Startup’s seven UI/UX mistakes

  • Feb 9, 2023
  • By: Slick
  • 7 min read

95% of all early stage companies fail for a lot of different reasons. We've wrapped up 7 most common mistakes that startups make.

    As much as they may try, founders of a startup can’t be experts on everything.  What founders can do is hire a team of experts and set their business up for success. When you have an amazing idea, it can be tempting the development. Startup teams generally have CTOs from day one but wait to invest in product designers. However, this can lead to costly consequences. 

    Developing a UI/UX design strategy early is essential to product success in the competitive digital marketplace.  User Experience (UX) design encompasses aspects of your product such as usability, usefulness, and product flow. User Interface (UI) design includes the user-facing interactive and visual elements of a product. High quality UX/UI is a critical part of your product that will directly lead to higher customer acquisition, retention, and increased revenue.  

    Almost 95% of all startups fail and they do so for a lot of different reasons. After years of working with start-ups as a design team, we’ve compiled 7 common UI/UX mistakes that startup founders make, and how you can avoid those mistakes for your business.

    They do not create a Product Requirements Document (PRD)

    As a start-up founder, you want to launch your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or a new feature within a defined timeline, so that the product or feature can begin to generate some return on investment (ROI).  When defining these timelines, it’s important to plan with Design, Development, and QA expectations in mind. A mistake many startups make is setting timelines and due dates without providing the design team with the context necessary to fully understand the expected results. You may be in a hurry, but you can’t onboard a designer properly without a detailed PRD.The PRD document is the starting point in the process of developing your new project. A strong PRD document describes all of the features, specifications, and functionality of your product, and also declares the conditions and stages for design and development. It also clearly communicates goals, objectives, and expected results of each stage. Building this document is an important exercise to align all contributors and founders.

    While a pitch of “We’re building a mobile app to change the banking experience for Gen Z” makes sense for investors, this is too abstract for designers. The PRD enables you to set your design team up for success.The more detailed your PRD is, the less likely you will be to fail to deliver promises to your customers.  User journeys and flow maps are also helpful tools to communicate your vision but are not necessary.  Founders should support the product designer in taking time to analyze all documentation provided, ask questions, and provide promises only after the entire team is aligned. You may have to adjust your timelines, but effectively communicating and delivering on promises is more important than rushing a product out. More on why PRD is crucial see in our blog about how to avoid miscommunication while working with product team.

    They act like an enterprise

    You’ve perfected your pitch and convinced everyone your product is going to rock the market. Now it’s time to build and prove it out. Naturally, as a founder, you love your business idea and want it to be perfect. UI/UX Designers will address the first stage of development by creating mockups and prototypes of your product. The prototyping stage can trigger creativity and exploration, but also a desire for perfection.  Sometimes the product team ends up designing and redesigning simple flows and screens to meet that elusive “perfect” design.

    Enterprises can afford to iterate on their onboarding flows for months- but as a startup, it’s important to be agile and flexible. It’s okay if you haven’t decided exactly how rounded the corners of your buttons should be. In an agile process, you can iterate on your product after launch and during each process of development.  What’s important is to empower the product design team to collect feedback from users that will inform the design, and this process can continue after launch.  It’s key for a startup to focus on time to market while strategically developing the MVP requirements for your product. UX/UI designers will work to balance the aspects of design that will greatly affect the users experience interacting with the product, and those design elements that are more visual and secondary to the experience.

    They don’t select designers they can trust

    The UI/UX agency space is crowded and competitive. There are an abundance of agencies and freelance designers to choose from. How do you choose the perfect match for your startup? We say choose someone that knows the domain: A product designer who understands the unique user challenges in your field, and how to design for them.  Look for people who have developed expertise in specific product patterns and can demonstrate that their process is well tried and tested. You need someone with that knowledge and experience.

    When you begin a partnership with an agency or freelancer, you will have already done your due diligence vetting them out as experts.Now, we strongly recommend that you defer to the experts. If you’re given well-founded and articulate UI/UX recommendations and strategic insights, remember why you hired them in the first place and trust their expertise.  Remember, founders can’t be experts in everything. That’s why you hire the experts.

    They rush the initial design phase

    There is a significant amount of work that goes into the initial phase of designing a new product. Designers need time to understand the product, the user, the market, and the business objectives. You may be wary of the initial investment cost, but the discovery and understanding phase is crucial, and an initial investment in developing a UX strategy has been proven time and time again to save money in the long run. Careful research and validation can prevent time and money wasted designing a product that doesn’t actually address user pain points.

    Your design team will likely want to take the time to create a design system up front.  Crafting a thorough design system before launching into the product design will make future product development and your software engineers’ lives much easier. Avoid wasting your time and money by supporting your designers to research and test initial assumptions.


    They confuse beauty and usability

    Overtime, your digital product may look outdated or boring to you. It might be tempting to hire a team to revamp and update your UI and visual style. Some designers might come in and change the UI to follow more modern trends. However, the truth is that there are many products out there that follow current design trends and look beautiful, but are actually unusable. Redesigning the UI for the sake of it may not be the best use of time or money, and may actually hurt your product. Before launching a redesign, an experienced product designer will advocate for user research to gather data and feedback.  It’s only good UI/UX design if we are actually designing for the user.

    Dribbble is a fascinating platform full of outstanding designers.  You might see a lot of beautiful UI while scrolling through it, however, the flashy UI doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a usable product behind the screen.The user experience part of UX/UI goes beyond how things look. The intuitiveness of the product, the user flows, and the usefulness of the product may be affected by a redesign.  It’s more important to focus on how the UX/UI helps users accomplish their goals, generating repeat users, rather than getting distracted by the aesthetics.

    They haven’t established handoff and collaboration processes

    A Figma file that looks good is only one step of the design process, and doesn’t define a teams’ performance. Too often, a Figma file that spent hours to create ends up sitting unused due to insufficient handoff. Collaboration with the development team is an essential part of the process, as software engineers have many questions during the development process.Ideally, these two divisons should work together during the process for a seamless transition. This is part of the agile process- an iterative design process where  design and engineering teams work closely to design and develop consistent deliverables.

    If you’re not able to facilitate collaboration between the two teams on a regular cadence, you should start by doing feasibility checks regularly.  As a startup, you’ll want to get feedback from both teams before making important product decisions, and before counting tasks as “done.  The more integration and communication here the better, and if you have teams working in a very separate time zone or have other limitations, there should be some one to act as middle man and facilitate offline communication.

    They forget who the user is

    Part of the founder’s job is to write stories for the users, but we must remain clear on who those users actually are. Generally, we are not the users. We may be one potential user, but we are not able to speak for the pool of end users as a stakeholder in the project.  Of course, product designers have expertise in best practices and business founders have an incredible amount of product knowledge, but the users are ultimately who we are building and designing for. Every significant product decision should be validated by our potential users. In a startup environment, this doesn’t have to be a lengthy process, but regular cadence with our target users can save you time and money.

    Encourage your designers to take the time to conduct user research, even if it is informal. Insights can be generated from conversations sourced from your personal network or your existing pool of users. It is better to regularly validate design, and adjust as necessary, rather than designing based off assumptions.


    One of the most important investments that you can make in your new product is  by working with experienced UI/UX and product designers.  Waiting to involve UI/UX after the product is already built is a recipe for more work, time, and money.  A UX specialist will be able to develop a strategy that is innovative, relevant to your business objectives, and validated by your users. Designers can support your business in defining the product market fit, the competitive strategy, and generating revenue much more effectively if they are embedded in the team from the start.  As a founder who has to wear many hats and has much on their plate, one of the best things you can do for the design of your product is to find trustworthy designers, and empower them to research, design, and iterate.

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