Pretend for a moment that your website is a living, breathing person. A sales rep. Your most active and enthusiastic sales rep.
Now let’s say that this sales rep is out in the field, marketing your product or service to potential customers, and he’s communicating stats and specs from two years ago. Stats and specs that pale in comparison to your competitors’ current offerings, a fact that is confirmed easily by a quick Google search. How can he expect to bring in clients when his data is so outdated?
That is exactly what is happening when you allow your website to remain unchanged for (on average) 1½ to two years.
“But website redesigns require more resources than almost any project!” you exclaim. “They’re expensive and time-consuming and it only makes logical sense to update them every couple of years.”
But see, you’re considering the process associated with traditional website design. Growth-Driven Design to the rescue.
A great question. Growth-Driven Design (or GDD) is an approach to website redesign whose purpose is to mitigate the risks associated with the traditional website redesign strategy; specifically, exceeding budget, delivering after the deadline and encountering tasks outside of the original scope.
In traditional website redesigns, everything is typically dictated by development team members, and all of their plans are usually based on what has been successful in the past or what the current best practices are, which could mean obsolete methods or broad generalizations.
Conversely, in GDD, your individual users determine how you tackle the project. The only way to know whether or not your website is actually fulfilling its purpose is to allow visitors to interact with the site and then analyze their behavior.
The other big difference between traditional website redesign and GDD is the overall timeline. The goal in the former is to just keep moving until the completely updated site is launched in its entirety with no real confidence that these changes (which took months to make) will improve the efficacy of the site. It’s a one-and-done approach, until it’s time to go through the whole painful process again in two years.
GDD is a phased approach. As the saying goes, “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” There is no end-all, be-all deadline looming for months and no singular budget constraining your every move. Instead, deadline and budget goals are distributed evenly and thus easier to achieve. Essentially, the end of traditional website redesign is at launch, whereas in GDD, that’s just the beginning.
But let’s back up a bit and take a look at the steps that make up GDD.
No big surprise here: The first step in GDD is strategy. You need to answer two fundamental questions:
Start by putting yourself in your visitors’ shoes. Empathy is key here. Expand on the first two questions: What queries do they need answered? What do you think they appreciate about your site? What do you think frustrates them? Brainstorming on these topics will help point you in the direction of identifying which updates will have the largest impact.
From there, take a look at the raw data. What are people doing on the current iteration of your site? Where are they spending the most time? What actions are they completing? The ultimate goal is to conclude how your website fits into your visitors’ lives and then design your strategy around that conclusion.
Great! You have a better understanding of your visitors.
Now you need to create your “wish list”—or every single update you want to implement on your site. From new pages to different navigation to extra modules, sit down and think of everything you’d love to see on the new site. Then, choose the items that comprise about 20 percent of the list but will drive 80 percent of the results. Don’t worry—whatever didn’t make the cut can be addressed in later phases of the redesign.
After you’ve pared down your wish list, you’ll be looking at the meat and potatoes of your site, and that is what you’ll use for the launchpad site.
Launchpad websites allow you to launch quickly and then test along the way. They give you the opportunity to observe your visitors’ behavior and then make smarter decisions based on real data, rather than on assumptions, helping you avoid one of the shortcomings that characterize traditional website redesign.
Then comes the fun part: testing. I cannot stress this enough—a major pillar of GDD is testing. Recognize definitely what is working and what is not.
Keep these things in mind as you test.
IMPORTANT: You want to grow your audience without ignoring the aforementioned values.
As you acquire data, compare and contrast the actual metrics with your original strategy. Ask yourself if your launchpad site has the elements that matter most, if your content is engaging and making a connection with your audience. If not, change it.
That’s really the most important aspect of GDD: to not lock yourself into one design indefinitely because you’ve already sunk X amount of hours and Y amount of money into it. The core tenet of GDD is continuous learning and improvement.
Remember—it’s not one-and-done. GDD is dynamic, fluid, adjustable. Onward, to Phase 2!
As I mentioned earlier, your users and how they interact with your site are the driving force behind each decision about your website redesign.
Phase 2 of GDD starts with the first of the monthly check-ins you’ll have over the next year following the go-live of the launchpad site. During each cross-department sync, decide which metric you want to improve for the upcoming month. Then organize the data and discover what story it’s telling.
Communicate with your associates in other departments to see if there are outside factors that should be considered (for example, external marketing efforts and industry news). Make a list of action items to be completed and prioritize them based on potential impact. Posit hypotheses about the effect you believe certain changes will have—“If we implement A, then B will occur because [supporting argument].” Work together. Addressing alternate perspectives are crucial to the success of the project.
Next, JUST DO IT. (The action items, I mean.)
Set up experiments to determine the results of the changes you’ve implemented. Drive new visitors to the site via email blasts, blog posts, PPC campaigns, or all three so you can observe how they interact with the site compared with return visitors. This is the “all hands on deck” part of the cycle. No lollygagging allowed.
All right, a month has gone by and it’s time for the next check-in. What did you learn? Were your hypotheses validated? If not, what needs to be changed? Adjust your site content accordingly. If something isn’t working, revise it or scrap it. And be sure to keep a log of your findings so that other departments (or future employees) can reference them at a later date.
Finally, share what you’ve learned. Collaborate with other departments. Ask questions and learn more. Use this knowledge to improve and optimize the site even further. Your coworkers are a great asset—utilize them.