• Siddharth Wadehra

The Design-First Approach to Building Enterprise Software and Why it Matters


A startling number of software applications that are launched in the marketplace today fail to capture the imagination of the user it’s intended to capture. The numbers are scary, even to deter some of the most vociferous optimists from building and launching software applications. Reports suggest that as many as 99.5% of software applications don’t really succeed. Another report suggests that only 13% of B2B mobile apps succeed, despite already having the capital, revenue, and product-market fit that might dictate their potential for success.

What makes these statistics even grimmer is the fact that the amount of time, capital investment, and effort required to launch these applications is substantial and would not justify the return on investment for the proponents looking to achieve their desired goals by launching the applications in the marketplace. This brings us to a pertinent question that we would attempt to provide an answer to during the course of this blog post: What could be done to ensure that the applications we build and launch might have a higher probability of success? We would also introduce you to the ‘Design First Approach’ and peg it as a key differentiator to ensure the application you build and launch might have a higher acceptance among its users.

While ideas around human-centered software design have been around for a very long time, the design-first approach to building applications is really just started to gain immense popularity. The design first approach emphasizes that the best technology products are those that emulate human nature rather than try to change it. By deploying this approach in building applications, technology strikes a chord with us when it reflects our own nature back at us. Whether we deem a product successful can often be narrowed down to just a few core reasons: it inspired us and connected us to others; it functionally improved an everyday aspect of our lives; or it gave expanded or complete access to a utility (information, product, or service).


Developing a functional product that resonates with users requires a design-first approach to innovation, and that design must be rooted in the understanding of how people work, think, and take action. Some of the most successful companies, while they might be working in varied industries and building very different products have one key ingredient in common – they all deploy the design-first approach to building technology products. The design-first approach is the overarching driver of innovation in several industries, and one that I believe will spur many successful start-ups. 

Why and How to Take the Design First Approach?

Reid Hoffman suggests, “If you develop a theory about how human beings identify themselves, connect with others, view themselves to be part of a group and pursue a theory of the good, the conclusions you reach can help you design a product or service that appeals to people on a fundamental level.” To achieve that, product teams must be aligned on the same outcome: meeting users where they are, which means developing applications with empathy. 

Outstanding product teams and leaders are constantly in tune (and in direct communication) with their customers to design the best product experiences. Crucially, they embrace collaboration: they co-create roadmap plans with feedback from focus groups; experiment across both quantitative and qualitative variables, and ruthlessly prioritize feature requests. The best teams make decisions based on what makes the most sense for the largest group of users – versus the users that are voicing their concerns the loudest.

Design-first has been the default approach in building personal tech over the past few years with companies focusing their resources on building applications that amplify the tasks of the user. More recently, it’s also become the primary differentiator of enterprise software developed in highly competitive categories like productivity tools, fintech, and commerce infrastructure. Additionally, as nearly every industry has undergone a digital transformation, design-led innovation has been instrumental in bringing changes to sectors such as healthcare and transportation. As we get deeper into the era of Web 3.0 and other emerging technologies, the new market leaders will be those with an approach to product development that puts design at the very center of it.

We would look at some of the instances where the design-first approach has created in-roads and an impact in the minds of its users. This list is not exhaustive and is meant to provide only a glimpse into the impact deploying this approach can have on teams building to launch intuitive applications which impact the user.


  • Commerce – Enabling experiences - Technology that enables cheaper, faster, and more direct access to products and services. It’s become ever more important to design discovery and purchase experiences that feel non-transactional to the end customer. The intent is to build up a relationship that provides context, information, and personalization that encourages spending as the desired outcome. The design-first approach highlights the entire product experience to facilitate a sense of ownership which puts the user in control of the experiences.

  • Social: Presenting and Perceiving – On commerce platforms, users are coming on with high intent to purchase. Thus, incentive structures are designed to drive purchasing behavior. In contrast, users coming onto social platforms have mixed intent, so incentives are designed to offer distribution in exchange for consumer attention. For social platforms, the question is: how do you create the right incentive structure to empower people to use your product and do great things? The internet’s history inspires the answer: give people the tools to unlock the knowledge and network they need to do great things with like-minded people. For most internet platforms, the tool is what gets users hooked and incentives are what keeps them coming back. Platforms may differentiate based on communication medium (e.g. Twitter character limit, Snapchat ephemerality). Retention is based on driving success outcomes (is the platform driving distribution or monetization for its users?).

  • Work: Getting it done – Perhaps the most straightforward area of applying product and design is software enabling access to work and opportunity (or supercharging productivity). Similar to the wave of “consumerized” enterprise software products facilitating the evolution of commerce, founders building for the workplace are targeting stakeholders across consumers and enterprises. This is often because founders are typically tackling a fragmented market or system, or are looking to scale their model by subsidizing the end cost to consumers by partnering with larger enterprises. While there are numerous new tools fuelling more productive, collaborative, and invigorating workflows, they share a common thread: they are designed by those who’ve lived the frustration of products not created with how humans actually function in mind. In today’s competitive marketplace, such tools are no longer acceptable.


Xamun: Placing Design at the Core of any Application

Artificial intelligence and automation come together in fascinating ways to help build applications that place design at the very core of the user experience. As a customer looking to build on Xamun platform, you can co-design your software with our designers and architects using Figma, from UI design to setting user flows. Our experts deploy concepts of design thinking to provide you with perspectives that you would have missed otherwise. Finally, once you are convinced with your designs, the automated development platform ensures that your application is ready for testing and launch 70% faster than if you were to build it ground-up, ensuring you would be able to put it before potential users to allow for key iterations.

Still concerned about how you might be able to have elements of a design-first approach on the applications you are building? Reach out to one of our customer success associates HERE to understand how Xamun would help make your application as intuitive as it can possibly be.