User Interface Design · Design

How much does visual design matter for your startup's success?

Andrew Coyle Product Design Lead at Flexport

April 15th, 2014

I would love to hear your thoughts how the role of visual design is carried out in early stage startups.

Roshan Diwakar CTO and Principal Consultant at Xtreme Automation Corp

April 15th, 2014

Actually it depends on the service/produce you are offering.

If you have a compelling product/service, users will not only put up with bad UI but fight through it. Think of file sharing sites, conspiracy sites, porn sites, illegal sites. They generate users/cash flow that many can only dream off.

OTOH, if you don't have compelling content that makes the user go back every day, no amount of aesthetic Visual Design will make them come back. Our brain is wired to adjust to  bad sites and good sites. So, ultimately it is the product.

Of course, all things equal (which means you have competition), then Visual Design wins. And here I'm separating Visual Design with Ease of Use.

Matt Rowe Founder / CTO at Pickwick & Weller

April 15th, 2014

Things have changed significantly over the past few years.  In 2010, early adopters were much more forgiving of ugly/barebones UX.  In 2014, everyone expects beautiful design on every page.

This presents a difficult problem for founders, since design & implementation of a beautiful UI can significantly impact launch/release schedules.  For smaller projects (like landing pages), pixel-perfect representation of a complicated design can sometimes double or triple the amount of dev time spent.

Executive summary: yes, it has to be beautiful.  And, yes, you still have to ship it quickly.

Caleb Garling Writer

April 15th, 2014

For pitching investors with a prototype -- a decent amount but not dealbreaking. For onboarding initial users -- infinity :)

John Riselvato Software Development Project Manager

April 15th, 2014

Extremely important. In the initial stages no so much, getting the rough idea and pitching it to investors usually looks subpar. But a huge part of selling your product will be the first look the product has. If the product doesn't look professional or brilliant to the end-user/client then you're in trouble. 

Remember in your youth being told first impressions are important? Well it's more so on a product you bring to the public.

Alex Littlewood

April 15th, 2014

How much does a womans appearance matter to your initial attraction to her?
How much does a car's design affect your feeling about it?
How much does the design of an ecommerce site affect your comfort level that it's a serious business, and you feel comfortable with giving it your PII and money?

Aswan Morgan Mobile Entrepreneur; eCommerce Personalization, Optimization & Conversion Expert

April 15th, 2014

I'm a firm believer that for anything consumer-facing, visual appearance and user experience are extremely important. Unfortunately, consumers aren't always able to see the vision/spirit of what you're developing--and a bad design could derail, disrupt, or disinterest the shopper. I've done a lot of A/B testing against significant traffic on major retail sites, and you would surprised what impact seemingly trivial UI/UX changes can have on behavior, conversion, revenue, etc.

Frederic Moreau Agile Business Transformer

April 15th, 2014

It's a matter of respect to your audience. It has to look good enough so that people don't want to through your prototype back to your face :)

Dimitry Kudryavtsev VP of Engineering at Cortex (

April 15th, 2014

I agree with Caleb.  When your developing a consumer-web product then it matters a great deal, people have high expectation in terms of UI/UX and won't wast their time figuring out how your app works.  Make it simple, make it easy, make it beautiful.  For B2B software, it matters less, but that's changing quick.  If you can develop a B2B product that has UI/UX of a consumer product you will have a big edge over competition. I am seeing more and more startups in the B2B space that are using cutting edge UI/UX tools, like D3.js, and architecting software with responsive design in mind.

Some tools that you might want to look at;
Bootstrap (or other UI frameworks)
Angularjs (if your looking to build SPA (single-page apps), rich-apps)
Phonegap (more of a framework for mobile development)

Lucia Guh-Siesel CEO & Founder, Bandalou

June 18th, 2014

I love this website because it is so content rich - thanks everybody for your feedback.  With such divergence, it seems that there is now "right" or "wrong" answer.  As a follow-on, does anyone have some ballpark figures on visual/graphics designers to layer in the design on a website for e-commerce?  Thanks.

Jake Carlson Software Development Manager at Oracle

June 19th, 2014

I would go with something that has theming capabilities. If you just want to get an MVP out the door, consider using a pre-made theme. If you want something more custom, the cost depends on the platform you choose. Design and development of a Shopify theme would probably run around $1k ballpark, but be aware that Shopify as a hosted solution does not offer the most flexibility. In general, self-hosted platforms offer more flexibility but may take longer and cost more to develop.