designer, Self
Uday Gajendar is a proven design leader focused on envisioning next-gen concepts & guiding start-ups on UX fundamentals. Uday has 12+ years of diverse strategic design experience at Peel, CloudPhysics, Citrix, Netflix, Adobe and others, from enterprise to consumer, web to mobile. He also regularly writes for ACM Interactions and speaks worldwide on design topics at SXSW, UX Australia, IxDA, and similar venues. You can read Uday’s thoughts on... Read More →

Jannie Lai

Head of UX, Light

Wednesday February 11, 2015 12:10pm - 1:00pm
2. YBCA: Screening Room 701 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103