UPDATE: When I wrote this post, I was writing about design in the sense of pretty little boxes – and NOT how the user interface comes together and so on. I’m now aware that the terms “design” and “designer” cover an awful lot of ground
Design is one of the biggest challenges for pure programmers who want to build web apps. When bootstrapping your startup, I’ve read that some people seem to be very keen to hire a designer. I can’t think of a bigger mistake.
On day one, you have three basic options: buy a theme; learn design skills yourself; or hire a designer.
Let’s start with the first option, buying a theme. For under $30 you could have a fantastic design for your marketing site, and an equally excellent design for the tool itself. Ten minutes plus very little investment gives you instant designs that you can work with right there and then.
Alternatively, you can attempt to learn design skills yourself. You might be naturally talented… but are you going to be able to produce designs like those above in a minimal amount of time? Even then, do you really want to be creating unique designs when you could be developing killer features instead?
Finally, hiring a designer. This costs money – big money for a bootstrapped startup. Outsourcing design is a lot like outsourcing programming; you’re not going to get the result you want by paying someone $200. It’s also easy to forget that if you hire a designer, you’re going to have to manage them, give input and direction to get the desired result. Long story short: you’re still going to be using up precious development time.
Concentrate on your major skill – coding – and don’t let premature optimizations, including design, get in the way.