Writing and editing are done. The Bootstrapping Design eBook will be available in a few short weeks. I’m releasing it as a “beta” edition at a temporarily discounted price. More details soon.
For now, here is a free excerpt and the full chapter list.
To get you through the next few weeks, check out the second excerpt: Chapter 1, Introduction.
We are starting businesses—not pandering for design awards. We’re building lean and profitable startups rather than the next Facebook.
If you aren’t a bootstrapper, this book isn’t for you. There are many design books that teach how to become a full-time-job designer and many that teach formal design theory and advanced techniques for readers with years of experience.
This book contains the minimum design fundamentals that bootstrappers must understand in order to launch a business. My intent is to emphasize design basics rather than to reduce the whole of design to a bag of tricks. You’ll notice peripheral topics such as kerning, color wheels, and art history are absent. This is not because such topics are unimportant but because they are neither suitable for beginners nor relevant to their bottom line.
I’m writing this book because design truly affects the success of businesses. I believe in bootstrappers and the businesses they are building, and I know design can help them succeed. I believe great design is for everyone—not just the few fortunate enough to have big budgets.
Attracting More Users
“Getting more users” is the wrong way to think about business. Before you do anything else, including read this book, you should know who your users are, where they are, and how you can reach them. Great business comes from understanding people—we have all seen that truth firsthand.
Design cannot fix a flawed business strategy. My first web app was beautiful by all accounts, but it failed. It failed because I did not understand business nor the customers I wanted to reach. Do yourself a favor: before you start up, learn. Read about business and research your customers. However, be careful who you listen to because there is much bad advice in the startup scene. The only reliable sources of business advice I have found are Amy Hoy’s 30×500 class and Ash Maurya’s book, Running Lean.
Design Affects Business
Once you understand potential customers, you can use design to engage them. How? Design strengthens communication. Design exists to support content and deliver ideas with greater effect, clarity, and insight.
If potential customers do not understand what you are offering, they will not buy your product. So not only do you need to be a good writer; you need to learn to present your message clearly.
However, your goals do not end with making a sale; designers aim to create a painless and, hopefully, even enjoyable experience. Forming an emotional connection with customers cements your brand in their minds.
Research reveals that visual beauty supports business goals. Aesthetics build trust in mere milliseconds, affect purchasing decisions, and even affect perceived value and usability.
Design It Yourself
You wouldn’t be reading this book if you didn’t already see the value of great design. The real question is: why should you be the designer for your business? There are many other ways to fulfill your design needs: themes, templates, frameworks, crowdsourcing, and (obviously) hiring professional designers.
Hiring a designer is expensive, and when bootstrapping you have to question whether a new, undeveloped idea warrants such a substantial investment. Many of us couldn’t afford to pay a designer $100 per hour even if we wanted to. However, validating the idea before you sink too much money into a project is wise, regardless of whether you can afford it.
Themes, templates, and crowdsourced design never fit the project. They are generic and inflexible. They are created without any understanding of the problem they propose to solve. These methods reveal the difference between design and decoration; you will accomplish more by tailoring a message than you will by slapping any pretty logo on a page.
Frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap and Foundation can provide a great starting point for a new project, but still require some design acumen to be fully realized. No framework can do all the work for you.
So instead of any of these, learn to design it yourself. You are absolutely capable of producing beautiful design that supports your business. Keep in mind that later, as your successful business brings in profits, you can even hire a professional designer if you’d like.
But for now, designing it yourself is the best course of action. Be honest—it’s the option you fear most. But rather than fearing the edge of the precipice, we’re just going to jump off the ledge.
The Chapter List
Here’s the final list of chapters in the beta edition of the book.
Part 1: Mentality
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: You, The Designer
Chapter 3: UX, UI, and Other Buzzwords
Part 2: Principles
Chapter 4: Typography
Chapter 5: Layout
Chapter 6: Proximity & Space
Chapter 7: Contrast
Chapter 8: Visual Hierarchy
Chapter 9: Color
Part 3: Practice
Chapter 10: Your New Process
Chapter 11: How To Steal
Chapter 12: Visual Design Tips
Chapter 13: Evaluating Design