If you’re a bootstrapped startup, turn to user-centered design to thrive during adversity • TechCrunch

When it comes to user-centered design (UCD), the goal of each design process is the same: create a great product for your end-users.

In normal economic times, the use (or lack) of UCD can greatly influence the success or failure of a project. In this more fiscally constrained environment, the stakes are even higher.

Up until 2022, the capital markets were such that any team with a good idea and reasonable business plan could get funding to launch a new product. Now that investors are more demanding and writing smaller checks, UCD can be the difference between your business launching or never making it off the drawing board.

The UCD approach and checklist

The UCD approach is adaptable to many different scenarios. Nonetheless, you should always remember a few key principles. Here’s a checklist for creating a UCD approach:

  • Ask a lot of questions to understand why your customers want a problem to be solved.
  • The optimal number of prototypes/ideas to have at one time is five. Anything else is counterproductive.
  • Consider if you are solving an emotional problem.
  • When testing, practice empathy (understanding, not sympathy).
  • Incorporate design philosophies that address accessibility.

It is critical to adapt based on user interactions. It is not what users say that is important; it is what they do.

We launched in 2007, right in the middle of the Great Recession, so external funding was not an option. We therefore took a lean approach that eschewed expensive software development and marketing, and instead used UCD for everything from the company name and logo to our first product. Each of the following lessons will be useful for founders looking for some ways to do more with less.

UCD for the business concept

Our original business plan at Inflectra was to launch a software test management tool similar to other more expensive, complex and harder-to-use products already on the market. We believed that a better, simpler product with a more user-friendly user interface at a significantly lower price point would be easy to market and sell without having to build a new market completely from scratch. This product would ultimately become what is now known as “SpiraTest.”

However, before launching the business, we employed UCD principles to ask lots of questions to colleagues, potential customers and users. I was lucky that our target users were software quality assurance professionals and project managers, and I was working for a company that did lots of project management and software testing. I was fortunate to have a ready supply of real-world users to work with.

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