Getting design and development team on the same page!

What makes or breaks a product team?

Strong design principles are one. A clear, effective roadmap is another. But one of the most important, yet overlooked, aspects of all great product teams, are the relationships between the designers and engineers on your team.

“Truly great products are often a combination of two things: a technical breakthrough and a never-before-seen design it enabled.”

Yet many designers compartmentalise building a product into two distinct parts — design and development. This distinction is one of the most dangerous traps a product team can fall into. When the design is seen as a satellite that orbits engineering, it usually comes crashing back to earth.

The problem is we separate design from implementation. In product design, both these things are inextricably linked. A world with terms such as “design freeze” or “handoff” just won’t cut it.

Truly great products are often a combination of two things: a technical breakthrough and a never-before-seen design it enabled. So it’s essential designers understand the possibilities and restraints of the technology they’re working with before they can properly delve into the design.

Design together

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re designing a native mobile app. Here are some technical questions you might receive from an engineer that can heavily influence your design decisions:

  • Which framework are we going to use for that home screen chart? If we don’t know the suitable one, we should ask the developer for a suggestion and follow the UI of that framework.
  • How long does it take the API to fetch the data for that list-view? If it’s too long, you’re going to need to do more than place a spinner.
  • The API takes a little too long to load user’s loans. What do we display in the meantime?

Questions such as the above should be asked and addressed as early as possible by discussing with engineers. Involve them in the design process, at the end of the day, it’s the developer that actually builds the website or app.

Even though you’re the designer, the developer knows best when it comes to certain other aspects of the user experience (perceived performance, page loading times, miscellaneous features that will crash the browser).

Turning design into reality

Being a great designer requires you to be empathetic, not only to users or clients but also to your engineers. Let’s not forget that all of us are working for the same goal of building a kickass product!

So here are key pointers to turn your design into pixel perfect reality:

1. (Atomic) Design System:

Design System is a list of all the elements you are using in a project. It helps you maintain consistency in the design. Want to know how we built our design system? Take look at this article:

getting-design-and-development-team-on-the-same-page


2. Mockups:

We all have been generating & sharing UI mocks comfortably for many years now. But there are few things which will help us avoid confusion.

Artboard sizes:

Nowadays we have a wide range of devices. Not just web but our mobile platforms also has varying screen sizes! It’s important to decide how will our product look on all those screens? Define the breakpoints and keep in mind the media queries that developers are going to use. Talk with your developer if you don’t know what it is.

Breakpoints and responsive layouts:

Upload an artwork to Zeplin or Google Gallery or InVision with the responsive design (according to the breakpoints that you’ve already set), in other words, share how your design looks in different screen resolutions and devices.

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You think it‘s clear that the design will be horizontally centred at higher resolutions, such as 1920 x 1080 pixels, but developers are not mind-readers.

Tools for designers:

We have developed a Sketch plugin which allows you to quickly generate guides for a selected element and helps you achieve web development’s famous grid (column) behaviour in Sketch. The plugin was featured on SketchApp website and newsletter.

Tools for designers

File names and versioning:

The name of the screen should simply describe its function. If you’re not yet using a version control solution for your designs, you probably should.

Make sure to use consistent casing when naming your screens, whether it’s ‘camelCasing’ or ‘Sentence casing’ or ‘lower casing’ etc.

File names and versioning

We also add 3 number to give the sequence to mockups.

3. Interactions:

Make a flow:  Putting the mockups together is only half the work done. You’d need to stitch the screens together based on the flow using Hotspots (or just make an Interactive Prototype). It helps the product manager understand how the user journey is panning out and helps the developer plan her/his approach to code.

Figure out the fidelity: Not every screen has to be fleshed out with high fidelity prototypes. Few screens could simply be static with explanatory comments, few could get away with platform-specific standard interaction patterns and few might require those custom prototypes. There’s no blanket rule for all the screens, so discuss with your developer & plan accordingly.

Suggested Tools: Overflow, Marvel, InVision, Google Gallery, Principle or craft it directly in code!

4. Specs and assets:

Today with products like Zeplin, Google Gallery, Marvel Handoff or InVision’s Inspect sharing style guides and specifications has never been easy.

Assets and resources:

Exporting assets for the different platform is easy but your developer is gonna love you if you are giving them optimised assets! Use optimisation tools like Kraken, ImageOptim, Optimage or TinyPNG.

Even better if you use SVG.

When you use SVG for your icons or illustrations, you don’t need to worry about devices with different pixel densities. Another advantage is that SVG graphics use up less space, and can be compressed effectively by gzip on the server side.

Think twice before you send an asset larger than 1MB to a developer! Don’t be lazy and send the job off to a developer; you are responsible for the visual quality of the project. Check out this image optimisation guide by Google.

Assets also include custom fonts and copy for your vernacular Apps.

Final Checklist:

1. Don’t be too visionary.The ideas must work.

2. Work with real data in mind and think about a “scalable design”. If there is a long text, what happens? how does it work in other languages? and if in the future will be adding more items to the menu, what happens?

3. Empty states: if you don’t know what they are, find out!

4. Explain the reason for your choices about the layout, colors and interactions.

5. If you speak the language of developers, you can get respect. If you have a good knowledge of programming languages (HTML, CSS, Java, PHP, JavaScript, C #, Objective-C or Swift) you can be one of them and they listen to you with pleasure.

6. Never forget the user.

Conclusion

Although you shouldn’t need another reason to be considerate of your fellow teammates (especially developers, who traditionally, designers find it hard to see eye-to-eye with), using these tips will help you, as a designer, just as much as they help everybody else. Cutting corners to save time only creates speed bumps further down the road, so add a little care and some foresight with your design choices.

Tap the ? button if you care about your developer (and/or you found this article useful).

Have any tips of your own? Let us know ?

Source:- Capital Float’s Medium Blog

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Starting Your Entrepreneurial Journey? Build Your Credit History Along The Way.

There has probably never been a better time to start a business in India. Multiple positive developments in the recent past have laid the foundation for a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem for years to come. Some Governmental initiatives such as “Make in India”, “Startup India” etc., have indicated that at the highest level of policy-making, there is now a strong desire to support new businesses. Increasing digitization and improving infrastructure means that even the youngest of businesses can now reach out to millions of potential customers.  The brightest minds in the country are now being drawn away from previously coveted corporate jobs and are opening up to the challenge of executing an indigenous endeavour from ground-up. These are exciting times.

These young businesses can bring significant value to the Indian economy. At their helm are smart, passionate entrepreneurs with products or services which cater to tangible demands in the market. With the right support and nurturing, many of these ventures can grow into successful businesses. However, far too often, we see many of these budding entrepreneurs failing to realize their true potential. While there can be many reasons why a young business fails to scale up, research globally has identified a clear obstacle – lack of appropriate and timely credit.

The problem of the “Missing Middle” in developing economies is well documented. Such economies have a large number of micro-firms, some large firms but very few medium-sized firms. The absence or the paucity of medium-sized enterprises isn’t because these businesses lack the potential to be profitable, but because access to finance is traditionally a cumbersome process. In India, less than 1/4th of the financing demand of SMEs is met by formal institutional supply. Small businesses fail to benefit from the leverage which debt financing provides and is essential for propelling growth. As a consequence, SMEs contribute to only 8% of the Indian GDP – a stark contrast with the 40%+ contribution made by small businesses in developed economies.

This is not to say that the financing needs of SMEs are being completely ignored. For more than two decades lending to small businesses has been a priority agenda item for policy makers and regulatory bodies. A host of initiatives have been launched but on-ground progress has been slow. A key bottleneck is that these small-medium sized businesses are unable to furnish adequate credit history.

In a country like India, with a thriving informal finance ecosystem, most small businesses do not build credit records in their initial days as they can access finance through informal lending channels. As the size of their operation increases, so does their financial need. At this point, they are unable to turn to formal means of credit supply due to the lack of universally recognized documentation. At this stage, their growth is stunted as the informal market is unable to provide required financing at reasonable rates.  It is a perfect Catch 22 scenario – to get credit you need to have prior history but to have prior history you need to secure credit!

Building credit history with a bureau, e.g. CIBIL, takes time. Start small, be patient and build it over time. In India we now have personal as well as business credit scores available separately, though the former continues to be the more dominant decision input to most underwriting models. The credit worthiness of the promoter of a small business is crucial since the fortunes of the business are so closely entwined with his personal credit standing. It is thus vital to establish and grow your personal credit score. Start with small loans and service them in a timely fashion. If you are unable to get unsecured financing (e.g. a credit card), you can potentially start with a secured loan (e.g. auto loan) or a loan which is backed by a guarantor. Do not over-leverage your self – having multiple loans outstanding and/or high utilization on your existing limits negatively affect your score. Avoid such credit behaviour. Most of these points apply to business credit scores as well – start small and diligently service re-payments.

The entrepreneurial journey can be a deeply rewarding one. Focus on building your credit history along the way to help achieve your goals.

vaibhav

Vaibhav has over seven years of experience in the financial services industry across analytics, sales and trading. He has worked across major financial centres in Asia managing equity portfolios of large institutional investors across the region. In his last role prior to joining CF, he was a member of the Program Trading desk at Deutsche Bank’s Sydney office. He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from IIT Kharagpur in Electronics Engineering and is a CFA Charterholder. 

Vaibhav heads Business Development at Capital Float. 

Oct 24, 2018

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Capital Float: Banker For Small Businesses – Livemint

Written by Shrutika Verma

Sandeep Bindra, the New Delhi-based e-commerce merchant who runs Pathways Marketing and Consulting Pvt. Ltd is the official distributor of consumer electronics brands such as Havells, Godrej, Usha and Symphony coolers for large e-commerce marketplaces such as Flipkart.com, Snapdeal.com and Amazon.in. Two months ago, Bindra ran out of money raised from family and friends and his pleas for debt for his two-year-old company were not entertained by any bank. “They (banks) ignored us as they do not consider companies that are less than three years old,” said Bindra. With the festival season round the corner, he needed immediate cash to sustain the fast-growing sales online. That is when Bengaluru-based start-up Capital Float came to his rescue.

Founded by Sashank Rishyasringa and Gaurav Hinduja, alumni of Stanford Graduate School of Business, Capital Float is a new-age lending solution that operates online and offers unsecured loans to start-ups, manufacturers and e-commerce merchants such as Bindra. Set up in 2013, the company has already lent to more than 70 borrowers and has disbursed over Rs.20 crore. Run by Zen Lefin Pvt. Ltd, Capital Float is modelled after Atlanta-based Kabbage, which recently raised $50 million from Japan’s SoftBank.

Hinduja, born and brought up in Bengaluru, initially joined his family’s garments business under Gokaldas Exports that was sold to private equity firm Blackstone in 2008-09. He later studied business management at Stanford where he met Rishyasringa. Rishyasringa, 30 looks after finance, business and product development while Hinduja, 32, handles sales and operations. Since inception, the company has grown rapidly and has attracted a total funding of close to Rs.24 crore from SAIF Partners and George Soros’s Aspada Investment. The start-up is drawing the attention of investors and small businesses as it offers fast, affordable and flexible working capital loans, an alternative to traditional lending institutions such as banks, chit funds and local money lenders.

Currently, it lends money to companies that are more than a year old. The amount of fund offered is between Rs.3 lakh and Rs.1 crore. Interest charged on the loan varies and is in line with banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs). Bindra, for instance, borrowed a sum of Rs.20 lakh at an interest rate of 18.5%.

Unlike traditional banks, Capital Float lends money to small businesses that might not have collateral, significant revenues or years of experience. But the company does not disburse loans blindly. It employs unorthodox techniques, including psychometric tests to run checks on its clients, gauages their social media reputation, and grills them on business decisions and entrepreneurial skills before lending.

According to Bindra, companies such as Capital Float take away the human element from the process of money lending and make it more data-driven with an algorithmic approach to evaluating whether the business can stand on its feet or not. “In India, a lot of access to finance is based on who you know and how good is your relationship with the branch manager of a bank,” says Bindra.

Agrees Mridul Arora, vice-president at SAIF Partners, “Lending is currently dominated by banks. However, the SME (small and medium enterprises) space is underpenetrated and given the demand perspective, a company like Capital Float has a huge potential.” Arora says online lending business makes economic sense too and counts Capital Float’s access to proprietary data from e-commerce companies as one of its strength.

Rishyasringa says the company started focusing on e-commerce as the sector was buzzing and banks failed to see the opportunity. Today, there are several thousand manufacturers who either sell directly to e-commerce portals or they sell on marketplaces. Capital Float tied up with Flipkart, Snapdeal and Myntra to meet their vendors and understand their requirements. Soon, the company realized that these small businesses were unable to grow because of working capital challenges. Today, Capital Float works with most e-commerce marketplaces and is also a part of Snapdeal’s Capital Assist, a service to provide capital assistance to small sellers.

“When we started digging into entrepreneur finance in India, the scale of the problem was staggering. Today, there is about $140 billion of formal debt provided to SMEs by banks and NBFCs but the unmet need is another $200 billion,” says Rishyasringa, who worked with consulting firms in India and in New York in the financial services and technology space before founding Capital Float

Rishyasringa calls it the “missing middle problem” that he and his partner are trying to solve in the country. “If you are a large or a mid-size corporate, banks will line up outside your door. If you are a rural farmer or artisan, the MFIs will queue up to lend you, but if you are in this missing middleRs.50 lakh to Rs.20 crore turnover range, then there are not many options available,” he explains.

Today, India has more than 30 million registered SMEs and about 35% of these are ineligible to receive any financing from banks or NBFCs. “They look at your financial statement and bank statement but there is lot more which can make these companies underwritable,” says Hinduja.

The idea to start Capital Float struck the duo during their second year at Stanford after brainstorming sessions with their professor and mentor Baba Shiv. “Nearly 10 ideas were shot down before Capital Float was conceptualized,” said Shiv, a director at the Strategic Marketing Management Executive Program at Stanford and an adviser on the board of several companies, including Capital Float. Shiv recalls how the two friends were close to developing something in the taxi services space when they discovered firms operating similar businesses.

The company today takes seven to ten days to approve a loan, which it hopes to bring down to three to five days soon. Companies such as Kabbage take only seven minutes to approve a loan in the US. However, Hinduja does not believe that a company in India can get there because of the risk involved and the lack of data available around a start-up or an entrepreneur.

To be sure, Capital Float is not the only firm in this business. It faces competition, albeit from smaller companies, such as Capital First, NeoGrowth Credit Pvt. Ltd and SMEcorner.in. A lean operation, Capital Float employees 30 people.

The company’s progress is hardly a surprise given the teamwork and similar passions of its founders. For a start, both swear by Jeff Bezos’s biography The Everything Storeas a life changing book. “We can relate to the book at professional and personal levels,” they say. Both want to get into politics at some point. “We want to solve the policy issues and see ourselves in some policymaking roles. We left the (Silicon) Valley and came to India to solve some of the problems people here face,” says Rishyasringa.

Between table tennis matches at their Bellary Road office in Bengaluru, the founders plan to make Capital Float similar to OnDeck Capital (scheduled to go public this month) or the San Francisco-based Lending Club which is all set to raise about $900 million in its initial public offering. The company is scheduled to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange this week.

These companies not just provide short-term financing but also offer a lending platform to introduce investors and institutions to the ones raising money. “Right now, we are trying to prove to the market that we know how to lend money and we know where our mouth is but we are very quickly starting to convert ourselves into a platform and the pilots have already begun,” said Hinduja.

The question is, how long can the online money lending companies avoid competition from banks? “We are now competing with some of the banks that have realized that e-commerce is becoming an area where they need to get expertise,” says Hinduja.

Among established banks that recognize the trend are Yes Bank Ltd and HDFC Bank Ltd. Both lenders did not comment for the story.

“Companies like Capital Float will not be able to compete with banks at the pricing level whenever they jump into the game. But if these companies execute better and faster they can create a platform to work with banks,” says SAIF’s Arora.

News piece sourced from Livemint. Read the full piece here.

Oct 24, 2018

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What Makes Unsecured Business Loans Safe for Your Small Business?

Unsecured small business loans are considered as one of the safest ways to raise short-term finance for meeting the working capital requirements or urgent funding needs of a business. The safety feature is attributable to the fact that these unsecured small business loans do not require any collateral or security in the form of assets of a business. Most small businesses do not have adequate assets to offer as collateral. The elimination of the need for collateral makes it possible for such businesses to raise loans.

Recent years have witnessed the launch of new-age lenders and the introduction of products that have revolutionized unsecured business loans in India. This is not merely via the easy access to funds, but also offering customized solutions for different businesses and tying the repayments to the accounts receivables or inflows from credit card sales of a business.

Ensure uninterrupted business operations

Often small and medium enterprises (SMEs) need funds for their daily operations to ensure the smooth functioning of their business. Funds may be required to purchase raw materials, pay wages and salaries, clear utility bills and meet unexpected expenses. SMEs may also need immediate funds to grab a business opportunity or take advantage of a seasonal upswing in the demand for their products. These funds are required before a business services its customers and raises invoices. The lack of availability of funds at this time can threaten the very survival of a business and, at the least, could throttle any growth opportunities.

This is when unsecured small business loans come to the rescue. SMEs are able to sustain their businesses with the help of such funding options.

The main reason behind the increasing popularity of unsecured small business loans in India is their easy availability. Only a few years back, businesses had no other option but to approach banks and other traditional financial institutions to raise funds. Even if a business could satisfy the stringent eligibility criteria for loans, it could take months before the funds were disbursed.

With the emergence of FinTech lenders, it has become possible to secure funds in a matter of days. Such lenders use the latest technology to assist the loan approval process, making the sanctioning and disbursal of loans swift and easy. Such loans are safe because they are easily available and ideal for preventing any disruption to operations.

Protect Your Bottom-Line

Most SMEs are unable to meet the eligibility criteria put forth by traditional financial institutions. In fact, it was impractical to approach banks for urgent liquidity needs, given their long-drawn approval processes. Thus, most businesses were left to the mercy of unorganized money lenders who would charge steep interest rates.

FinTech lenders now offer loans that are easy to access, with faster approval processes and more affordable interest rates. With these solutions in place, businesses can protect their bottom-line by raising unsecured business loans without paying exorbitant rates of interest charged by unorganized moneylenders.

Flexible Repayment Options

Unsecured business loans come with flexible repayment options. The term of the loan could range from six months to three years. The repayments can be on a daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Some products like Capital Float’s Online Seller Finance and Merchant Cash Advances link repayment to the operating cycle or receivables and credit card sales of the business. This flexibility puts a business in a better position to make repayments. Since the repayment is a specific percentage of the monthly sales, there is no added pressure on the borrower to repay the loan. This also ensures that the borrower is not stressed about repayments when business is slow.

No Restriction on Use of Funds

When a business takes an unsecured short-term loan, the lender does not impose any restriction on how the business deploys these funds, unlike in the case of secured loans. The borrower can use the loan amount to fund daily operations, purchase raw materials, pay utility bills or market its business.

Flexible Loan Size

In the case of a secured loan, the amount that a business can borrow is determined by the value of the collateral. In the case of unsecured business loans, the amount can be determined by the need for funds. With Capital Float’s Merchant Cash Advances, a business can borrow any amount ranging between ₹1 lakh and ₹1 crore. Although the amount is correlated to the credit/debit card payments to a business, the loan can be as high as 200% of the monthly card settlement.

Related: How to Get Collateral Free SME Loans for Your Business in India

Defaulting on Repayment of Unsecured Small Business Loans

Unlike in the case of secured loans, a lender cannot seize any assets of the business in case of a nonpayment of the loan amount. However, defaulting on a loan can have serious consequences. A business may not be able to take another loan once it has defaulted in repaying one. The failure to meet repayment obligations could end in a lawsuit.

Prior to taking such serious measures; however, lenders would offer options to make it easier for a business to repay the loan. If a business is unable to repay a loan as per the scheduled timeline, the best thing to do is to contact the lender to explain the reasons for default and to set a revised repayment plan.

In fact, most experts advise SMEs to build a long-term relationship with the lender. Unsecured loans can be taken on a recurring basis, making money available exactly when a business needs it and planning repayments when the business is expecting an inflow of funds from customers.

Oct 24, 2018