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4 Ways to Use Data to Improve Your Website Design

By Lara BerendtSep 2, 2016

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Every day, your website generates a river of data that contains new insights into how people are finding your brand, interacting with your content and progressing toward a purchase. You might already use this rich data to guide your marketing activities or product development, but it can also help you continuously optimize your website design for ultimate usability and utility to your audience.

In recent years, growth-driven design has been popularized as a more flexible, lower-risk approach to website creation and maintenance. Compared with the old-school website design process, which usually takes place every few years and results in a final product you might be stuck with for a few more years, growth-driven design is nimbler, more cost-effective and lower-risk.

The ongoing site improvements key to the growth-driven approach rely on the analysis of a healthy influx of data that reveals how users are arriving on and engaging with your site and its content. Let’s talk through some of the ways data can be plugged back into your website design and development process for a continuously improving user experience.

1. Validate your user paths

You probably have an idea in mind of the top ways people reach your home page, landing pages, product pages, blog posts and other content. If you’ve done your homework, you might even have documented customer journey maps that show how different users are most likely to use your site and content to meet common goals throughout the buying process. And your design team might have user path flows diagrammed to show how your website UX supports users along the buyer journey.growth-driven-design-1.jpggrowth-driven-design-1.jpg

Image source: ConversionXL

But are all of your ideas, diagrams and maps correct? Do they reflect your users’ reality? Look to your data to find out.

Analyze your user paths and conversion paths to find out whether site visitors are taking the next steps you want them to take. If you see a drop-off at any point in the expected path, take a closer look at the conversion point and devise some tests to isolate the problem. It could be a navigation issue, a site bug, or a problem with the design or copy. Remember to only alter one component per A/B test—otherwise, you won’t know which tweak was meaningful.

For example, maybe one of your desired paths moves users from an email campaign to a landing page to download an introductory eBook, but no one is clicking on that big download button. If your email metrics are healthy, it could be your landing page that needs adjusting. You can A/B test different CTA button sizes, colors, placement or text, or try different versions of landing page copy to see what compels more users to download the asset. Maybe your landing page isn’t functioning well on certain mobile screens, or you need to adjust your mobile form design to make it more user-friendly.

In one real-world test, SaaS company Unbounce (which, incidentally, provides landing page building and A/B testing services) saw a 90 percent lift in click-through rate on its free trial offer landing page simply by tweaking one word in the CTA button text, from “Start your free 30-day trial” to “Start my free 30-day trial.”growth-driven-design-2.jpg

Image source: ContentVerve

You can also uncover popular user paths you might not have anticipated, and take steps to make these paths easier or more intuitive for your site visitors. We’ll touch on this more when we discuss information architecture, below.

2. Measure the success of your content

Your content and website design are inextricably linked, and the success of one depends on the other. As you dig into your site analytics, ask yourself whether people are staying long enough to consume the content you’re promoting through your campaigns.

Look at the average time spent on pages in different site sections. Your long-form blog posts (if they’re compelling and easily digestible) should keep users on the page for several minutes, while an effective product page might only require 20 seconds to consume. If your content as a whole is straightforward and engaging, people are more likely to stick around and read multiple pages, and you can measure this by analyzing the average number of pageviews per visit.

Your copy itself offers a huge opportunity for testing and improvement, but from a design perspective, experiment with the layout, structure and organization of your content, aiming for optimal usability. Move components around until your data indicates you’ve found a configuration that gels with your users’ need for flow.

Explore social sharing data and onsite engagement, like comments sections and other interactive features, to gauge whether your site design offers the content engagement and distribution functionality your audience is hungry for.

And don’t forget that images are a hugely influential content component. In one test, Hawk Host swapped out a single image on its home page and saw two to three times more conversions.

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Control version, Image source: KissMetrics

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 Winning variant, Image source: KissMetrics

3. Improve your personas

Your marketing team might have buyer personas that drive your brand’s voice, tone and content marketing strategy, and your web team might have its own set of user personas that help them make design decisions. Your website data can inform both types of personas by revealing what content is resonating best, where people are coming from and what their digital behaviors are. As personalization becomes the norm, your data is the key to knowing what to serve to whom, along with when and how.

Are people focusing on specific site functions or areas in ways that reveal new information about their wants or needs? Are they searching your site for functionality or content that isn’t there (yet)? Maybe you learn from your average time on page or video completion metrics that your site visitors don’t seem to be staying long enough to read all of the product details on your catalog pages, but they are watching demo videos all the way through. This could reflect their content consumption preferences and lead you to test different types of product page layouts.

Your channel and referrer metrics might reveal that a big chunk of your audience browses on Internet Explorer, or that mobile visits from Android users are on the rise. You might learn that certain social platforms are referring more traffic than you realized, which could influence which social sharing options you build into your site.

These insights make great bullet points to include in your buyer or user personas, and they help you optimize your site to create the best possible experience for your unique audience.growth-driven-design-5.jpg

Image source: Crazy Egg

4. Optimize your information architecture

The term information architecture (IA) is thrown around a lot, but it boils down to the way you organize and label the information and content in a digital environment to make it usable and findable. This is where your site’s content hierarchy, navigation menu labels and cross-linking strategies come under the microscope.

A thoughtful information architecture facilitates those critical user paths we discussed above and results in a user-friendly, intuitive web experience. Your site data can tip you off to problems in the organization or labeling of your content.

For example, internal search keyword data can alert you to instances where users are having trouble finding certain content that could be more clearly labeled or more easily navigable. Are a lot of people using your internal search engine to search for your flagship product right from the home page rather than navigating through your product sections to find it? Maybe this is a sign that you should highlight and link to that product page right from your home page, or prominently feature it in your primary navigation.growth-driven-design-6.jpg

Image source: Adobe

Or let’s say that when your users are on a product page, one of their most common next steps is to use your primary navigation menu to visit your case studies page. Knowing this, you can add links to relevant case studies directly on your product pages, facilitating this common user path and providing more seamless navigation.

By showing users you’re anticipating their next move, they’ll feel more comfortable within your web experience and get the distinct impression you have their interests at heart.

Conclusion

These are just a handful of the ways your website data can flow back into the feedback loop of a modern design process. There are endless insights available to web and marketing teams that prioritize data-driven continuous improvements as part of a larger growth-driven design strategy.

Web experiences of the future will be device-agnostic and extremely personalized. If you’re not already comfortable with the ways data can inform your digital experience and marketing strategy, now is the time to dig in and start testing.

To learn more about how Kuno Creative is incorporating UX, growth-driven design and mobile-first strategies into website design, check out our new eBook, “High Performing Websites That Last: Going Beyond Growth-Driven Design.”

Download the High Performing Websites Guide

Additional Topics: Content and Design
Lara Berendt
The Author

Lara Berendt

Lara Berendt is an editor and content strategy consultant with a background in journalism and B2B marketing. For ten years she's helped craft content for publications and businesses across a range of industries—from staffing and financial services to tech manufacturing and traditional print media—forever striving to optimize people's communications and the strategies that inform them. Learn more at laraberendt.com.
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