“Understanding growth can really help you prioritize efforts in the product development cycle.”
So, I had to investigate further. In the last couple of months, I had a deep dive into growth hacking. I read a book, a couple of articles, and listened to a few lectures and podcasts. I got the gist of it.
In this article, I will look at growth from a UI/UX design perspective and how to use design to facilitate product growth on each step of the way.
I will assume that you already understand growth and I’m going jump straight in without much explanation of the terms.
Validation is not officially part of the growth funnel. You need to already have somewhat of a validated idea before you start growing. Since is often neglected step from product creation, I decided to include it.
Validation is the process of testing your idea before going all in.
The main question you need to answer at this stage is, "Did I find a real poorly-met need that a reachable market is facing?"
Most of the time design is not needed at this stage unless your idea is to build a complex business software that is too abstract of a concept to be described in a conversation. In these cases, an interactive prototype can go a long way.
In this initial prototype, disregard branding and any kind of decorative design. This is not the real product. This is not going straight to developers after validation. Look at this prototype as a validation tool, something that will help you design the actual MVP after you get proof of concept. Include only the must-have features. Scrap the rest for now.
You got your initial MVP validated.
Now it’s time to design the first version of your actual product and bring awareness of the existence of your new product.
Here is a couple of things you need to focus on:
It’s their website
This website is not about you or your product. It’s about your potential customer, the problem they have, and how can they solve it. This is the language you need to look at when it comes to the writing and overall design.
Clear value proposition
How do you specifically solve their problem? Talk about benefits, not product features.
Show don’t tell
People are lazy and distracted. Show them a short video or a couple of animated GIFs of your solution.
Get them to demo
The goal of this website is not to sell the product. It’s to get them to demo the actual product. Every possible link on this website should go there. Just one final destination remove all distractions. No social media icons and link to your Medium blog. All the social proof they need should be on the website. In the best case scenario, you get your first testimonials from the customers you met in the validation stage.
You got them to demo. Now can you get them to engage with you? Get them to try things out?
Design a simple step-by-step on-boarding and lead the user to the core value of the product.
Don’t ask them to sign up before you show the value. People are not here to give their emails so they can wait to receive a bunch of emails that they need to unsubscribe from. Give them an option to try out the product without even signing in.
Skip the long walk-through videos. Show step-by-step on-screen instructions. Keep it short, don’t try to show everything.
I’m guilty of skipping this a lot in the past.
See the empty screens of a new user as an opportunity to be a good “host.” Use inviting illustrations and short encouraging text to help new users make the first step. Or help them imagine how the screen will look when they start using the product.
Sometimes, it makes more sense to show a sample data than a test project. It's sort of like a sandbox for a new user to explore the capabilities of the product before using real data and involving other teammates.
Think of the initial retention rate as a measure of the immediate stickiness of the product.
Refining the new user experience and getting users to experience the product’s core value as quickly as possible are two of the most important strategies at this stage.
...of the main features.
The most common instinct here is to “wow” the new user, showing all the cool features at ones. And to assume everything is self-explanatory.
The reality is a bit different. After working on something for more than a week, you lose the fresh perspective of a novice. Everything seems to make sense because you put so much thought into it.
That’s why you need some kind of rules in place to not fool yourself.
Use visual hierarchy to highlight the main features and tone down the rest.
Use color, size, and contrast to highlight the one thing the user needs to do to experience the core value of the product. When you are building a complex business app, picking one thing is a bit of a struggle. In these cases, keep them at 3 actions, preferably group them together if it makes sense.
Secondary actions should be with different less prominent style than the primary. A good example is when you editing an item “Save” action is the primary and “Cancel” secondary - this should be reflected in the design.
Use “More” or a context menu to hide none essentials. Or don’t add them at all in your first version. This can make the difference between a confusing and easy-to-use user interface.
“Add notifications to bring back the user in your product to create the habit of using it.” This type of advice is all over the place. And I see products abusing it big time. Yeah, it’s important to create the trigger-action-reward-investment hook. But also be mindful of the fact that if you do the same thing all other products are doing too, you become part of the notification noise that is currently going on.
Instead of ramping up all notification options by default go gentle and use the bare minimum as a start. And focus on a good on-boarding and designing distraction-free workflows inside the product.
The long-term retention game is all about continuously offering customers more value. And let’s not forget reducing churn.
This is a big one. By default delivering more value is interpreted as adding more features. It’s tempting and easy to get accepted by stakeholders. You get a couple of feature request from a bigger client. You look at your competitor that is ahead in the game; they have this feature. And you give in under the pressure. And this should be the case.
The default to a feature request is “NO.” And then you add it to the backlog for further investigation and discussion. Use customer interviews, analytics to better understand what your users actually need. In most cases, it's a better version of what you already have.
Streamline workflows, reduce the learning curve of the existing features, improve the visual hierarchy. Do a design audit and improve on what you already have. I’m aware that this is much more tedious and uninspiring than adding a new feature. But from experience, I can say that doing the hard thing is the right thing to do most of the time.
And when you add a new feature don’t forget to on-board your existing users. Use a context hint, encouraging empty states. Everything mentioned about on-boarding is valid when adding a new feature.
Monetization is all about can we make more money with what we have. And optimizing your revenue funnel. This step is more in the hands of strategists and sales and marketing team to make it work. But what does it mean from product design?
When management focuses on sales, this means they are confident in the product and manager design shift are not expected in the near term. It’s time to optimize for scale and invest time in creating a design system. Standardize components and layouts. Clean up and put design files in order. Improve the icon set. Work on the visual language and the overall brand of the product.
The benefit of this work will show in moments of exponential growth. Removing the friction points of bringing new features to life or on-boarding new team members to the design team. Streamlining the overall design process.
Having clarity on which part of the growth funnel you need to focus on can help you leverage UI/UX design strategically.