UI/UX, Product

5 Things Founders Can Do in < 1 Hour to 10X Their Design Quality

Travisse Hansen

Jun 9, 2023

Computer with web designs


We work with a lot of founders and startups as they fill out their design capacity. A very common situation (especially for B2B founders) is to have a tech co-founder and a marketing or sales co-founder. That often means there isn’t design or product experience so it has to be learned on the go. For those in that situation here is a checklist of items that we see that helps startups either make a great first design hire or get the most value from agencies or contractors.

5 Things You Can Do

  1. Articulate Your Core Value

    Write out the core 1-3 pieces of value your product provides for your customers. These should be things that don’t change over time. Example for a workout app:

    1. We reduce the work required to keep track of workouts.

    2. We increase certainty about how to succeed with your workouts.

    3. We provide accountability for your workout progress.

    Reducing work, increasing certainty, and providing accountability are timeless problems to solve - things you can work on forever, which customers will always love.

    Jeff Bezos speaks about that with clarity here:

    Articulating your core value in extremely clear terms will lay the groundwork for the next two steps.

  2. Estimate & Decrease Time to Value

    Every product’s overall value is increased or decreased based on how much time and effort it takes to get value from the product. If you can provide the same result twice as fast as a competitor you’ve created something with immense value. Indeed that could be your entire value proposition: “we get you the same result twice as fast!” Many startups forget about this because it feels like extra work.

    One way to start that requires no advance preparation is to list every single step required for a customer to first experience value from your product.

    Going back to the workout app example you could write out the steps it takes until they experience “reduced work”, “increased certainty” or “provided accountability”.

    For example:

    Download the app >> Click signup >> Enter your email and password >> Enter age >> Enter weight >> Enter goals >> Select exercises for a workout >> Create workout >> Wait until the next time you go to the gym >> Start a workout and watch instruction video on your first exercise - value finally received!

    Once you understand the steps you can then ask: “How could we halve that time value? And how could we halve it again?” One way could be to give suggested workouts right away so the user doesn’t have to create one from scratch. Or you could immediately pair the user with an accountability buddy before any workouts are created etc.

    A key thing to understand here is again, your time to value affects your overall product value. It isn’t just a hack to increase retention, it’s a measurable part of how valuable your product is overall.

    💡 Note: You might be saying, “Hey, these last two items don’t have much to do with product design or visuals!” That’s right. They will not make your product look better but they will make it function dramatically better. Visual comes next.

  3. Create Basic User Personas

    There are many methods for creating user personas (described in depth here and here). We recommend not getting too caught up in any of those and making them as basic as possible by including the following:

    1. A name you can easily refer to them by

    2. A title or role (for B2B startups: what is their job position?)

    3. Age

    4. 1-3 core goals related to their role

    5. Which piece of product core value is important to them.

    Going back to the workout app example you might have something like this:

    1. Joey Power-Lifter, age 32, wants to gain muscle and values reduced work of tracking his workouts.

    2. Jeff Fat Shredder, age 40, wants to lose fat and values accountability and increased certainty about how to succeed.

    Doing this makes it easy to instantly put yourself in the user’s context as you make each design decision. And it will prevent your hires and contractors (who have little context to begin with) from making pretty, but unusable features.

  4. Implement a Basic Design System

    This will simplify all of your future designs, even if just the founder building out mockups. It takes you from making hundreds of decisions each time you design down to the bare minimum, and makes everything you build more consistent.

    The best we’ve used so far is Untitled UI as far as the balance of completeness and simplicity goes. Shoutout to Jordan Hughes for his work there.

    We’ll post a guide soon on how to easily customize a design system to your startup’s needs but to get started, you’ll want to:

    1. Replace your primary and secondary colors in the styles section of Figma.

    2. Replace your font globally.

    3. Adjust buttons and input styles to be in line with your brand.

  5. Find a Set of Apps for Design Inspiration

    A big part of a designer's job is to gather inspiration from other apps. This helps to:

    • Save time: by borrowing rather than creating from scratch.

    • Increase usability: by matching contemporary patterns that users are accustomed to.

    • Improve aesthetics: by borrowing from the world’s best designers.

    Startups very frequently make the mistake of thinking their problem is completely unique. The truth is there are pretty much always other companies that do pieces of what you’re doing or even exactly what you’re doing but just applied to a different industry. Rather than being worried about competition you can use this to your advantage and pull from what they’ve already learned.

    Aside from industry-specific patterns, it’s also good to pull inspiration from high-quality software designs in general. Here’s a short list of our favorites:


    Airbnb, Pinterest, and Robinhood


    Slack, Linear, Cron, and Notion

Putting It All Together

So what does all of this look like in practice?

Let’s say you’re the workout app owner and you’re wanting to implement a new feature - like integrating ChatGPT to answer user’s questions about specific exercises. Here’s how you can use the above tools to 10x the quality of your design with little less than an hour of your time:

  1. Determine which persona you’re building the feature for

    In this case probably Jeff Fat Shredder who values increased certainty about how to succeed.

  2. Determine which core product value the feature is going to deliver

    Again in this case increased certainty.

  3. Determine your time to value and try to halve it

    Maybe your initial idea is to have the chat assistant available inside the workout instructions tab of the app requiring a quite lengthy series of clicks and circumstances to discover it.

    You might halve that by using the chatGPT assistant to proactively offer to answer frequently asked questions when a user chooses a workout.

    You could halve that again by proactively targeting Jeff Fat Shredder types in your marketing copy by showing AI answering questions Jeff might have given the workouts he might choose.

    Once you’ve established the specific feature flow you’re after you can move on to UI.

  4. Look for specific UI flows from other great apps

    Who else has built a great chat assistant? Who else is incorporating AI chats into marketing messages? What are specific examples of visual patterns they use?

  5. Implement designs using your design system components and make updates

    Once you know exactly how you want to design it you can keep it fast and consistent by using components from your design system - ensuring your brand identity is neatly incorporated into the new flow. If new patterns are designed you can also build that back into the design system for future use.

By doing all these things you should end up with a drastically different result than if you follow a more typical, haphazard process. And the result should keep paying off over time as you hire new designers or agencies for help with your designs as well.

Closing Thoughts

There are a few more of these we’ll share in the future, but this post is already long. If you have questions on implementation please reach out!