User Experience Principles: How Hubspot Leverages UX with Powerhouse Marketing Tactics

I’ve had the pleasure to connect with and build a rapport with Daniel Ritzenthaler, UX designer at Hubspot, and managed to have quite a deep conversation about user experience – something I like to do on an occasional basis, when time allows for it. In any case, Daniel provided me with some hot information about his development as a designer and his experience at Hubspot, the powerhouse in marketing tactics and software, as a user experience designer. Read on to learn more about Daniel and see how Hubspot leverages their marketing tactics with user experience principles.

So, here’s my story…

After I graduated from college, I fooled around with internet stuff for a while, working on coding for a software company, talking about the design and what I would do differently. In that timeframe, it took me about a year where I felt there was this huge learning curve in seeing how art applies to the internet. After that, I was a teacher’s assistant for one of my professors at school. He and I would frequently share our experiences with one another. Our frustrations frequently overlapped and because of our bond we ultimately decided to start a company together – that was probably my big break in my career.  To start a company like that with someone well-seasoned and knowledgeable allowed me to get involved with cool projects real quickly. Within two years we had worked with huge companies such as Motorola, dealing with application interfaces and helping people learn how to do things better, more clearly, and communicate the message better to understand what they were supposed to do. At the time, we didn’t really have a name for it but it is very similar to what I’m doing now – interaction design, making things easier to use, and helping people get the value out of apps quicker. In any case, we were doing well enough where we thought we could become this bigger company, so we merged with a marketing agency – working with huge companies like WalMart and Yahoo, but it was too ‘marketing agency’ for me. I lost interest and stepped out of that to pursue more exclusive solo work with startup companies.

You are good at telling a story people care about, but something is conflicted when they reached the product.

Those few years on the marketing side were interesting because I got to work on the marketing angle – how to present this product to the customer; how to make them care about what they are going to buy; and how to match their experience with the application. Having those factors tell the same story, well, is probably one of the harder tasks companies have to achieve. It is hard to have a valuable, sophisticated app and present the right story of it so the value of the product and story match to provide a good experience for users all the way through. Many companies might be able to get people interested, to care to look at a site, and maybe even sign up, but those steps of becoming a longer term customer seems where most of the fallout lays.

Hubspot is great at getting attention, but getting customers & creating the ultimate user experience goes beyond that.

Hubspot does so much blogging, e-books, and produces so much content – that’s where our awareness comes from. If we wanted to get customers, we could essentially build the marketing site with just the logo and a button, but that would create a sad story when it comes to statistics, and the attention we get would potentially raise internal questions as to whether it’s the right attention.

Marketers will always want to tell that exciting story of the product, but when it doesn’t fall into the product, people get upset.

With Hubspot, we have to think about the value we deliver and decide how to make it easy for our users to extract that value. How do customers get that value without needing to know the software? This is an entirely different issue that we need to concentrate on – making it easier to use may not be a good use of time; rather, we largely weigh the marketing component because users are much more attached to the product than we think. If a tool is new and interesting, you may talk about the benefits, which will most likely bear you a lead, but they will not know what your tool means. Creating a more proactive, hands-on approach by actually activating the feature for them will resonate with more people – show them the features. Once you have a product that delivers a lot of value, is comprehensive, but also easy to use – then you can start using benefits. If customers begin using your tool and they need training or customer support, your story of benefit will clash in their head and they will think there is a better solution somewhere else.

Thinking through the interface in a way that is the most clear to the person doesn’t seem to be a huge priority for businesses.

As a designer working in a company, most of my biggest frustrations don’t revolve around interface design; they are working with people who may not see the same value of thinking through the interface. A lot say they care about design and value, but on a day-to-day ‘get through my job – do what I’m supposed to do – and launch things’ basis, thinking through the interface in a way that is the most clear to the person doesn’t seem to be a huge priority for businesses.

We are pretty good at what we do at Hubspot. When you are involved with people who understand why you are designing something for a specific purpose, you get into a pretty good flow. I’m always interested in measuring user expectation, so we will take mockups straight into user tests. This is most valuable because you, yourself, are not only exposed to real customers who are going to potentially buy your product, but other management in the company face an eye-opening experience – they actually see a real human struggling to figure out something. It’s amazing to see how people are actually taken aback. I try and get people to get exposure to that, including myself, so they realize that the answers we came up with, the clarity we see in those answers, and the confidence we build, does not make it the right solution for our users.

When you are dealing with other resources, quite a few things are more important than having a really slick interface.

In my development as a UI designer, design’s value changed for me. When you are dealing with other resources, quite a few things are more important than having a really slick interface, which was a hard lesson for me to learn. I feel sometimes, especially when I’m working with other designers who haven’t learned that lesson yet, people get excited and passionate about design in ways that they think are self-righteous. The goals that we need to accomplish – let’s do that in the most effective way we can. Sometimes that means we have to give up on certain things and make guesses. When you are dealing with other people – say, friendships, people one-on-one, or even two people, for example – those relationships are complex enough that they require a large timeframe to study them, which in many cases, we are unable to figure them out; so, to design something for a large audience of people and make it completely intuitive is pretty arrogant. However, if you believe you can do something useful and valuable – and even fun and enjoyable for a lot of people – well, that’s a noble effort.