Keeping your users in focus is key
So, I'm sitting here trying to flip the switch in my head from business owner, to creator. Right... so I have to STOP thinking about policy, procedure, talent, recruiting, general business administration, accounting, taxes, projections, analysis', and so on... and start focusing on wrapping up a website client that has been with my agency since September of last year.
No, not a growth driven design (GDD) website. A normal, traditional website built using the normal, traditional website development process.
And I just can't get it to flip. And it's all GDD's fault.
Wired one way - inbound or outbound
The fundamental problem is that my brain is wired to be an inbound marketer, and one of the most important things we do as inbound marketers is make user-centric, data-driven decisions.
This is not how traditional website design works. Not even close. The user has very little to do with critical build decisions, and the only data that is typically applied is that of the past website iterations that were likely designed and deployed 2 or more years ago - that or data from somebody else's experience.
Enter Growth Driven Design, or GDD, a concept that is passionately advocated for by Luke Summerfield (@SavvyLuke on Twitter) from Hubspot, coiners of the phrase, "inbound marketing," the diamond standard for inbound methodology expertise, and developers of the most powerful digital marketing platform in existence. They're actually rolling out a certification (which I will link to once it's live) for the program any day now!
The point is that my agency didn't invent this concept, but we do embrace it, and we've just scratching the surface. Here are 6 reasons why GDD is going to transform how your website performs, and why it's so hard for me to carry on with this traditional site we're still developing 9 months later:
1. User-centric means engaged visitors
Traditional website design starts with conceptual discussion between the designer and client, wherein the developer comes up with ideas on how to deliver what the client wants, typically focusing on features.
Now, this may seem fine to you, but let's break it down a little bit and focus on what we're actually missing out on: namely, the user.
That's right... the person actually visiting your website, from whom you are trying to earn patronage. Where are they in that equation? Oh... when we're talking about features. Yes, we want a client login portal so they can access their documents. Yes, we want a blog (but not really sure why). Yes, we want a news page so we can show people our achievements. Yes, we want a calendar page, an about us page, a contact us page... and so on.
But what does the user want? What are their actual challenges that you're trying to resolve for them? And how can your website contribute to solving those challenges?
Here, take a look at this Luke Summerfield inspired chart that breaks down how the processes just for getting started differ. It's kind of crazy, actually.
As you can see, from the very outset of the planning process we are already doing things differently to try and achieve the same ultimate goals. Or... at least, that's what I think we're trying to achieve.
Now, how do we really go after our users to try and understand what their actual challenges are? First, we build our target personas by learning as much as we can from our customers and prospects. Why not just ask them?
(MORE LIKE THIS: Build a Better Buyer Persona)
2. Design is driven by success
Alright, so we're starting with the mindset that we're going to help solve the problems of our website visitors in a way that is going to lead to more customers. So, for example, let's say you're a SaaS, and your users' main challenges are that they need to adopt technological improvements, like your app, but they're too busy to try and learn how to use it...
The solution could be to make the interface work and act like some other platform that they are sure to already know and use. Or, let's think of this from a marketing perspective. The app is already built, so what can we do to make it easier for users to adopt and integrate it into their daily lives?
We could send emails with bite-sized chunks that help them learn it piece by piece. We could create an onboarding process that includes a free demo. We could install pop-up tutorials in the app itself and/or more in-depth training videos that we embed on the website and/or Youtube.
We could do any number of things, but before we embark on an idea that we apply to your entire website and spend all the money, time, and other resources in accomplishing, we do a minimum idea test.
- Send a single email blast to new users with instructions on getting set up
- Pop in a menu link that leads to a "coming soon" page with a newsletter sign-up just to test engagement and clicks
- Call existing customers to ask about their challenges in signing up or to offer a demo
The list can go on and on, but the point is, with GDD, we're going to evaluate our user's challenges first, then build out solution ideas, and test them all BEFORE we build the actual solutions.
This keeps us from taking big leaps on ideas that may not work. For our traditional site client that I'm trying to motivate myself to work on, we are coming out with 6 hypothesis based around a single idea. We hope it works. I'm sure to some degree it will, and maybe quite well, but it's only the beginning.
MORE: Check out this infographic that compares GDD with traditional design
3. It's an ongoing process, not a one-and-done kind of deal
This is absolutely key to everything, so why is this good news? Well, actually, there are three things to consider:
- Launches are a LOT less painful. Why? Because we start with just the most important, high-impact pages... The ones that are necessary to function as a business and fit into your inbound marketing strategy. We put out the best possible iteration we can based on zero previously-installed testing mechanisms, then install some mechanisms that allow us to tell if it's working, then publish to we see what works, then include those lessons in our next effort. There are going to be hang-ups with every launch; I don't care who you are. There are things we just can't work through until we have something to actually work with. But if we're only launching a few pages, those problems are going to be fewer, and a lot easier to locate and deal with.
- Never stop improving a page's impact. We monitor each page for their impact to your overall lead/customer counts, and we adjust. No conversions? Why? Does it solve a user problem, but it's not generating leads... how do we fix? Move the CTA? Tweak the language? Repurpose the entire piece of content?
- The status quo is fine, but what about the big leaps? Once the launch pad of a website is built, and we're focusing our efforts on continuous improvement, we will still spend about a quarter of our time working on broad innovations with our site... the kinds of things that set us completely apart from the competition, and we know is a little more risky.
We have to take risks, just not with the ENTIRE website!
4. The process is agile
Instead of the usual, let's present our wireframes/mock-ups, etc, then build out the entire site, present that, then go through it page by page (usually three times)... we can actually keep momentum rolling in our favor by being more agile.
For example, we'll put the one page through the process, submit for approvals, and while we're waiting for a response, we'll be knee-deep in the planning and development for the next one.
So, let me go back to our traditional design that's killing our buzz... First of all, these are extraordinary circumstances - As a side note, not every site takes this long, nor should it, even in the traditional sense. There were many extraordinary circumstances that were out of our control.
But they would have been easier to manage with GDD.
We get so wrapped up in delivering everything all at once, so it's sort of an all or nothing deliverable. Had we launched the first 4 pages back in November, we could just be putting the finishing touches today on it with the last few items/pages that still need to be installed. And we'd have 9 months of history with our first pages to base our next moves off of.
Instead, we still have nothing published, but a growing website in production.
5. Get the site you & Google both want
There is no such thing as perfection. We all know that. But those are your expectations when going into a traditional website design and development project, aren't they? I know it's Google's... They would certainly rather your user experiences be pleasant and productive than not, and they're spending a lot of money on ensuring that's the case.
But how often are these expectations actually fulfilled to your satisfaction or Google's? It's not easy for everybody to visualize how it's all going to work, no matter how much planning we do or discussion we have. So, if we could build something bit-by-bit, and get it to a state where it is functional, then we are afforded the opportunity to make incremental adjustments that lead to behaviors that are favorable to your business and the gold standard in the eyes of the major search engines.
That's a win-win if I've ever heard one...
6. Pay over time instead of one lump sum
Website development can be cost-prohibitive and quite risky when we're basing your entire launch on an untested hypothesis. In addition to that, you have to pay these giant lump sums! With GDD, we deliver piece by piece, and price it accordingly!
Growth Driven Design is a new concept, and I hope it's one you take the time to explore, even if you're not considering updating your website that hasn't been updated in 5 years.
For our above-referenced traditional site client, we were delayed for circumstances that were beyond our control, but with an agile process, we could have maneuvered around them, and we could be working on tweaking for better conversions, instead of tweaking for launch.
Time to suck it up, and just get 'er done.