Start-ups face myriad challenges in their initial formative years (or months, actually ;-) … Raising money, validating concepts, ensuring the right killer feature(s), making sure the code is robust, and increasingly, having a persuasive, engaging design that speaks to quality and trust as they introduce a new brand to the world. Indeed, design matters for sure.

From a UX perspective, however, “design” is way more than just colors, fonts, and style treatments (which are all important). “Design” necessarily involves a diligent, thoughtful translation of that beginning “felt opportunity” towards a viable “live product”, ensuring proper fit with the target audience and market situation. To break it down further, there are multiple steps along this translation…and things can get lost or confused, due to lack of proper focus and/or understanding.

Felt Opportunity: the initial vague, fuzzy, nascent notion that something in this domain (healthcare, finance, elder care, child education, etc.) can be improved, ascertained via personal experience with a routine activity, like comparing hotel prices or monitoring server performance or dealing with senior adult care.

Concept Solution:  a rough demonstration of how your product/service solves the issue in a compelling manner.

Business Model: thoroughly detailed (and visualized) statement of market value creation and making money! What’s in it for the investors, customers, users, etc. and how is that achieved with sound growth plans, etc. Creating and capturing and delivering value, particularly returns for investors…

UX Model: combining your primary personas and core scenarios into a well-considered articulation of the service and system elements, flows and activities, critical ecosystem of parts, delivery plans, device use, into a nicely visualized statement. A corollary to the Business Model above.

UI Expression: how is the UX model expressed in the UI in an intuitive, meaningful way that’s technically feasible per platform and device targets. Also, the key patterns and elements and components that will enable this to be a lively interface worthy of use, both satisfying and delightful. 

Live Product: the final vision made real, in actual pixels and code and usage metrics, all validated and iterated cyclically as part of a successful, ongoing product lifecycle and business plan, going forward. And still retains the original “spark of passion” of the felt opportunity, or maybe pivoted accordingly into a new direction via validated learnings along the way. (That’s ok too! Part of the game of startup life…)

There are many more steps, but these are the broad brush strokes that I’m focusing on for now, which could be very well happening in levels of simultaneity. How is the vision translated into something real along the way? It takes conversations and collaborations, with clear statements of intent along the way. Understanding that intent, really chewing it up and spitting it out and recombining all over again for each area. And along the way, you may mess up or realize the translation isn’t working out, gotta go back and revisit…and then you really pivot ;-) Not easy, a truly unenviable challenge, but hugely rewarding if all goes well.