Design First or Code First-What is the best approach for Startups?

Author: Sneha Gopal
September 26, 2019
Design First or Code First-What is the best approach for Startups?


“We’re living in an API-first world — Let’s start developing like it.” – Shamasis Bhattacharya, Postman

Technology first has emerged to be the de facto notion while building products and services. On the other hand, in an API-led world, a user-centric approach is vital for creating products that offer real value to customers irrespective of the technology used. 

In these changing times, startups must realize that well-designed products and services bring a competitive edge to their organization. Driving customer engagement and success, design can be a key differentiator, especially for startups. 

Changing Business Paradigms

Design-driven startups have disrupted one industry at a time. Like Uber, who transformed the way people travel all with an elegant app connecting riders with cab drivers. But, have you ever wondered what made them so successful? Definitely, an innovative idea was the backbone which was coupled with the perfect mix of exceptional design and immersive user experience. 

Hail Design!

When API leads the way

  • An API-first approach starts with planning, design mockups and testing before you move ahead with the development part. Being aligned with legendary agile software development process involving rapid iterations and feedback, this process enables the team and other stakeholders to analyze and weigh the project’s progress and functionality early and often. 

  • Using design mockups, feedback can be gathered in the early stage enabling you to make changes easily before investing a lot of time, money and effort into the project. Further, it also allows all the team members to be on the same page when it comes to the project status. 

How can startups benefit from design?

Increase Customer Loyalty = Higher Revenue

Undoubtedly, there is a direct correlation between well-designed products and customer loyalty. 

Startups have a wonderful opportunity to build a loyal customer base by making their customers especially early adopters happy with a design-driven product as it  has a positive impact on customer loyalty and they tend to stay. It also helps unlock new revenue streams as new customers are on-boarded with positive word of mouth marketing. 

Better Understand Customer Needs 

Founders of design-led organizations have a better understanding of what their potential and existing customers want. The products/services are designed keeping in mind their requirements. Technology can be copied but a good design helps an organization foster an emotional connect with their customers.

Retain Existing Customers, Attract New Customers and Markets

Design-driven approach can be a game changer in retaining customers while acquiring new customers and markets. With design-led user/market research and prototyping, brands can identify customer needs that are not being met with the existing product. The insights can be used to improve offerings or create new product/service that bridge the gap. 

Creating Experiences that Customers Love 

Realizing the importance of design, organizations create experiences that customers love and want to experience again. This is achieved by prioritizing design and putting customers first in whatever they build.  

Improve Product Development

Building competitive products/services starts with understanding your customer requirements and preferences. The more you know about your customers leveraging market and user research, higher are the chances that you will develop products/services they would actually want to buy. 

Seamless Customer Experience across Different Touchpoints 

Today, a customer’s buying journey involves more touchpoints than it ever did in the past. In fact, it is the customers, who decide when and how they interact with your brand. A customer’s product search might begin with a store visit or by accessing the website from his/her desktop followed by numerous interactions using a smartphone, computer or tablet.  Gone are the days of fragmented engagement across different channels. With this realization, design-driven startups consciously strive to deliver seamless customer experience across multiple touchpoints and devices that easily adapts to the different ways a customer discovers and interacts with their business. 

How can startups incorporate design in their work culture and product from Day one?

Design must play a significant role in your startup work culture as it helps brands  understand customers and their needs. To begin with founders and other top management must believe that a design-first approach offers a strategic advantage to the organization. Design must be incorporated in product/service development right from the onset rather than bringing it towards the end of the development process. 

Steps to achieve Design Success

  • Right from the beginning include design with a capital D as an integral part of your business strategy. 

  • Find out different areas where and how design is currently being used in your workflows

  • Analyze and identify methods of improving your existing design process. This may include hiring a professional design consultant or enhancing the skill set of your present designing team.

  • Recognize new design opportunities within your business model.

  • Make design considerations part of your meeting agenda and planning documents.


Good design is often the only difference between a successful and failed product.