Brand Development · Brand Strategy

When should you focus on branding when bootstrapping?

Brittany C. Abrams, MBA HR & Tech Enthusiast | Diversity & Inclusion Advocate | Status Quo Challenger | Growth Mindset

May 28th, 2019

I'm building out a tech platform that will require having an active user base to generate sales. Currently i'm focused on getting my MVP out into the market for a limited user base, but am struggling with how much I should focus on branding.

Do I spend a lot money getting an expert to create a brand/look and feel (UX/UI) or do I take a stab at it for the MVP and re-brand if needed later?

Would love to hear everyone's thoughts around branding and UX/UI design when first starting.

Tony B All knowledge is self knowledge. Keep learning. Stay hungry.

Last updated on May 28th, 2019


Branding should be a bit further down the road for you. Let me over simplify this just a bit without going to far down the rabbit hole.

When you are pushing to get your MVP out to market, try to maintain focus on the overall quality of function, feature and usability. Be conscientious of the UX/UI early on, but also allow the visual look and feel to organically take shape by the direct impact of the UI and product substance. In many ways this can drive or govern the products visual identity. The UX/UI won't be mutually exclusive to the visual branding at this point in your development as they are very separate traits from branding.

A few common examples of early aesthetic design that can hinder the MVP and UX process are things like fontface and color. If you find your product struggles with legibility with certain font sizes and styles where applied, you don't want to be sold into a fontface that looks good on a billboard, but hinders quality on a small device directly related to user experience. Same as if the colors are too high in contrast and brightness, but the user ends up using certain features for extend periods of time leading to visual fatigue and discomfort over prolonged use. You may end up finding certain fonts and colors that really deliver on a quality product directly impact or even inspire unique visual benefits that can be used in your brand identity. Of course these are loose examples just to support the idea that it's definitely ok to wait on the brand identity a little further down the road.

Try to stay disciplined and remind yourself about the distinction of brand vs identity as well. Brand being the overall quality of the product and culture of the company behind it, and then the identity being how the user identifies and associates the specific product quality to the brand. I liken this to a similar comparison of who you are as a person. Your personality, character and substance of you as a person is the brand and quality you want people to know and then your face, hair, clothes, height, etc.. is how people visually identify you as that unique person. This works both ways both positive and negative. If your product looks and feels great, but the performance and overall quality is rubbish, then your branding gave your user a way to identify a poor product just as much as a good one. So just put if off as an itemized part of the project for now.

I still encourage fun with creative ideas for how you want to visually communicate your product, so jot down ideas and play around a little as you go. This keeps you excited and motivated if visual design has a prominent place in your mental space. Once you've got your MVP user tested and good to go out into the ether, then your branding team can help you put it all together.

So basically master chocolate recipe before you box it up and put a bow on it. :) Cheers!

Tony B.

Behram O'Habib CoFounder. Head of Product and Biz Dev. HAX Co. SoSV. Ex P&G

May 28th, 2019

Hi Brittany, What are your users telling you? If you're working on an MVP and on obtaining validation, then you should ask your initial customers and/or use your best judgement to gauge whether branding is necessary. I would argue that UX is critical (after all, we all have painful unnecessary workflows), but even this is flexible. Again, the bottom line is to listen to what your customers are telling you. If you already have a committed group of users who are willing to test out your platform, but have not yet been given anything with which to play, I would focus on building the MVP.

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

May 30th, 2019

Brittany, it sounds like you don't quite understand what brand is. Brand is what you do and how you do it. It is not the look-and-feel of your company. Although look-and-feel is a component that can help communicate what your product is and how it's delivered, it's not a separate thing. Your brand is everything you do, the language you use, the places you appear, etc. Your brand is what others actually think of you, not simply what you tell others about you.

So, right about the same time you had a product idea, you started working on your brand. You defined what kind of company you would be, how you would be approaching customers in the future, how they would feel about doing business with you, and what kind of relationships you would be building with customers. This is brand. It's not your logo, your colors, your UX. Yes, those things should echo your purpose so you don't send a mixed message, but they are not how you start branding.

It's a terrible idea to re-brand later. Sometimes it's necessary, but it's always an unnecessary loss. Focus on the parts of "branding" I described above. Keep things simple at the start. Don't spend a lot of money trying to look fancy. Think about your look-and-feel in terms of what you would do if you could only do it in black-and-white. Because if you can do it in black-and-white, you can do it in whatever colors fit your image in the future. It's much harder to work backwards. And pretty much everyone who has ever started with a color business stationary kit has gone back to black and white as soon as they realize how expensive it is to maintain.

Your UI is part of your product development, not part of your advertising. All of your product validation steps should be helping you define what's important for your platform's MVP and user adoption. These are not brand decisions, they are product development decisions that ensure you will have sales.

AShu Co-founder I CTO I Co-adviser I Full stack developer | WebRtc Developer | DevOps

Last updated on May 28th, 2019

As I think branding with good product is Need but at MVC not much if you are taking Care of both work Branding and Developement . But if in your team there is a person taking care of development then you focus on branding and marketing . This is best one as my experience because parallel and fast.

For UI design you can buy from themeforest or hire a freelancer Or a Developer .

But I suggest take good developer partner as a co-founder because there Is many benefits

Utkarsh Dimri Technical Analyst | Mobile App and Website Development Advisor | SaaS, CRM and ERP Specialist

May 28th, 2019

Hey Brittany,

I understand your situation as I have worked with lot of Tech platform owners who were new to this market. They also had the same question as yours and being a Tech Advisor I always tell them that first build a business model plan. Its a foundation of any tech platform development. So, I believe you had already one and on the basis of that, you're looking to develop an MVP.

Now, coming to your query, I'll suggest that you should start funding on UI/UX development with minimum features. If you have the UI/UX development ready then you can approach to your investors (if you're looking for one) for the funds for the further development. And when the development begins you can start focusing on the branding of your product parallel with the development process.

Please feel free to reach me if you need any more suggestion or any question regarding your Sales Tech Platform that you're looking to develop ?


Chris Ziomkowski Founder/CEO XTend Online, Caltech, Ex CTO in US public co., Thought Leader AI & Blockchain

May 28th, 2019

You need to understand why the "fail early and get traction" paradigm has risen, especially in investing. Your brand and MVP merely needs to be good enough that you can attract some users. Your primary focus then has to shift to growth. What people are looking at is week over week increases in users. With a horrible brand and clumsy interface, this might be only 10 users and picking up 1 or 2 a week. A very strong brand and a world class UX might attract hundreds of users and grow by dozens a week.

The exact figure is irrelevant though. What proves your business model is the ratio from week to week. In both cases above, the business is clearly strong, growing at 10% or so per week. The absolute number of users is actually not relevant, only the rate of growth. Concentrate on your traction growth ratio and mostly ignore branding in the early stage. As long as it is good enough, and your UX is good enough, you're fine.

Now, if either your brand or UX is preventing you from growing week over week, then you need to improve it, because it obviously is not "good enough". Look at your numbers. They will tell you if you need to be concerned.

David Insro Founder & CEO, Serial Entrepreneur

May 28th, 2019

For MVP you should not do any branding. But you seem to confuse branding with UI and UX. Branding and UI are closely related and you don't need to get an expert. UX however, is important for an MVP and you can do this yourself for now. Just think about how easy it is to use the MVP to fix the UX. We employ graphic designers for UI and behavioural psychologists for UX.

Brittany C. Abrams, MBA HR & Tech Enthusiast | Diversity & Inclusion Advocate | Status Quo Challenger | Growth Mindset

May 29th, 2019

Hey everyone thanks for all the thoughtful responses. I really appreciate it!

Duncan Fischer Dad & Entrepreneur - Ideas with Action make the difference

May 28th, 2019

Brand is not a priority at MVP stage in my opinion. If you are changing logos/fonts/colours as you go, the customer wont care. Just tell the story as you go

Sam Hefer Cofounder & CEO Labslot

May 28th, 2019

Depends. If you are building a website, I’d recommend checking out themeforest, great for getting close to the look and feel, I paired this with Django and will have my site running in no time. I spent $15 on the theme. If not, I’d suggest pulling together a wireframe of what you want to achieve, then grab a freelance from whichever marketplace you prefer. I had an app designed and built for $400, but I put a lot of work into making very clear instructions and got the team to use time sheets.