3 Design Principles Driving Success in SaaS Startups

November 10, 2023

Given the rapid rise in consumer expectations, only the best experiences stand out from the crowd. But how can companies deliver experiences that impress and delight users? People expect things to work and to look good while doing it.

When creating a product, the goal of any company should be to produce as much as possible and deliver as little as possible, until real-world data proofs the product will satisfy the end-user.

From a design point-of-view, most companies are failing at delivering experiences that help overcome users’ problems because of three significant barriers:

  • Looking at the fields of design, technology, and business as three separate worlds.
  • Not involving target users during the entire product lifecycle.
  • Jumping right into prototyping with no user research or complete problem definition.

Teams can bring these barriers down with the help of three steps:

User-First Mentality: Focus on the User and the Rest Will Follow

Focus on solving a problem for the target user, not finding a solution for a problem that might not exist. Companies succeed when their primary goal is to provide the best and most appropriate experience to their end-users.

The truth is, you cannot solve problems you don’t understand.

Focus your time on the user’s needs, what problem you’re trying to solve and why you need to solve it. By having a user-centric mentality, you’ll have a more profound knowledge of the user. You’ll shift your mindset towards gathering customer insights by observing and understanding the fundamental needs of your target users in their environment. When collecting insights, you can both validate your ideas and improve your product iteratively.

If companies don’t try enough to understand the problem, they might risk building a product that solves a surface-level symptom instead of the underlying cause. Your solution can only be as good as your understanding of the problem, so take your time.

Cross-functional individuals: Build a “T-shaped” Organizational Culture

You’ve probably heard of “T-shaped” individuals. The “T” describes two kinds of characteristics; the vertical line — illustrates the depth of the skills and expertise on at least a specific discipline, and the horizontal line — symbolizes the disposition and knowledge of the individual across different domains.

Why should you look for these types of people?

Besides excelling in their core responsibilities and technical know-how, they possess cognitive skills such as emotional intelligence and creativity. The horizontal component helps them be enthusiastic about other people’s disciplines, imagine problems from other perspectives and stand in someone else’s shoes.

These are the people that will contribute and sustain a user-centric culture within a company. “T-shaped” organizations think about the user’s point of view as the responsibility of the entire organization, not just the design department.

And how do you cultivate this culture?

By hiring candidates that share the same values as your organization and by investing in T-shaped skills. By strengthening collaboration and communication between individuals and teams, you’ll get rid of silos and increase the agility of teams. Company culture is the building foundation of customer success and should be practiced actively to succeed. User-centred companies require being continuously open to feedback and adapting when users need change.

Build-Measure-Learn: Let Data Drive Your Decisions

What happens if you go straight from ideation to prototyping without backing your ideas with data? Simple. You will end up putting your business at risk in the long run.

The only way to ensure your product is on the right path is to make sure all your decisions rely on real-world data. All solutions to user problems start as ideas, right? Those ideas are nothing more than assumptions.

The best and fastest way to validate them is by using the build-measure-learn feedback loop.


It starts by building a version of your product — with just enough features (MVP) — that allows testing your hypothesis as quickly as possible. Since you don’t know if your ideas will solve users’ problems, you shouldn’t spend too much time around them.

Then, you’ll determine whether your MVP is leading towards actual progress by relying on user feedback.

After that, you’ll decide whether to pivot (change direction) the original strategy or persevere (carry on with your existing hypothesis).

This way, teams can transform their ideas into products faster by making smaller progress from feedback and learning through fast and continuous iteration. Constant iteration is all about failing quickly and often, to learn continuously. Plan your functionalities carefully and iterate your products through regular check-ins with the actual users.


It is impossible to get everything right at first. Learning from failure means nothing more than concentrating on quickly verifying progress to determine whether your product is in the right direction. Concentrate your efforts on continuous validation and measure what matters the most to your users.

If you’re serious about creating disruptive products and experiences, start by identifying your users’ goals, motivations, and needs. Then, understand what you want to learn and validate those lessons.

Catalina (CJ) Almeida
Co-Founder & Product Designer
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