Designing For Scale at Techstars

Summary

Since inventing the startup accelerator over a decade ago, Techstars now has hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs in our network, and we have 30+ public facing websites and several internal products to meet their needs.

I lead the user experience and digital strategy for Techstars' web products. As we continue to grow as a company and diversify our revenue, I’ve worked to build a scalable design system and optimize our digital touchpoints.

Building the Techstars Design System

What started out as a single accelerator in Boulder, CO, Techstars has scaled to over 150 countries worldwide, and in the process we'd amassed 10 years of inconsistent styles, branding, and typography along the way.

As a first step in providing a consistent user and brand experience, I conducted an audit of our digital properties to see what we were dealing with. When it was all said and done, I ended up with 30+ web products built over multiple tech stacks, with dozens of colors and fonts in the mix.

I set out to create a simplified system with the following goals in mind:

Consistency

How do we provide a cohesive web experience? At the very least, how do we make sure users don't have to wonder if they're still on a Techstars-owned domain?

Extensibility

Techstars co-brands several of it's products with companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. In addition, we have thousands of alumni companies that have gone through our programs, how does Techstars become a vessel to let these brands shine without stealing the spotlight?

Also, We have several community leaders, stakeholders, and outside agencies who work with Techstars. How do we empower them to build the best possible experiences on their own without being a bottleneck?

Scalability & Speed

Lastly, the company is scaling at an incredibly rapid pace, how do we build a system to grow with it? And how do we build a solid foundation so we don't have to reinvent the wheel every time we kick off a new web project?

Along with consolidating our elements, I extended this minamlist approach throughout the grid system and layout choices, reserving Techstars green specifically for actionable or important moments during the web experience.

The result was a super streamlined design system that could easily extend itself to our many products.

Improving Conversion Rates

Despite a 24% conversion rate on our main corporate contact form (which on the surface is REALLY good), through testing we recieved feedback that our forms caused friction and were not as user-friendly as the data would believe.

When looking at each step of the funnel a little closer, we discovered that a third of users that started the form ultimately abandoned it.

We zeroed-in on the form fields themselves and identified that 76% of users that dropped off, did so because of a single field, asking users to self-identify.

While ultimately, that form field helped our Demand Generation team segment our audiences, it wasn't user-first and caused friction.