Original Publish date - 6/14/2018
It's 2018, the year of VR takeover, mobile phone ubiquity and the age of the enlightened internet user. The internet is the final frontier and with the pioneers that made it changing the game every couple of months, it can be hard to keep up with the gold rush.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Your business depends on a well designed, current website as well as consistent and valuable content coming out of it. If you haven't re-designed your website in awhile, now is the time to start. Your website says everything about you that an empowered internet user needs to know before making a decision, and if it looks like it's outdated, so will your brand.
Businesses with optimized, responsive, fully-integrated websites consistently outperform their competitors and gain better leads and more conversions. And I know what you're thinking. A website re-design means hiring a web designer to take you down a 3 month rollercoaster ride of grueling planning, audits, card sorting, wire-framing, compromising on ideas, etcetera etcetera all to spend thousands of dollars on a website that no one is sure will actually perform better. Even worse, these traditional website redesigns could lose you all of your established SEO rankings.
Seems like a lose lose, right?
It used to be. With traditional web re-design, businesses would hire a design team to build a website based on hunches and what the business wanted out of their site. Then months later, they'd be shocked to see that all of their bells and whistles had no impact. The re-design process has been so grueling for companies that they often will put it off for up to 5 years to avoid the dread.
But over the years, agencies, design teams and business leaders have learned the website re-design method that actually listens to the customers, guarantees efficiency and utilizes incremental updates to improve time and cost efficiency. It all centers around collecting data, testing changes and growing successively better performance, i.e. Growth Driven Design. And the best part is, you can do it yourself, because the process is all centered on making small, iterative changes to collect data and grow your website a step at a time.
Here's how you can use Growth Driven Design to avoid the common re-design calamities and get the website of your dreams on your terms:
Step 1: Gather All of the Data (Research)
A lot of businesses run into the most common mistake in website redesign, gambling on subjective, business-centric UX decisions. The CEO of the company will decide that, because hero banners are trending, that she wants them on every page of the company website without collecting data from the current site to see if their current banner is working, or better yet, to use in comparison later.
Without data, you won't be able to measure the effectiveness of any decision you decide to make with your new design, and so you won't know what is working and what isn't.
Instead of blindly moving pieces around your website, you need to collect hard, objective and subjective data. These are user metrics that essentially act as a litmus test to determine what works and what doesn't work on your site; metrics like bounce rate, session duration, page views per visit, user journey and even user opinions through surveys. Collecting this data will allow you to decide where it is smartest to begin experimenting with changes and what pages of your site are in need of overhaul.
In addition to understanding the changes that can be made, this research will also give you tremendous insight into
- Who is coming to your site (personas)
- Why they are coming to your site
- How they are accessing it
- What value they are receiving
- Where they tend to go through your site
- and why they are taking specific actions.
All of this will help you to gain valuable insight into your website's users and enable you to incorporate that value into your improved web pages.
Redesigning a website is a surgical procedure and every step counts. Few things drive internet users crazy like change, especially if it doesn't improve their experience. Without data, you're re-design is almost guaranteed to backfire, costing you conversions and revenue. But don't get too bogged down in data. There is an infinite amount of it, and it's easy to become paralyzed by its immensity. Collect the essentials and move on to creating your launchpad.
Step 2: Make Your Wishlist (Hypothesize)
Now, with all of that research, you'll want to start forming brainstorming your customer's ideal website.
Start a wishlist. Jot down all of the tech integrations, video content, interactive graphics, etc that you want to incorporate into your new site. Once you've teased out your list, start putting these ideas in one of these buckets: wants and needs.
Now that your wishlist is sorted, you can begin prioritizing your needs bucket into your version iteration cycles. What do you need in your website's first re-design launchpad? Your answer will tell you your website's essence. What it is your website does and how it engages with your personas.
Step 3: Build Your Launchpad (Experiment)
Let's get that site live! (Before you do, be sure to take a look at our essential site launch checklist) This will resemble the familiar redesign process, getting your team to design content, design a wireframe, program architecture and perform basic QA testing.
Don't get too bogged down in the details, your goal is to put together the launchpad version of your site so you can get start collecting the user data that you need for the ongoing improvement stage. Ideally, completing steps 1-3 and getting your launchpad live should not take more than a month.
At this point, you should have a live site with redesigned launchpad pages that you have enabled all of the data tracking tools you have on measuring the outcomes of each installation. On your iteration process, you still have a bucket of wants and needs that should be prioritized out, especially as they apply to the feedback you are receiving through your analysis, but I'm jumping ahead.
Step 4: Track and Improve (Analyze)
Your website, it's live and reporting feedback and you are optimizing based on that feedback, but on top of these reactive measures, the next 11 months is your time to perform iterative improvements.
You can do these in short sprint cycles, but your consistency and upkeep is what makes Growth Driven Design superior to your traditional web design. It is what allows you to make the changes you know will improve site performance, save money and cut the time it takes for improvement down so that you don't have to halt your marketing and tech teams from their important ongoing duties.
During this stage, you are focusing all of your attention on your website visitors. How do your updates impact their user experience? Approach them with surveys. Do you like our new design? Track their bounce rate and site navigation. From here you'll set performance goals and iteration schedules for implementing your wish list items and responding to user feedback with adjustments.
Throughout these months you should be collecting and making sense of user data, ROI and website performance and deciding whether to validate re-design choices or to kill the assumptions you had made and shift your website content accordingly.
Pro Tip: If you want to take what you've learned throughout building your website and sell it as a service to your clients and customers that could use a website refresh, record your GDD Website Re-design Process and Results to sell in client meetings as a capability.
If you haven't picked up on it, Growth Driven Design is nothing new. Actually it is centuries old. It's the same, tried and true scientific method that has been used by academics, inventors and researchers to gain new insights and improve understandings and performance of machines, elements, quantum mechanics, etc. So the data behind its usefulness is already there for us.
Now the next step is to use Google Analytics to test and refine your website's performance so that your growth process never slows. You can read our guide on using Google Analytics to improve your websites lead generation, SEO and customer journey here, or you can skip to the fun part and download our extensive guide so you can get that website optimized.