I think it is time I let you into a little secret. There is nothing complicated about website development, although some designers may have us looking for mirrors in the smoke. We like to explain the principles of growth driven design (GDD) before we engage new clients. We find we get better, faster results that way.

Hence, I wrote this article about the incremental design of websites, and a few other things besides.

A while back, I had a job with a speculative app developer helping them find new clients. They had a really brilliant idea to do with mobiles and airtime, but were never quite satisfied with the beta version they built. Inevitably, someone else got to market first, and their hopes crashed. If only they had launched a basic version earlier and tweaked it as they went along, I might have been able to retire in style.

Henry Ford was a GDD specialist. He heard what early motorists wanted and produced the basic Model T that democratized our roads. When he learned they wanted more creature comforts, he followed up with the Model A and made a fortune. You see, Henry was an agile thinking person. He gave his customers what they wanted, just in time.

Growth-Driven Design = Data Driven Improvement

Henry Ford did not have a computer, yet he understood about data driven improvement. He allowed customer feedback to guide his designs. For example, his Model A had broad, flat mudguards for farmers to carry seed bags on. The later, more luxurious Model A had curved ones, because city folk did not like splashes from their earlier Model T tires in the rain.

GDD is a smarter approach than the traditional, linear method. It challenges the assumption that we should freeze websites in concrete for months – freezing revenue by the same token – while we do complete overhauls.

We believe websites should develop organically.

That way, we can incorporate latest customer-centric inbound marketing principles as soon as they evolve.

This smarter approach to web page design is a continuous, iterative process. It allows us to use what we learn from our analytics. It allows us to maximize these results faster. It allows us to implement smart inbound web design tactics sooner, without tweaking anything else, and slowing implementation down.

I have one of those old-fashioned houses with parquet floor made with small wooden blocks. When I decided to have these sanded and resealed, I did the rooms one by one a week apart. This meant in theory at least, the rest of my life continued on an even keel thanks to this incremental approach. Growth driven web design similarly fends off the all-or-nothing headaches of traditional web design.

This incremental design method also encourages cross-pollination of ideas between sales and marketing. It blends marketing’s imperative to apply the inbound marketing methodology with feedback from sales regarding what is working out there in the field. By putting all these ideas together, we aim to launch a fully functional website within 45 days.

How do we do this? It’s simple. We do the most important bits first, because we know that 20% of a website produces 80% of returns. With that in place and launched, we get on with the rest.

Strategizing Data Driven Improvement in GDD

Smart inbound web design – in fact all forms of web design – begin with taking a customer centric look at the people we are intending to reach. We want to decide where we are going before we do anything else.

Growth driven web design asks a hypothetical persona what challenges they face, and what goals they have for their future

GDD makes intelligent assumptions about users most likely to visit the site. And, more importantly, how it can capture their interest. First, it asks, why do you come here, what road did you follow, which way are you trying to go. Then it charts the likely buyer’s journey through the funnel, and how best to empathize with them to build trust.

From this analysis, we generate a wish list of what we hope to achieve from the first or next version of the site. Are we merely doing buttons and colors, or are we reworking the landing page for social media and smartphones. Here we are mindful of the 80/20 Pareto Principle. 

Launch Pad Goals 

A launch pad website, or upgrade project gets the news out on the internet, and the social media as quickly as possible. We achieve this not by ‘quick and dirty design’, but by thoughtful and skillful presentation of core value-driving elements, as informed by analytics and market feedback.

Defining these data driven improvements begins by revisiting the 20% of our wishes that we expect to deliver 80% of our benefits. We ask ourselves, and our clients which are must-haves, and which are nice-to-haves. Our goal is to create a slimmed-down version of what we might build, if we had the luxury of time. So instead, we strip it down to just what we need to do the job.

Growth driven design process

The essential inbound marketing principles are all customer centric. Our growth driven designs are user driven as we probe what our persona is thinking, needing, and doing. We can learn about their journey through informed use of our analytics. Where are they likely to be when they find us, and how do they interact? The sooner we can get the website off the launch pad, the sooner we can collect meaningful information about how well we are doing.

Smart inbound website design like this listens attentively to our users. What features are they finding useful, compared to which pages have high bounce rates and why is this so. The more we reflect our user’s opinions, the more likely they are to like us and engage with us. This is not rocket science. Humans are social animals. We stick to our own sort, including in business.

Continuous Improvement

Many people believe the Japanese kaizen method lies behind the island’s dramatic recovery after World War II. Japan scores tenth for population behind China, India, United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Russia. Yet it has the third top economy after the United States and China. The main principles behind kaizen are:

  • Regular self-reflection – how well are we doing
  • Elimination of inefficiency – continually slimming down
  • Incremental steps – continuous improvement

Kaizen believes that improvements flow better from many small changes rather than radical alterations. This finds full expression in incremental improvement and data-driven design. The beauty of a launched site is we can gather data right away about our visitors, and understand their behavior so we know what to improve next.

Growth driven design continuous improvements

At the same time, we are also able to avoid the biggest pitfalls of the traditional web design way, namely time to launch, and sharply stepped cash flow. Instead, we can set a quarterly budget for making continual smart inbound improvements. That was pretty much the approach Henry Ford, and others after him followed.

Between 1914 and 1927, he made gradual changes to the Model T hood and cowl panel to improve the user experience, although the mechanicals remained the same. Our growth driven design adheres faithfully to the continuous improvement cycle of first plan-then build, then learn-and-transplant lessons to the website.

A few Takeaways to Nibble and Chew over

Growth driven design uses a continuous improvement approach to come as close as possible to what our buyer persona wants. The process begins with understanding the value they need to harvest. We discover what these things are by analyzing our key website metrics, and via feedback from our customers and sales. Next, we test a small beta site on a group of users for feedback, on how effective they find the content and touchpoints. We then confirm this by comparing stickiness and bounce rates with the previous version.

We launch with the confidence that data will start pouring in and can generate revenue sooner than any other web design method. Month after month, we get to the next best thing, improving for the user’s benefit. A data-driven website is a breathing organism that is continuously growing closer to its visitors.