Design at VentureDive

At VentureDive, we take pride in housing one of the best design teams in the region, and arguably the best in Pakistan. But getting here was not easy.

While I am not a designer by training, I had the good fortune of working with some of the best design teams in the world during my stints in Boston, San Francisco, and Berlin, and thus developed a keen interest in design. When we started VentureDive — with the vision to create a world-class technology organization and an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan and the MENA region — I knew that great design would need to sit at the center of our customer value proposition.

Design in the Silicon Valley

Back in the United States, it is second nature to most technology companies to have a strong emphasis on design. I was accustomed to seeing designers as some of the most articulate members of the larger team, and they had the first and the last say in most discussions. A few factors that contributed to their active participation are as follows:

  • They had a holistic sense of the product and the customer
  • Their thoughts were a lot more structured
  • They seemed to take the charge in cross-functional brainstorming sessions, often organizing topics on the agenda and corralling people around those topics
  • They were great at capturing and drawing up notes in a structured and visual fashion

It was with this expectation about the role of designers in a tech organization that I moved to Lahore in October 2014. However, I was in for a rude awakening. I had a steep learning curve with regards to local norms and talent pool.

The rude awakening

The greatest challenge we face is finding the right talent. A few reasons follow.

First, there is often a mismatch between designer titles and corresponding job descriptions. I often received resumes of folks calling themselves Graphics Designers, Front-end Designers, Front-end Developers, UI Developers, Web Designers, Web Developers, etc. Many of the job descriptions and capabilities differed from what I had gotten used to in Boston and Silicon Valley.

I once hired a “Front-end Designer” who turned out to be a “Front-end Developer” — I, of course, should have known better at the time of the interview. That said, it became very clear to me in the first few days and weeks that design was not his forte. When we discussed his performance, then only he opened up saying he doesn’t like designing but loves front-end development.

Second, very few people knew how to design experiences. Local universities rarely teach designing user experiences for a digital world, and the closest exposure students typically get to UX is “Graphic Design”. What further compounds the problem is lack of jobs where designers can take a lead role in designing digital experiences and products: They are often either following a product manager’s lead or designing nice visuals for social media and other forms of communication!

Design at VentureDive

Fast forward a little over four years, we already house one of the most competitive design teams in the region.

A little more context on our business. We develop solutions for our global clients, build in-house products, and invest in product-based start-ups. For designers specifically, we encourage rotation between Products and Services. As such, we don’t have a title called Product Designer. However, when on a product, a designer is generally needed for a longer time frame, and that’s also when they create the most value as they iterate their way through releases and metrics. On the other hand, in our Services org, we have less of a need for a designer to stick to one specific project for a long period (though we do have a few long-running engagements).

We believe that this healthy mix of engagements helps the design team learn different facets of design than what they may have learned if we were building a specific product or delivering services only for example.

With this thought in mind, we traced out three major facets of an organization that help nurture a creative design studio — all-around exposure, performance-driven and collaborative culture, and thought leadership. Let’s dive in.

All-around exposure

Design at VentureDive plays a pivotal role in many aspects of running the organization, growing our business, and defining our culture.

  1. Our designers dabble with varied aspects of business such as analytics, marketing, and growth hacking. Having an in-house products team helps us hone in the science and art of growth that we then apply to help our clients master growth as well.
  2. Much of the office interior and decor was either designed or consulted and in some cases procured by designers. Designers play a central role in the creative aspects of most events we conduct in-house or off-site.
  3. We believe designers should span across several functions within the field of design, and only a few specialties should be called out. Secondly, we tend to distinguish our developers from designers, while at the same time offering a path to those who are good at both.

To this end, we have created a rather simple and flat array of designations where we only have UX Designer, Visual Designer, and Web Designer titles, and no dedicated Interaction Designer, Graphics Designer, UI Designer or User Researcher to name a few. We encourage our designers to cut across domains while at the same time allowing them to specialize in particular fields like Visual Design for instance.

What do I mean when I refer to a UX Designer, a Visual Designer, and a Web Designer?

UX Designer is an all-encompassing role and frequently rotates between Services and Products. Technically speaking, those UX Designers who can code CSS and HTML could be called a different title — however, it is rare: once a UX Designer, they are encouraged to expand their horizon within the design lifecycle: Research, Synthesis & Ideation, Prototyping & Design, and Implementation.

Visual Designer is meant to specialize in graphics and visual design. They also help with branding and identity design with the help of content strategists and marketers (the latter two are part of the marketing team). Using social media plug-ins for analytics, these visual designs help improve our social media presence with intuitive designs.

Web Designer can do Visual Design as well as code CSS/HTML. In my experience, there are very few folks who have a good design sense and can also do good coding. Consequently, we rarely have people fitting the required profile, but when we find them, we know what to call them.

We encourage Visual Designers to become either a Web Designer or UX Designer. However, they can continue to specialize and grow in the capacity of Visual Designer as well. Moreover, Front-end Developer can also choose to become a Web Designer and thus become part of the design team.

This may sound a bit contrary to our philosophy of cross-functional work, however, in my experience in the local industry, we have plenty to learn within the field of design. Venturing out is welcome, but generally in areas that are outside the software development and higher up the stack— i.e. things like product management, growth hacking, marketing, etc.

Performance-driven and collaborative culture

Here’s the question most organizations ask but only a few get away with the right answer:

“How to drive performance upwards?”

While many things come to mind, our objectives setting and appraisal system plays an important role and is closely modeled after OKRs (Objectives and Key Results).¹

  1. Set stretch objectives. It’s OK if we miss them, as long as we keep aiming for them, and at some point surpass them. This requires a hockey stick function at some point of our organization or product lifecycle.
  2. Level up, keep improving. Every 6 months or so, carry out a self-assessment exercise to keep a track of the design team’s progress. Discuss the results and improve on any point where the team may be lagging.
  3. Reward people on a geometric or a nonlinear curve. This way, people who perform well are rewarded way more than if they were to be awarded proportionally to someone who performs less.

Lastly, through daily stand-ups, regular design review and critique across initiatives, sharing design inspirations and UI refactoring exercises across projects, we foster collaboration and spur innovation.

Thought leadership

Unlike most local software companies, we typically take a lot more proactive approach with our customers. For example, with Careem, we played a pivotal role in the design and product management for at least four years since its inception. We are often helping customers make sense of how users are using the product via funnel analysis. Since we also have a Products org, our designers are often involved in decisions and analysis of growth hacking for example. Last but not least, we often conduct Discovery Workshops for a varied and complex set of customers — ranging from Fortune 500 companies, fledgling startups, and unicorns.

Within Services org, we have started to take on more design-led engagements as opposed to end-to-end technology solutions. This allows us to solve complex and interesting design problems that we may not have had a chance to work on if we were offering an end-to-end technology solution, where design is an important but not the only piece of the puzzle.

Looking ahead

While many challenges remain, the entrepreneurial and design ecosystem has improved in many ways. More universities are incorporating aspects of digital user experience, and there are a lot more product companies than there were 4–5 years ago.

At VentureDive Design, we see the following big things happening in the next year and beyond.

We have incubated quite a few product teams in house. At least two of them are ready for the next growth phase. This will result in the expansion of design function not only within those teams but also the design team at large.

Within our services and consulting business, we have expanded to broader aspects of user and customer experience design. For example, we now offer services for Identity Design & Branding, Service Design, and User Research to name a few.

Last but not least, while we do run hackathons and design mentorships in the industry from time to time, we plan on introducing an initiative focused on building a strong design community. While there are a few welcome design initiatives in the country already, we believe that with the backing of an organization and broader focus, ours will be one of its kind.

design at VenD

¹ Our objectives setting system differs from OKRs in two key ways: i) they are not publicly visible to the rest of the organization, and ii) we link them to performance reviews.

Simple tips for impactful content

There is a lot of content out there. The web is swarming with millions of blogs, articles, social media posts, videos, images, and whatnot. It is highly possible for any content that you put out there to get lost in the crowd.

Amidst all that, you have to make sure your content is visible and accessible to people. Does that mean you start writing more content? Well, maybe, if it were 2004. That’s when the idea of content creation online was fresh. Now, everybody is doing it.

To get your content noticed today, you have to make sure it’s high in quality. If the content piece aims to truly help people, is written in an easy-to-ingest format, and keeps the reader engaged, then it is considered high-quality.

Here are a few rules that we, the magic makers at VentureDive, stick to, for producing content that our audience loves.

1. Storytelling is vital

There’s a whole science behind it. Research shows that our brains become more active when we’re being told a story — the parts of our brain responsible for processing the visual input are also active, in addition to the language processing parts, when we’re reading a story.

When your content sparks the audience’s imagination and allows them to actually experience what you’re saying because of your words that are rich in imagery, more often than not, they stay with you till the end.

Boring, textbook-style content doesn’t sit well with most people. The page exit rates are quite high for posts with tedious and factual content. That’s where we, the content marketers, come in. To turn any piece into a story, here are a few things we like to do:

  1. Make it conversational — add a monologue or a dialogue
  2. Metaphors make the business talk relatable — for example, everybody has heard, “Time is money.” This doesn’t really mean that time is a currency, rather, it just denotes the value of time — it’s so valuable that it may as well be money.
  3. Leverage the jargon — create vivid imagery through words — e.g. change “The market dip put the investors at loss.” to “The 10-million dollars’ crash in the United States stock market incurred a 75% loss to the investors.” The second sentence is descriptive and portrays a clearer sense of the story.
  4. Tap into the subconscious — insert common examples that most people are familiar with, so they follow along with minimal effort.

2. Focus on the ethos

Content that appeals to the emotions of the audience generally tends to do much better than that which doesn’t. If people can relate to your content, and it evokes positive feelings, the content is successful. It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about — it could be the most run of the mill thing ever — like artificial intelligence or machine learning.

Cocacola ad
Coca-Cola Advertisement (2019, left & 1890’s, right) | Left — targets Ethos (feelings), Right — targets Logos (facts).

However, if the content is written in a witty, friendly, unbiased and fun tone, it is likely that people will scroll through to the end of the article or blog. It is always good to create content that is in line with your brand personality. At VentureDive, we aim for all pieces to exude the bold, passionate, fun and fresh personality that we have.

Remember, your audience will always remember how your content made them feel, even though they may forget what it said. If the feeling lasts, they are likely to revisit your content, too.

3. Harness the power of visuals

Visuals last longer in our brains than any other form of content. It is a tool that should always be used when storytelling. People can relate to the stuff they can easily imagine and keep up with.

The right visuals, when used in tandem with the storyline, can make your content go from good to awesome. Stats suggest that 90% of the information that our brain processes is visual and the processing speed is much, much faster, as well.

Furthermore, it has been proven that 40% of people respond better to visual information as compared to plain text.

Therefore, telling your take through imagery can help elevate your content’s quality, resulting in a lowered exit rate, and increased time spent on-page. It’s all about capturing the reader’s attention.

4. Ensure your content is useful

If your content isn’t providing any actionable takeaways to your readership, then the content quality needs to go up. The key is to keep the content from losing meaning.

In an attempt to make the content fun and interesting, it is quite easy to lose track of why you intended to write it in the first place. If it’s losing the meat, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate.

Here’s how we stay relevant when creating an awesome content piece:

  1. Build an outline — define the headings and subheadings before you start writing
  2. Write a solid conclusion — the whole story summed up in a short paragraph
  3. Chunk it down — smaller text blocks, dotted with relevant images and videos

Furthermore, another important thing is to back your content with adequate research and facts. If what you’re saying fits with the story, but there are no references to back them up, then the authority of your content is greatly reduced.

Useful content is something that actually helps your audience. You can include lists, graphs, and any other diagrams that effectively summarise what you talk about throughout the blog. What I mean is, if the title of your blog post is “7 marketing tools that can make your life easy”, then you better be talking about those 7 tools, with a list in the conclusion. That makes it easy to skim through.

5. Be seen with celebrities (not kidding!)

When you’ve been creating content for a while, it’s always better to get in touch with renowned names in the market. Doing collabs, working together, getting into a partnership or contract with famous names in your niche can offer you a boost in legitimacy.

It’s natural. If you’re trying to establish yourself as a food blogger, for example, then be seen with Mark Weins, and your authenticity in the capacity of someone who knows food well will improve. People will say, “Oh, Mark Weins knows this guy, it must mean that this guy is a food expert too, and it’s worth our while to check out his content, too.” It’s just our brain’s way of making connections and establishing authenticity.

So if the content marketing department at VentureDive needs to increase its legitimacy, maybe we would collaborate with Gary Vaynerchuk or Neil Patel, for that matter! 🙂

6. Get reviews and feedback

If people endorse your content, and refer you through reviews, it boosts your genuinity. Here are a few ways that can help you get good reviews for your business:

  1. Make sure your content is high-quality and optimized.
  2. Offer lucrative incentives, e.g. $10 Amazon Gift Card for a review.
  3. Ask customers for a review in-person — the personal touch, matters.
  4. Choose the right moment to ask for a review
  5. Respond to every review — even negative ones.
  6. Be the first to review your customers — best to keep it positive.
  7. Share and re-share any good reviews you receive.
  8. Allow people to leave reviews on multiple platforms.
  9. Host events (meetups, conferences, and exhibitions) to get quotes and on-spot reviews from your customers.

Moreover, reviews are a means of receiving honest feedback from industry experts. There is always room for improvement. Reaching out to experts and receiving feedback can offer advice for improving your content — and if they are words of praise, it’s always a plus. Trust the gurus. They know better. Improve your content and fly high.

Long story short

The sea of content out there can intimidate anyone who is just venturing into the content marketing field, but don’t be discouraged. As long as you create content following these 6 rules, you cannot go wrong.

While you may be a brilliant writer, these tips can help you market your skills better. We’ve tested these techniques and the results have been phenomenal. Since these are quite generic in nature, you can apply them to any kind of content you’re producing.

However, the type of audience may require you to adjust your strategy a bit. For example, it is not advised to go for the witty or fun tone of voice when writing an instruction manual that is to be used by technicians to operate certain equipment.

All in all, you can create remarkable content, it’s definitely not an impossible feat. The first step is to get started and not be overwhelmed. The rest will follow. Plus, spend double the time on its promotion. Remember, the wider the reach, the better your content performs.

Impact of good UX design on business growth

Who wants to use an app that is hard to understand, difficult to use, and aesthetically unpleasing? The answer is no one! 

Do you, as the owner of a software business, hesitate to invest in UX design? Hesitate no more! Research by McKinsey proves that great UX design provides impeccable user experience, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, business growth. 

When it comes to bringing in revenue and growing your business, UX has a significant part to play. It not only adds to the functionality of the software and products you develop for your customers, but it also enables you to filter and select the right functionality and helps boost usability by applying knowledge of various domains like human-factors, psychology, systems, sociology, etc., resulting in smooth and intuitive user journeys. 

The impact of a great user experience goes beyond the short term benefits and can be extremely beneficial in the long run as well. There are a number of ways it can positively influence your business. Let’s have a quick look at some of the factors that are the direct result of good UX design, and will boost your business.

Save money in the long run by investing in UX at the right time

In a study by MITX in 2009, it is estimated that user experience design contributes to saving 50% of wasted development time. So what’s the right time to invest in the UX? The short answer is, it’s before you begin developing your product. Doing so would make your development efforts more efficient, targeted, and structured. 

If you ignore the UX in the initial stages or will keep it at the backburner while you perfect the product core, it would cost you time and money in the long run. You will have to keep revisiting the design to accommodate the users’ needs, preferences, and perfect the user flows and navigation. This would consume a lot of development time and finances, which is easily avoidable if enough time is spent on finalizing the UX design in the pre-development phase. 

According to WebFx, investing $1 in your site’s UX will give you an ROI of $100 in the long run. This means, today, we can’t prioritize aesthetics over functionality or vice versa, so your product needs to be beautiful and functional simultaneously. 

Boost sales & revenue with effective UX design

Focusing more on UX will help increase user engagement, and hence, boost conversion rate as well. This means, more and more users would turn into customers, resulting in rising sales as well as revenue. 

Research conducted by Toptal shows that 90% of the users will continue shopping because of great UX. It’s highly likely that your users will opt for your competition if they have a bad experience with your product or service. This could be anything from complex navigation, difficulty in conducting a search, not knowing where you are at a moment, to generic (not customized) content, repetitive pop-ups/interruptions or distractions, and so much more.

 Therefore, it’s always a good idea to optimize your product or app for mobile and web by prioritizing UX design. 


According to IEEE study, 5-15% of all development projects that are started will be abandoned before or shortly after delivery due to poor usability. This amounts to $150 Billion lost. This loss can be avoided with a user-centered design approach.

Stand out from the crowd on the basis of user experience

User experience is a deciding factor when it comes to differentiating from your competitors within the same niche or industry. Enterprises, SMEs and Startups around the world are embracing good UX design and banking over the benefits that come along with it. 

Invision Design’s research shows that 94% of the first impressions of a website or app interface are related to design. This is why industry leaders like Google, Amazon, Airbnb and others have shifted their focus towards delivering a user experience. 

In 2020,  customer experience has become the front and center of software applications, whereas pricing and the product have taken a backseat. Let’s list down some ways in which a good UX can help your brand stand out:

  • Good UX means customers will be less likely to switch brands. 
  • A great initial impression means visitors are more likely to return to your website. 
  • Higher brand credibility stems from good design. 
  • Average time spent on pages would go up. 
  • Personalized content & experience would help boost conversions.

Improve customer retention with enhanced UX

UX design is all about the users. So it’s essential that the designers think like users and incorporate features that can help make the user flows more intuitive. It’s always a brilliant idea to map out the customer journey before beginning the UX design and product development. 

Users should always have a way to orient themselves during navigation of the website or product. This adds to a good user experience. If these things are taken into consideration, customer retention is more likely to increase. Some factors that boost consumer loyalty and help a brand retain them are:

  • Personalized experience on a brand’s website or product. 
  • Web pages and images that load in the shortest possible time.
  • Detailed contact information is available to the users. 
  • Availability of informative content and resources relevant to your product and services. 
  • Great customer service, timely responses, and a quick and simple way to connect.


You can improve the user experience of your product by doing the following:

  • Conduct thorough research about what your users want and what their pain points are. Ask questions from the user’s point of view and evaluate your design: “Would I be satisfied with this product if someone else created it?”
  • Keep the sign in, sign up, or any forms in your website or app as easy as possible. Enable features of signing up with Google, Facebook, etc.
  • Never let customers think too much, get lost, or confused while using your product.
  • Never underestimate the power of good aesthetics. Always research, take inspiration, study color psychology, and patterns when it comes to design

Stay relevant with continuous UX iterations

The Tech industry is evolving rapidly. Brands need to constantly update their outlook as well as product offerings in order to stay relevant to what’s next. This means continuous iterations are essential in order to future-proof your product’s design and core functionalities. No design is ever perfectly complete – if it stays stagnant for too long, it grows out of date, which results in a big drop in customer engagement, and hence, your revenue and profit. WebFx says that 75% of your product’s credibility comes from design. This means, if your design is not up to date and in line with the user experience trends, it can affect your product’s authenticity and customers are less likely to buy from you.


  • Conversion rate can increase by 400% with strategic, thoroughly researched, and intentional user experience and design
  • Mobile optimization is becoming increasingly important. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, it will give users a bad overall experience of your brand
  • Even an investment of $1 in design can bring about a profile of $2-100 in a business

Wrap up

Closing the argument, it suffices to say that good UX design impacts your business greatly, especially in times when customers are at the crux of product experiences. If users have a positive experience with your software or application, it essentially means your product is successful. In keeping with this, if they have a not-so-impressive first impression, they are likely to never return to your product and even more likely to choose your competition over you. If one interaction defines the purchasing decision of customers, it’s easy to imagine the magnanimity of the importance UX design holds in software development. 

At VentureDive Design, we keep user experience design at the heart of everything we develop and deliver to our customers. Our brilliant team of designers are always hard at work, ensuring that our clients face little to no difficulty in navigating applications, all the while delivering experiences that augment their journeys, and leave a lasting good impression. 

This way, the users don’t just convert to become our customers; rather, they know they are investing in a life-long partnership, where we are their friends who will enable them to offer immaculate product experiences to their customers, and help their business grow.  

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