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“Good design is no longer something that sets you apart on the web, it’s the price of admission.”

That’s a paraphrase of a great quote I heard at the WarmGun UX conference in San Francisco. I attended WarmGun as part of my all inclusive pass to the LeanStartupConf. At AgilityFeat we place a strong emphasis on great UX and design in our projects for our clients, but I personally have never been a designer.

So I really enjoyed this opportunity to hang out with a lot of people much more artistic than me. Here are three takeaways I had from the conference.

1. Humility is important

Marc Hemeon (@Hemeon), a designer from YouTube, gave a great talk that managed to tie together Mexican drug cartels, surfing, great humor and User Experience design. I’m sure you’re wondering how, and all I can say is that you had to be there. The point of the story was how important humility is in software design. When the data tells you that a design change caused you to lose customer engagement, then you must roll back or change that design change, no matter how much you liked it.

2. Mobile awareness is about a continuum, not categories

Luke Wroblewski (@LukeW) has an amazing memory and can recite data sheets on any mobile device you want. But that wasn’t the point of his talk, although it is impressive. Luke made a very compelling case that we should no longer think about software in terms of categories like smartphone, tablets, or web. The only device design you need anymore is a single multi-device design. There is now a steady continuum of sizes of devices from the smallest smartphones to the biggest monitors, and there are hardly any gaps in the middle. That means that your design needs to consider all devices.

3. Marry your customers

Kevin Hale (@ILikeVests) gave an inspiring talk based on his experience as a co-founder of WuFoo, the very popular online form builder recently bought by SurveyMonkey. Kevin talked about how they built customer service and delight into every aspect of their business. He coined the term Support Driven Development, which meant all developers are required to do regular customer support on the product. This led to a stronger sense of ownership by the team and they built much better software and help faq’s for customers as a result. He gave many great tips, one that left an impression on me was how every week the team would get together and handwrite thank you notes to random samples of new customers. These became such a hit with customers that you can find photos of the thank you notes on Flickr.

Design and UX is critical to your success

I know from experience that great design is critical to selling your idea (that’s why we’re in the process of redesigning the AgilityFeat website to reflect our own talents instead of expecting wordpress to make us look good). The WarmGun conference was inspiring not only about design, but also about larger business issues such as the Wufoo talk about customer support. Which just goes to show you how much good design is integral to your overall business success.