What I learned working at a startup.
Updated: Sep 30
It is indeed, fast-paced.
On the first day, after settling in with a brand new desktop and a gift bag full of goodies, I was off to work. It was fun of course, yet frazzling at the time because I already had a deadline! By the end of the week, however, it felt like the norm. I learned to plan and systemize my own work flow. I listed my tasks down on paper. I prioritized my list based on deadlines and value. After finishing a design, I would have it reviewed and then iterated for improvements, and then shared to the developers. These would all be happening within a day.
You figure things out on the way.
For a startup, the design process can be jumbled a bit since the team is still developing. I learned that our process gets better for each successes we had, and we would iterate until we get things right.
I was learning from my sr. designer, and doing my own research. I reviewed previous designs before coming in and I studied how components are made and why. Communication was definitely a key part so I questioned design choices all the time, and I would be asked how I would have designed a certain part of the website.
QA and consistency are paramount.
Changes in design are very common, so I had to make sure that every change is implemented on all parts of the website. Making changes right the second time after QA is the ideal scenario, so I triple-checked my work to make sure designs are consistent. On another note, one-pixel off is still one pixel off, and it SHOWS after it's been developed. Imagine a thin white line at the edge of a website, highly contrasting a dark background color. *Shivers* Always triple-check.
Your role is amorphous.
At most times I was a UI/UX designer, but sometimes I would be an illustrator, or a copyrighter, or a market researcher, or a videographer, etc! There are so many things to do!
I thought this was a plus because then I wouldn't be bored!
Ask for help. Also, Google.
It's works great to be independent and be a "self-starter"; however, sometimes you just need that extra help. Working in a small startup meant that everyone is wearing multiple hats, as mentioned above. This meant that even with coworkers who aren't in the product team, they are there to do his/her best to help you. It was kinda nice!
I learned to say "I don't know, but I'll look into it," because it's truth. To work while learning, I researched best ux practices during my free time.
You Receive Quick Feedback.
Other than the sr. designer, you can easily ask the people around what they think of your design. It's quick, honest, constructive, and super efficient in terms of getting results. Sometimes, I would receive a "it's weird looking," or "it's good," or "it's okay," which may not be enough information. So, I always explain my design by summarizing the objective and the process along the way. This helps give my teammate the background which in turn results in a much more substantial feedback.
Your voice matters. A lot.
As an early designer in the company, I had to be own advocate. This is important especially for defining design review processes and sprints. I mentioned about researching best ux practices. I also referred knowledge from previous work, from college, from anecdotes other designers have told me, and of course, data from actual research. All of these factors helped me defend my choices, and it helped me feel a bit more confident on my skills, which I believe is the most important of all. I'm able to do the job.
Why does it matter?
Working at a startup has its odds and ends, but ultimately, the feeling of being a part of a close team and having so much influence is a wonderful experience to be in. By the end of the day, what I wanted was to learn as much as I can and, and I learned immensely at a startup. Try it out sometime.
I found other designers' perspective on working for a startup. Check them out if you like: