The design of Startup Graveyard is meant to be playful while showing substantive information. Each company’s brand elements were incorporated into the design of their coffins to add character and have the branding of the failed startup live on. The startup rocket is incorporated in the website’s branding as a reference to how startup culture is represented in our society. The cemetery is used to make the website feel like a graveyard and effects are added to the coffins to set the tone.


The Alpha Prototype integrated the following elements:

  • Header: A header was created to establish the site as a graveyard.
  • Coffins: Created coffins which incorporated the brand identity of the company.
  • Facts: Company description, opening date, closing date, industry, geographic location, founders and funding.
  • Medals: A medal of recognition for the company based on their unique story. For example, Rdio was a music service provider that stayed in the market for 7 years while competing against music streaming giants like iTunes, Pandora and Spotify. It was awarded a medal of perseverance. The goal of this is to highlight facts about the company that would go unnoticed but deserved recognition.
  • History of user experience: This is a screenshot of the company's webpage from for each year the company was alive, when available. The challenge is that not all pages are archived and some pages that are have problems like missing imagery.
  • Portrait of a dead startup: This feature incorporated all Instagram images in the company's lifetime. Strategic communications and seamless user experiences are key in communicating the goals of a startup to potential customers and stakeholders.
  • Technology: The alpha iteration was built in Twitter Bootstrap because it allowed for flexibility in prototyping different layouts in a way that that can be tested across all devices.


The Beta prototype incorporated a company category filter: advertising, analytics, economics, hospitality, software as a service and social. Iconography was designed for reasons for failure to add visual representations for the reasons and add a layer of humor. Additionally, the front page experimented with a gravestone design and a tab for a data visualization. The data visualization implemented an interactive parallel coordinates graph with start year, number of investors, amount of funding, funding rounds and close year.


The user could select parts of each category and the graph would highlight only companies in the user’s selection. The results could be filtered further by selecting sections of other attributes. This visualization had potential, but no direct conclusions could be formulated. The visualization was purely exploratory. Due to time constraints, the focus of the project became making a graveyard.

The “portrait of a dead startup” section was removed, primarily due to indifference towards the feature during user feedback. Additionally, suggesting that an Instagram image collection could reveal insights regarding a startup’s failure was a longshot and did not have evidence or a method of analysis to make the case. Adding a disclaimer to the footer to orient the visitor and clearly identify that the information on the site is based on an analysis of subjective recollections of the failure.

  • Headers: Different versions were incorporated depending on what industry the startup operated. For example, eCommerce startup pages had eCommerce related illustrations like shopping carts. The hospitality page included illustrations like laundry machines and clothing.
  • Coffins: The coffins were replaced for gravestones to test out another implementation of the front page.
  • Portrait of a dead startup: This feature was removed due to indifference to the feature during user testing.
  • Technology: Bootstrap was used to continue building this prototype.


The following changes were implemented in the gold iteration:

  • Header: Drastically decreased the size of the header due to user feedback. Kept one header consistent across all pages and incorporated different industry illustrations.
  • Coffins: Different types of gravestones were tested, including incorporating brand colors. User testing showed that the gravestones were a hit or miss. Some people understood it was a stone and others perceived it simply as a rectangle box. For gold, companies went back to being shown on coffins.
  • Competitors: Competitor logos were added with click through links to company pages or Crunchbase profiles if the company is no longer in operation.
  • History of user experience: This was a difficult omission. There is not enough time in this iteration to incorporate the history of user experience for each company in a way that makes it informative to the user because the communications and designs of the company’s website must be analyzed to provide the visitor with useful information.
  • Technology: The website was migrated to WordPress because it made the content easier to manage in comparison to Bootstrap.
  • Social: Facebook comments were integrated at the end of each company page to create a social element and provide a platform for conversation.
  • Randomization. The coffins appear in random order every time a user visits the site. There are many companies to explore, and this would increase the likelihood of finding something new every time instead of seeing the same company when no new companies have been added to the site.
  • Medals. The medals of recognition were removed from the gold prototype because of the lack of time. It did not add enough value to the goal of the project to make the element a priority.