Five reasons why startups make the best design clients

Startups, they’re everywhere; If they’re not busy being featured in Forbes magazine or Design Week, they’re starring in their own HBO sitcom (I’ve yet to check out Silicon Valley, let me know in the comments if its worth a watch). But no matter how omnipresent they become, I just can’t get enough of them. Which is pretty lucky, as they make up the large majority of my client portfolio right now.

Its a niche that I’ve found myself working in by accident thanks to my own teeny-tiny baby steps as a digital entrepreneur. But its not just first-hand knowledge that led me to designing for newly created tech ventures; here’s why, for me, startups make the best design clients.

Reasons why startups make the best clients - team

1. Lots of small projects means short term design wins.

It’s been said I have the energy levels of a toddler, which can be troubling if you’re a freelancer parked on a mammoth project.  If you relish work on different tasks in short burst then startups make great clients. They’re likely to be bootstrapping or carefully budgeting their funding, so we’ll often break down UI and UX design into smaller chunks and test changes before investing heavily in big redesigns. Seeing elements of my designs being implemented quickly is a great short term reward.

2. Design led products get designers involved early.

We designers have got a lot to thank Apple for, and I’m particularly grateful for how they’ve influenced UI and UX design, making it critical to the success of digital products. Startups know their product needs to delight users and look nothing less than flawless, and its no coincidence that some of the most famous technology businesses have been founded by designers. Because design is a huge priority for startups, it means I get to join them at the start of their journey, rather than at the end of a huge to-do list.

Why startups make the best clients - apple mouse design

The evolution of the Apple mouse – Apple have influenced startups across the globe to make design a priority.

3. New products have endless possibilities.

When discussing a new project with a startup there is always an unspoken understanding that the product we’re working on will never really be finished, because there is always another feature to try or improvement to be made. Whilst this might be disheartening for some, I enjoy the huge element of discovery involved in the early stages of a startup. Combine this with the fact that most of the apps I work on could easily incorporate tonnes of different features, and you realise that every product has limitless possibilities, each with its own design puzzle to solve.

4. The satisfaction of creating a brilliant MVP.

I get a lot of enquiries from very new startups asking me to design them a version in every platform with a shopping list of features. Whilst this sounds like a pain, if you’ve got enough time and money, I can easily design every single pixel your heart desires. The real challenge is how to give my startup clients something affordable that they can put in front of investors or use to gain traction in a competitive market. They need a quality product, that makes the right impact, does everything their users need it to do, no more and no less. In short, I need to design them a minimum viable product (MVP). Sounds easy, in reality its tough, but very good fun in design terms.

5. New technology keeps projects fresh.

There are so many startups and the phenomenon continues to grow, networks of startups are popping up in every city. Sometimes I wonder if the bubble might burst with so many teams vying for investment and trying to make their mark. Then I remember that no matter how quickly startups grow they’ll never keep up with advancements in technology. I’ve yet to design for the Apple watch, but I can’t wait to try. And who knows, in ten year’s I might be designing apps that integrate with robot dogs or user flows for the dashboard of your jet pack.

Reasons why startups make the best clients - Lego Jet Pack

Maybe one day I’ll design interfaces for jetpacks and laser stun-guns.

How do you find working with startups? Or even better are you a startup? If so I’d be intrigued to hear how you find working with designers? Comment below or tweet me your thoughts. I’m @zer0mike and my new business venture is on Twitter to @bossanova_io.


Mike Hince is a UI & UX Designer and the co-founder of Bossanova Design.

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