For any active followers of my blog or active Notifia customers, I’m sure you’ve seen the increased number of new designs we’ve been releasing for all of our widgets!

That’s thanks to yours truly, over the past 2-months I’ve taught myself to design, I’m still by no means a professional designer and I’m not looking for a career shift, but I’ve grasped the basics and have built several website pages, including the new pricing page here: Pricing

New landing page that we’re currently building, and about 30+ new widget styles, in fact all the widgets that you see here were designed by myself: features (as well as the page)

But I’m not just here to show off my designs, I wanted to talk about the benefits that have come from starting to pick up this new skill set.

It’s hard to find good designers.

It’s a fact, I used to think finding good developers was hard. But when it came to finding a good designer I was completely blown away. I previously spent 4 years in Technical Recruitment, and remember saying to myself thank god I didn’t spend 4 years in design recruitment.

Good designers are in such high-demand, companies that have them won’t let them leave, and the most talented designers aren’t cheap. Especially for an early stage startup.

The first design agency I worked with (after filtering through about 30, had an hourly rate of $30 which was average pricing for someone to build a SaaS Dashboard for us.

I was happy with the Dashboard, and overall look and feel as I knew that we could change this later. However, I did make the mistake of asking them to build a homepage for us. Now, that was a mistake. It wasn’t through lack of effort on their part, it was just extremely difficult for me to try to communicate what we wanted as I guess design has a lot to do with matter of opinion.

I was sending over Website Examples, Elements we liked, layouts and styles however the end result just wanted what we were looking for. We attempted to make iterations to the design twice, but I could see that we weren’t progressing.

In the end, I did proceed with the design that they provided but I wasn’t happy with it but I’d spent $2,500 on it so far and wanted to save our budget for developing the actual product.

The lesson I learned here that communicating visually to a designer can be very difficult. We all have our own style, and vision in our mind, it can be hard to communicate that and it’s not an easy job for a designer to interpret what you want in my opinion. Yes, you can get designers who deliver world-class designs every time, but I think that’s quite hard to find.

Inefficient.

The other thing that I learned during that previous project, was that it’s time and labour intensive to manage designers. As everything needs to be approved, they have questions, you need to confirm things, research designs, approve, deny, change colours schemes and even with an initial project description design is just so intricate that it’s very hands-on for everyone.

I would actually say I could make my own designs in less-time than it takes me to explain the design project to a third-party designer and pull together all the resources and inspiration. That’s before we account for the constant back and forth questions and clarifications. Not only am I saving money, it’s also more efficient.

With that being said, I don’t disregard the need for a designer completely, with things like icons and illustrations, I’ve tried and struggled. So 100% I would still hire a designer for this.

UX as well is another ball-game completely. Putting together a UI is one thing, but understand best practices and implementing them in terms of User Experience is another set of expertise entirely.

Luckily, as a founder we have an amazing flow of information from our live chat. We can look at customers complaints, ideas, onboarding issues and questions they asked to show us where to focus our attention.

I can build quick mockups, and send to the exact users that have previously brought this up to get their feedback and they also love to feel involved in the design and development of our product, as well as knowing that we are responsive and reactive to problems! Win, Win Win!


It’s actually fun!

I’ve never considered myself a very creative person. I tend to be quite direct, analytical and hate inefficiency (which is why I love automation!)

However, I’ve uncovered a completely new passion of mine. I realise one of the most satisfying things for me is solving problems, usually that problem is growing businesses. But it applies elsewhere too.

Because of my Marketing Background, I do apply my knowledge in Marketing and Conversion Rate Optimization to our designs.

Whenever I start on a design, it’s always with a goal in mind ‘How do I increase conversions on this page?’, ‘What can we do to increase conversions on this widget for our customers?’, ‘How can we simplify this?’

Then after sitting down for an hour or two, and just playing around in Sketch I find I’ve come up with a few designs, it’s usually quite obvious which one’s showing potential and then I release this, get feedback from users and run it as a test to see if it outperformed the original based on our goal.

I would strongly encourage any founder to Download Sketch, it has a 30-day free trial and you can have a play around. It’s incredibly good software, and very easy to pickup. After 4-5 hours you should be fairly comfortable.

I started by just finding inspiration on Dribbble and other websites. Then just attempting to recreate some designs I really likes starting off with more simple pop-ups then moving on to websites and elements of websites I really liked.

If you do download sketch, here’s a few quick pointers and tips that I’ve learned from research

  • Make Artboard 1440px for designs on Desktop
  • Headers should be 180-200% larger than subtext.
  • Normal text should be font-size 15-18px (depending on font and preference)
  • Test colour schemes - great resource here: https://colorhunt.co/
  • Make Elements and a design board (buttons, modals, text, H1, H2) then it becomes a case of just dragging and dropping and means your branding will stay consistent.
  • Once you have a design you like, upload to Zeplin and your developers will easily be able to get all CSS to build your designs into functional websites!

Thanks for reading, design is a great skill to have and I’d encourage everyone to give it a try!