Your website should perform as the digital storefront to your business. It's what delivers a first impression to your prospects and provides conversion paths for them to express interest in your services and products. In the past most of us have fairly religiously taken on the task of ripping everything up and rebuilding our sites from almost scratch every 1.5 to 2 years and it's usually a long and difficult undertaking. But there is hope for a more efficient and less painless process.
You may have come across articles talking about a new website design philosophy that has evolved recently, that will probably save you time, money and considerable aggravation in the long run. It's called Growth Driven Design.
The Old Way of Doing it
Up until now, website design has been equated to ripping down an old, broken down, largely non-functional building and replacing it with something new that should be better and more productive. The fact is that this process is very disruptive and frequently misses the mark when it comes to actually being better and more effective.
The natural inclination of many companies is to spend a lot of time, money and effort developing and launching a new website every several years. The cycle begins with someone in the organization who begins to grumble (loudly) about how the company site has become stale, how they can barely stand to look at it, and that it simply needs a complete makeover. The powers that be eventually begin listening to this growing sentiment and agree that it's time to make cosmetic and maybe user experience changes now that things have become so bad.
Bulldozers and Large Bales of Cash
Now that the green light has been given by management to go ahead and spend $15,000 - $75,000 on a new website (not to mention the 3 - 6 months of development and debugging time), the emphasis is on gutting the heck out of the existing site in order to make everyone feel as though the money has been well spent and has yielded substantial enough change. The process is very difficult, expensive and often brutal. I say brutal because usually far too little time is spent in really assessing what has been working, what has not, and most importantly, whether any structured and quantifiable data has been collected to substantiate these assessments. The result is that strong existing marketing content is frequently amputated through this practice.
Broad, Sweeping, Uninformed Change
Typically the design team develops a theory about what the company's buyer journey is and therefore what site visitors are going to be interested in and the paths that they will follow through the site. With only this hypothesis in hand they proceed to define, design and implement a new site based on some best guesses and hope.
Unfortunately, even if the team gets it partially right in the beginning, most markets typically shift in a number of ways over several months. In fact new sites begin the road to obsolescence almost immediately after they are launched. So here's where we start thinking about the problem differently.
Enter Growth Driven Website Design
There is, in fact, a way to improve this entire process - by using growth driven design (GDD). The strength of this approach lies in the practice of constant evolution by making incremental changes to a web site while monitoring and quantitatively evaluating the interaction between users and website. Here are the basic steps to a strong GDD program:
Phase 1 - Develop an Initial Version of the Website
- Plan on building the site in stages
- The first phase starts with strategic analysis including company goals, persona definitions and a review of existing data. All of this research helps understand what the company is after and how its offerings align with its customers' needs
- Compile fundamental assumptions based on the website strategy. Your initial release should include only the essential must haves elements of the site
- Pick the top 20% of all website 'must-have' wish list items that you'd like on the site, soul search and leave the remaining 80% on the table for the next go-around
- Launch site (quickly)
Phase 2 - Growth-Driven Design Cycle
- Now that the baseline has been set and the site launched, start collecting and evaluating performance data and execute the remaining steps
- Plan - Experiment with some of the wish list items not included in Phase 1
- Develop - Integrate these new items on the website
- Learn - Collect data and evaluate performance
- Transfer - Share information internally and review for the next cycle
- Repeat the above after collecting adequate data to make a decision on what to add to the site next
The big benefit of this strategy is that the performance of your website improves at a comparatively constant rate over the period of a traditional website redesign cycle rather than requiring a huge project undertaking every 1.5 - 2 years. This perpetually keeps the site aligned with current marketing trends rather than having to 'catch up' in large steps as in the traditional model.
The outline above serves as only a high-level summary of Growth Driven Design, for more details, please download our free, introductory E-book on the topic.