Bootstrapping · Early Stage Company Development

UX/UI while bootstraping

Safiyya Cofounder

Last updated on November 8th, 2018

Hi all,

I’m the technical cofounder of a 2 years old startup. I have 10+ years experience as a software engineer, back end and some front end... but very little knowledge skills of UX/UI :/

I have built our current web app (B2B SaaS) with my little knowledge but customers (in private beta) keep complaining about the general usability. I’m not satisfied with the UI either, we need a full redesign of the app.

We have tried working with a UX friend as part time (in exchange for equity) but he complained about having to “put lipstick on a pig and that night and weekends were not enough for him to get properly involved.

We are bootstrapping with very little cash to spend and I’m not sure where to go from here :

  • should I find a UX/UI freelancer on Upwork or should we bring in a designer cofounder?
  • Is that the kind of work that a freelancer can do? A remote freelancer ?
  • Is there a way to breakdown a redesign in small pieces and minimise the risk ?
  • what would you do in my shoes?

Any advice is greats appreciated , thank you!

Daniel Turner Available

November 8th, 2018

So, let me ask a few questions, citing some things you wrote.

What do you think UX or UI (not the same) are?

You note that you have built an app for customers -- how did you figure out what customers needed (not the same as what they say they want)? How do you measure "general usability"? How do you think of it?

You have already made UX and UI decisions, if you think about it. You decided to build the web app. How did you decide that it should be a web app (I'm leading a bit with this question)? How did you decide what features, how users would navigate through their tasks?

I can relate to your UX friend. What I was hoping to get at with the questions above is that UX is not an afterthought, or a layer on top of the "real" work of building. UX deals with questions including "why should this exist", "what problems are people facing", "how do people think of working through these problems", and so on. This is structural, as much as deciding -- pardon my technical inexperience -- what language to code in, what frameworks to use, how to build a business model.

If you've plowed ahead with shipping something that doesn't address users' needs, yeah, there's no amount of pretty-making (which I'm worried some people think UX and UI are) that will rectify that.

You might have to refactor the whole thing, in a sense. By that I mean go back and, without coding or shipping, observe people. Don't ask leading questions, but observe what problems they need solved. Maybe your web app doesn't address that. Or it's so arcane because it was built by and for people who are building it and outsiders have no freaking idea how to get from A to B in it.

You could learn a lot by doing basic usability testing (see and also reading Erika Hall's "Just Enough Research" ( to see where you jumped ahead -- think of this as putting in up-front work that might have saved you from having to backtrack hugely, which is where you seem to be.