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10 Things CEOs Need to Know About Design

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Presentation first delivered at the 2010 Bessemer Cloud Conference introducing design concepts for non-designers, simple tactics to improve existing products, and strategies for success in product/experience design moving forward.

Thank you Dustin Curtis, Kim Goodwin, Jared Spool, Marc Gobé, Indi Young, Steve Krug, Robert Hoekman, Jr., Seth Godin, and Jesse James Garrett for content and inspiration.

10 Things CEOs Need to Know About Design

  1. 10 things you need to know about design Jason Putorti Bessemer Venture Partners Follow me @putorti
  2. #ux10 @putorti
  3. What is 1 Design can change businesses design? 2 Design is more than pretty pictures Great 3 Talks benefits not features Design 4 Thinks in flows not screens 5 Doesn’t make the user think A Great 6 Starts with a great story Design Process 7 Uses design as a lever 8 Gets out of the office 9 Has a bible 10 Repeats & refines
  4. 1 What is design? Design can change businesses.
  5. I need your bank passwords. Trust me.
  6. P O W E R E D b y S E R V I C E™
  7. I’m on twitter.
  8. You should follow me on twitter here.
  9. +173% increase in clicks
  10. 2 What is design? Design is more than pretty pictures
  11. Design thinking The essential ability to combine empathy, creativity and rationality to meet user needs and drive business success.
  12. User experience How your product works in the real world, or how a person feels about using your product.
  13. ‣ Going through the sign up flow ‣ Completing a task in the product ‣ Error message in the product
  14. Customer experience The sum of all interactions a customer has with your company, positive, or negative.
  15. ‣ Going through the sign up flow ‣ Completing a task in the product ‣ Error message in the product ‣ Viewing your home page ‣ Reading a marketing email ‣ Dealing with customer service
  16. ‣ Going through the sign up flow +5 ‣ Completing a task in the product +10 ‣ Error message in the product -5 ‣ Viewing your home page +1 ‣ Reading a marketing email -10 ‣ Dealing with customer service -5
  17. Your brand is how customers feel about you
  18. 3 Great design... Talks benefits not features
  19. 20 colorful Understand vs configurable your money charts and graphs
  20. Comprehensive Remove your vs fuzzy-matching personal data algorithm locates from the web your records
  21. 4 Great design... Thinks in flows not screens
  22. Log In 1. User enters email address into email field. 2. User enters password into password field. 3. User clicks Log In button. 4. System validates login information. If okay, User is taken to Overview page.
  23. Take note of task flows in your product
  24. 5 Great design... Doesn’t make the user think
  25. Interaction Scale Requires Obvious Thought “Is that a Click! button?” “Is this what I Click! want? Should I keep looking?”
  26. Make it obvious what’s clickable.
  27. Or make it discoverable.
  28. People don’t read, they scan
  29. Minimize noise
  30. Omit needless words
  31. Users pick the first reasonable option.
  32. 6 A great design process... Starts with a great story
  33. “Does everyone on your team know what the experience will be like interacting with your offerings five years from now?” JARED SPOOL
  34. “How would it work if it were human?” KIM GOODWIN
  35. “How would it work if it were magic?” KIM GOODWIN
  36. “Because everyone on the team has the same vision, they are all on the same page for what it takes to succeed.” JARED SPOOL
  37. 7 A great design process... Uses design as a lever
  38. MARKETING “The best marketing tool you can have is a well-designed application.”
  39. BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Align your revenue with valuable and legitimate user tasks.
  40. BRAND Negative interactions drive negative social media.
  41. MARKETING+PR “No amount of money can buy the media to fix a boring product.”
  42. 8 A great design process... Gets the team out of the office
  43. “In the last six weeks, have your team members spent at least two hours watching people experience your product or service?”
  44. 9 A great design process... Has a bible
  45. Trust & Credibility
  46. Startup brand czar Large company style guide
  47. 10 A great design process... Repeats & Refines
  48. Allot product cycles to improvement
  49. “In the last six weeks, have you held a celebration of a recently introduced design problem?”
  50. What is 1 Design can change businesses design? 2 Design is more than pretty pictures Great 3 Talks benefits not features Design 4 Thinks in flows not screens 5 Doesn’t make the user think A Great 6 Starts with a great story Design Process 7 Uses design as a lever 8 Gets out of the office 9 Has a bible 10 Repeats & refines

Notizen








  • Design turned this...
  • ...into this. Designing for trust / credibility.

  • Design turned this...
  • ...into this. This was designing the customer experience.
  • Design rendered this first-to-market, first-mover advantaged MP3 player...
  • ...a historical footnote by this first-to-product fit iPod, thanks to activity centered design. Apple designed the best system to listen to your music. Great products have a memorable and consistent story of the experience from person to person.


  • Designing language to drive an action.
  • From ABtests.com
  • It’s a process

  • Designing the experience

  • User experience is broken down into a set of interactions with your product.
  • I consider UX a subset of customer experience, or brand experience. This is inevitably what I look at for portfolio companies since I start with the marketing and work through the product.


  • Also your personality. It’s not your logo or your tagline, those are design aids used to relate to people, evoke emotion, and affect brand. But what you say isn’t as powerful as what you do.
  • What words come to mind? Why? Sum of your experiences. Some small, some large. Some of you got a survey about BVP where I asked these questions.
  • Same as in a person.




  • This is tough, but you don’t need to be Steve Jobs. Here are some concrete tactics you can use immediately.


  • First, give me the elevator pitch. Tell me simply and immediately what it is you’ll do for me.


  • Also sign in exceptions, when user enters incorrect username or password, leaves both blank, etc. Simply writing these out will lead to better applications by revealing complexity.

    Thinking in terms of tasks, not packing the interface full of items.

    Tell story about user goals vs perceived problem from top down.
  • Go through various tasks in the application and justify everything that is encountered while trying to complete it. Tedious, but effective. Work on simplifying these.
  • The low hanging fruit. Most of the sites I’ve seen are too complicated.
  • Seth Godin wrote a book called The Big Red Fez comparing web site visitors to monkeys looking for bananas. If the “banana” isn’t easy to find, they’re going to leave. Your job is to place the bananas around the site and design the process.
  • Arguably why Google beat Yahoo at search. Yahoo ignored what their brand was to their users, insisting on being a “portal” rather than “search.”
  • Steve Krug talks about a scale between obvious and requiring thought.


  • So you need a visual hierarchy and a grid system. The page needs to be broken up into sections.
  • Every element on a page fights for the attention of the user. Minimize elements competing for the users attention.
  • Cornerstone is redesigning this right now. Every element on a page fights for the attention of the user. This page has a few animations happening as well.

  • They do not typically read through all available options and then make a selection. Known as “satisficing” from satisfying and sufficing.
  • “I am a...” everyone fits this category, done. If self selection is crucial, make it the primary call to action and choose how to segment. Choice paralysis.
  • Can probably figure out the difference between the first two, but then what’s test drive?
  • Self-explanatory instead, let people figure it out. Otherwise designers have no freedom to innovate.
  • Applying all of these ideas to the American Airlines site... (critique it)

  • 3 concrete things they can do, here’s some strategic ways to influence the design process.
  • Jared Spool. Experience vision. Great products have an easy to tell story that won’t change with the technology. Opentable. Yelp.
  • Thinking “out of the box” and not limited by the technology. Concierge experience for opentable.
  • Can apply to interactions, or experience vision. Opentable: “I’m in the mood for sushi, snap fingers, booked.”

  • Done right, it can have more influence over your business model than marketing and business development, so get it done right early.
  • Marc Gobé, author of Emotional Branding
  • On Mint, we didn’t throw ad banners into task flows, we aligned the revenue model with the task of looking for ways to save. Sticking to principles of only presenting quantified offers yielded more clickthroughs and more revenue.
  • Dissatisfaction is no different, but the tools for mass communication are extremely easy now, so it hurts you exponentially more.
  • Marc Gobé, author of Emotional Branding

  • Not surveys or interviews, but contextual inquiry. Product managers and designers need to get out of the office occasionally.
  • Establish some consistency
  • It makes the company lose trust with consumers when there’s no consistency in communications, it’s like having multiple personalities.
  • In one portfolio company, each division has its own creative resource with the freedom to produce customer facing deliverables. Start with a single brand czar ensuring consistency and setting guidelines, and get a style guide when this becomes a bottleneck. When I left Mint, Siegel & Gale, looked at everything I’d done and built a guide out of it.
  • Reduction through successive refinement is the path to simplicity.
  • Otherwise new features tend to become more polished, and older features break down or become inconsistent.
  • A culture that relishes “failure” and frequent small changes are the ones that foster great products. Jared Spool, UIE

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