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You closed your first round of funding, launched your minimum viable product or maybe even bootstrapped your way to a handful of paying customers.
Now your eyes are set on the next major milestone. And as a wise person once said:
You can’t get to point B doing the same things that got you to point A.
So you might be wondering: Whom do I hire now? What pieces of our ideal team are missing? Which parts of our startup puzzle require the most work? What do I need to do next?
One of the questions we’re often asked by founders in this position is: When is the right time to hire a user UX designer to work for my startup full time?
Here are my thoughts:
You should hire a UX designer as soon as you have enough work for them to tackle daily—and the capital to pay them.
Seems straightforward, right?
Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way to ensure that this approach is going to match up with the needs of every single startup. Instead, the question of when to hire a UX designer is a more complex decision that will be easy for some startups to answer and a struggle for others. That’s why we’ve taken the time to put together this article that covers some of the questions you need to consider before hiring a UX designer at your startup.
As you decide whether to hire a UX designer right now or down the road a bit, ask yourself these four questions:
If your product is already in the hands of customers, it’s important to use them as a sounding board. Your customers are the livelihood of your business and will always give you the most authentic and honest feedback. That’s why we recommend recruiting actual users for user experience (UX) research so you can better understand what they think of your product.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to customers directly and schedule time to watch them walk through the user experience or answer a series of questions in a survey. Study their habits as they use your product and see if there are any design elements causing roadblocks. Look for points in their experience that could be improved upon and ask questions about their intent. If you notice they haven’t done a particular task, ask them how they would do it and watch their response.
If your customers love the current design and are able to accomplish their goals with ease, it’s likely that hiring a UX designer isn’t an urgent priority for your startup. If you’re watching your customers stumble and struggle through your interface, it’s likely that hiring a UX designer or app agency is worth considering immediately.
Every early-stage startup should have a detailed roadmap of where they see their product going in the coming months. If you haven’t built a product roadmap, it’s something you should immediately consider adding to your to-do list. A product roadmap is a strategic plan that spells out your business goals and the specific solutions that will help you meet those goals.
As you look at your product roadmap, you need to consider how many items on your list are going to require a UX designer. Which objectives would have a better chance of success because of a UX designer? As you think through these questions, recognize that eventually it will be more important for your developers to focus on their strength (writing code) instead of focusing on design.
How many startups or big brands competing in your industry have breathtaking products? Are you one of the only companies in your space that hasn’t invested in quality design? Or has the entire industry written off quality design as a nice-to-have rather than a requirement?
If it’s the latter, then hiring a UX designer may not be as high a priority for you right now. But consider this too: There’s a potential opportunity in front of you.
A great UX designer could give you and your product the competitive advantage you need to stand out. We’ve seen design give many startups an advantage in industries that have spent years prioritizing functionality and features over ease of use. If you’re in an industry where function and features rule the day while ease of use suffers, then good design is a niche in which you can thrive.
In the early stages of a startup, you need to be very strategic in where you allocate resources. Do you spend money on advertising? Do you spend money on development? Do you spend money on design? Or do you spend money on new SaaS products that will help you scale?
The answer to many of these questions will depend on how much capital you have in the bank and what your priorities are. When it comes to hiring a UX designer, the cost is going to depend on the location and experience level of the designer. An experienced UX designer in Palo Alto or Switzerland might cost you six figures while an experienced designer from a rural town might only run you $50,000–$65,000 a year. We recommend taking a look at job postings in your area and using them as a benchmark to gauge the cost of hiring a designer.
Now that you’ve had the chance to ask yourself these questions, where do you stand?
Does it make sense for you to hire a UX designer at this stage? Or are you going to hold off for a few more months? If you’re planning to hold off on hiring someone full time but are interested in receiving advice and support from a team of designers, get in touch! We’d love to chat about how MindSea helps startups scale their design efforts.