Don Charlton on Design

Don Charlton is the Founder and CEO of The Resumator, an applicant tracking system that empowers “deputized HR managers” by making the hiring process more collaborative and efficient. Since Don launched his company on day one of AlphaLab’s second cycle, he has continued to attract accolades and customers with his product’s superior design and streamlined functionality. Recently Don stopped by our space to speak with our companies about lessons he learned during and after his time at AlphaLab. Below is just some of the great advice (and beautifully hand-drawn slides) he shared on his core specialty–design.


Don echoed Kathy Sierra‘s sentiments on considering human behavior when designing technology products. Sierra frequently uses the term “kick ass,” to refer to that “YES!” feeling users get when they do something tricky, successfully. She (and Don) both insist these kinds of experiences should drive most of what you are trying to build or promote, because these are the kind of experiences that form a user’s emotional connection to your app–something that will make them less likely to leave and more likely to be an advocate for your product (and pay for upgrades).


Don suggests making a list of your product’s proposed features and dividing them into these three categories, 1. deal makers (a nice bonus), 2. deal breakers (absolutely necessary), and 3. no big deal (cool, but may go unnoticed or unused).

Initially you should only be focusing your time and energy on making the “deal breakers” the best they can possibly be. As, without these features, a huge value proposition to your customer is gone (as is their ability to “kick ass” with your product).

And be honest with yourself: the ability to add a profile picture is probably not a deal breaker.


A branding veteran, Don warned, “Don’t let bad branding get in the way of people thinking about your idea. The brand is part of your package–realize how important it is from an angel investor’s perspective on your ability to execute this.”

Don’t create another obstacle for getting someone to talk to you or take you seriously with an unprofessional or poorly polished brand. And realize this pertains not only to the company’s brand, but your personal brand as well. So be sure and take note of things like your dress, posture, and online persona.


Don encouraged all of our companies to invest in a great website—the best they could afford. The majority of the time, your site will be the first and only impression potential investors and customers have with you, your brand, and your company. Make sure it’s able to immediately convey your company’s professionalism and give people the confidence to do business with you.


One of the wonderful things about the internet is its ability to level the playing field when it comes to competing with bigger rivals. With a well-designed site, your operation can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company (even if it’s just you and a friend in your parent’s basement). Don personally shared that many of his clients are surprised when they find out The Resumator is a 4 person startup–not the 30-person company they assumed it was.

Have anything else to add to Don’s design tips? Share below in our comments section!