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5 Important Early Stage UX Practices

Here at GobySavvy, we think and work a lot with products that are mid-way through their development, or are undergoing an overhaul/facelift well after being released to market.  

But we also work with companies and entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of realizing and articulating their product vision.  There are some unique challenges and also opportunities that come with being in the early stage of a digital business.

It presents the chance to start from scratch and try new things, but it also means you have to start from scratch and try new things. 

You’ve got to be willing to really dig in and discover meaningful innovation out of the blank slate. But hey, even though you haven’t got anything to draw from yet, it doesn’t mean there aren’t helpful guidelines you can’t follow along the way.  And all innovation comes from frustration, trust us. 

So we want to dedicate this post particularly to all of you who are just getting started in the exciting new world of digital entrepreneurship.  

Hats off to you and, more importantly, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Develop user personas early on.

You might have heard this term “persona” in the world of UX or tech recently.  If you don’t know what it means, a persona refers to a set of characteristics and traits that define a user archetype specific to your business model.  Those characteristics might include profession, preferences, hobbies, likes and dislikes, relationships, age, gender, and more.  

Whatever defines your user base, having a clear picture of what kinds of people you are designing for makes your whole design process much smoother.  Because you’re in the early stages, you’ve got the opportunity to do the critical, on-the-ground research that can define and shape your user personas.  Don’t worry too much about the specifics when you’re starting.  

Just try to talk to as many people as you think might broadly fit into your user base as you can, and clue into their characteristics and needs.  You’ll get an idea of how your product vision fits into their lives (or doesn’t) and start to have, importantly, a narrower idea of who your target is.  

When you’re ready to put together a few personas, it might be a great opportunity to enlist the help of people who work on marketing or copywriting, so they can help shape those personas for their responsibilities too.

2. Mock-up, a lot.

Maybe you’ve heard the words “mockup” or “wireframe” and have never known what they mean.  Maybe you’re an old pro with wireframing tools like Axure or Keynote.  

Whatever the case, the key to an early stage business is to make lots and lots of prototypes.  Don’t throw out ideas from the beginning–produce a lot of them and narrow as you go.  

The same philosophy goes for wireframes.  If you’re working in UX, or working closely with a UX expert, make sure to always have materials on hand (pen and paper work great for all kinds of people) for sketching and quick idea jotting.  No idea is too wild in the beginning, trust us.  Just let those creative juices flow!

Mockups can be super clean and professional.
or captured on whatever is available!

3. Keep making changes.

The key to great UX at all stages is to never be satisfied with the final design.  

Even if you’ve produced something spectacular and meticulous, chances are that as times and design sensibilities shift your design won’t be keeping with the latest trends or user needs.  So it’s time to go back to the drawing board and tweak things around.  

When you’re at the early stage, however, making iterations and changes is particularly key. 

 Don’t be too attached to any one element of your design–even if it’s super compelling–and try to stay open to the possibility that your design will change and evolve as you work on it more and more.

4. Keep your eyes and ears to the ground.

When you’re crafting UX for a new business, especially in an edgy or newer field, you might see design trends shift quite rapidly.  

While you don’t want to spend all your time chasing trends, understanding what is completely outmoded and unacceptable to your audience is pretty important.  

You might even assign someone on your team to hunting design trends and innovations to get a sense of what’s out there so you can keep an eye on what’s next (it might be your product!).

5. Document whatever you can.

Even if you don’t end up using a particular design element in one iteration of your product, you might end up using it several years down the line.  

Trends and user bases often zigzag and circle back to old preferences.  So don’t throw away old ideas; just figure out how to archive them effectively.  You might not think it’s important today but someday down the line you might find yourself digging through that old folder for the newly fresh ideas of yesteryear.

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About the author:

Janani B.

Janani has a Master's in Design Thinking and writes frequently about UX, design, psychology, and other topics.