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What it takes to be a designer or developer in a growth team

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Juuli Kiiskinen



Designer: Lose the pixel perfect attitude

Most designers suffer from an occupational disease called pixel perfectionism. It means that it’s hard to let go of the design until every inch is polished to perfection.

Growth teams test and iterate quickly in order to create sales. In practice, it means that a lot of ideas, concepts and designs are either kept and optimised, or tossed if they don’t meet the targets. Therefore, a design is dispensable until data proves otherwise.

A good rule of thumb is to design until you are 80% satisfied with the result. Usually, the remaining 20% go to polishing details that no one else sees, except you. This mindset saves you time to fo-cus on the next design and enables a quicker process from design to testing.

Developer: Understand code just as a means to an end

Nobody looks at a website and says: “That’s some really nice javascript!” Well, maybe developers. This can be an unpleasant truth for some developers who spend hours and hours agonizing over the use of React vs. Angular, BEM vs. OOCSS or even tabs vs. spaces.

This is a gigantic waste of time. Web development frameworks are ephemeral, what’s hip and trendy one minute is old and dated the next. Your code will be refactored at some point in the future, so don’t get too attached to it.

Focus on results, not beauty or technology

There used to be a time when the finesse of a design or the decision of the tech stack was a matter of an opinion. The person with the biggest pay check or most relevant background had the last word. Those days are long gone since in the digital era we can basically measure anything. Personal opinion of a designer about layout, colours, fonts or whatever doesn’t matter anymore if the results are not good. Same goes for development.

As a growth developer, you approach a project with absolutely no solutions ready to deploy. No matter how much of an expert you are in node.js, Java or Wordpress. The best solution starts by listening, analysing and gathering as much information about the project as possible. Only after this is done, is it appropriate to start formulating potential solutions.

Take Amazon.com, for example. It is as ugly as webstores go, but business-wise it doesn’t matter — Amazon is the largest online business by market capitalization and revenue. Sometimes even an ugly design can perform better than a design that designers love, if that ugly design is constantly iterated against conversions and user experience data. And a tech stack that felt outdated, heavy or uninteresting performs better than the solutions everyone is raving about.

In order to succeed as a growth designer or developer, you have to choose results over beauty and personal preferences. Despite how ugly the design or how outdated the tech stack might feel to you.

Embrace your inner salesman

You have to get a kick out of winning. In the business of growth, winning doesn’t mean how many likes your design gets on Dribbble or stars your code receives of GitHub. It means cold, hard sales. So shake off that fear of sales being only the art of suited yes-men and embrace the fact that designers and developers have always been in the core of sales by designing and building things that make people want to buy — or things that people want to buy.

Analytics and A/B testing services are a source of invaluable information, but more importantly, they are a source of truth for what actually works. They never lie or assume anything about your code or design. If you expect version B to perform better because it uses a fancier modern framework or cooler design elements, but the original version A actually had higher CTR and revenue, then, as hard as it may be to accept, you should stick with the original version.

The business world is all about making money. Showing that you understand the business aspect and believe in measurable value, you’ll get a lot more room to take part in defining conversations.

This blog post was written together with my amazing colleague Paul Browne, thank you!

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