Growth-driven design is a systematic approach to web design that mitigates the risk of scope-creep, overspending, and large, upfront commitments of time and money.

It is based on an iterative process of continuous improvement, based on insights gained at each touchpoint in the design project.

This type of design methodology relies on short cycles of time called “sprints” to attack the project in small, manageable segments.

Each activity is based on user testing and visitor behaviors, ensuring that your website content is aligned with what your audience actually wants.

Instead of launching a wide-scale website overhaul every other year, more organizations are relying on growth-driven design for an adaptive, fluid style of web design that doesn’t monopolize marketing resources for months at a time.

The result is a website that is based on actual user preferences and behaviors–driving targeted sales and marketing decisions.

If you just went through a major website redesign project or you are just starting to plan your website, this unique approach can help optimize your resources, minimize risk, and continually improve your web content. 

Here’s how it works.

Phase I: Strategy, Wishlist, and Launchpad Website

Just as traditional website design begins with ideation (or should), growth-driven design takes a strategic approach to laying the groundwork for design structure.

The difference is that it doesn’t end there. Instead, it starts with strategy and builds on it to create an informed wishlist and eventual launchpad website, with each step feeding into the next for a rock-solid, sustainable approach.

Strategy

In this strategy phase, the design team should identify how the success of the project will ultimately be measured.

What are the performance metrics that matter most to the organization?

How will those metrics be tracked?

By answering these (and other) questions before the project begins, cross-departmental teams will be better aligned, and you’ll be less likely to suffer from the dreaded “scope creep” that has derailed more than one well-meaning team.

The next step in the strategy phase is to develop specific personas for the audiences that will visit and benefit from your site.

Personas can be based on groups or individuals, and they share a common goal: to identify the characteristics and buying behaviors of your website visitors so that you can structure content and design to meet their specific needs.

After you’ve established and agreed upon goals and personas, it’s time to dive into the research.

First, gather any quantitative data that you can find about your current website (or even your brand).

Take note of what is working well and what’s falling short. As part of your research, don’t forget to consult your current customers for their perception of your current website and brand.

Put on your thickest skin–especially if you designed the website and feel attached to it.

Look at each gap not as a failure, but as an opportunity to improve and let your skill set shine in the new design approach.

After you’ve aggregated the research, and evaluated it against your goals and personas, it’s time to make some educated, fundamental assumptions to drive the overall strategy for subsequent phases.

The key is in applying modified strategies to design at both the page level and at the site level.

User needs will vary from page to page, but the overarching site should function as a cohesive unit, with each page and section complementing the holistic design.

Wishlist

The next step is to create a wishlist.

This is arguably the most “fun” stage of the process, where you and your team can brainstorm ideas based on your goals, personas, and research.

Forget about your current website–this is where you imagine the website of your dreams.

As you ideate, think about what it would take to help check off each item on your wishlist. All is fair game in brainstorming, so disregard the obvious obstacles of time, money, and resources.

You are simply defining what your website Utopia looks like.

As you grow your wishlist and identify elements that aren’t immediately possible because of time or resource constraints, don’t scrap those ideas.

Instead, keep them, but move them to the back of the list for future consideration in later iterations of your site.

The wishlist is meant to be a repository for ideas so that you can prioritize and act on them over an extended period of time.

Launchpad website

With traditional web design processes, the launch is the grand finale of the project.

In growth-driven design, websites are launched right away and iterated on over time.

A launchpad website prevents “analysis paralysis” by taking what you know, translating it into an improved version of your current website.

Don’t fall victim to the idea that everything must be perfect before you can launch.

Instead, pick some achievable items from your wishlist (aim for around 20% of your total list),  launch your site and then commit to an agile approach for making improvements over time.

Phase II: The design cycle

Once the launchpad website is complete, your work isn’t done.

If you only chose 20% of your wishlist items to include in the first iteration of your site, then you still have 80% of your list left– just waiting to be implemented into the next version.

This approach sets the stage for continuous improvement and creativity, but in an intelligent and sustainable way.

The second phase builds on the agility you created in phase one, for even greater potential to learn and improve.

It works by using personas to drive four key steps.

Plan

Just as you began with a strategy in Phase I, the first step in this phase involves strategizing and identifying the items with the potential to make the most impact on the site.

By reviewing the performance of the launchpad website, you can add, subtract, or amend items on your wishlist, based on concrete data.

Next, spend some time with your sales and marketing teams to glean insight about user feedback, needs, and trends.

Those two teams, in particular, have unique data about what topics users want to see and in which formats.

Repeat the brainstorming process to add new action items and ideas for creating a better user experience.

In the second phase, most actions seek to accomplish a few centralized goals: boosting conversions, improving or personalizing the user experience, and building a repository of marketing assets and sales enablement materials.

After you prioritize and adjust your wishlist, it’s time to pick your new list of action items to include in your next sprint cycle.

Develop

As you start applying a new crop of wishlist items to your site, experiment with each one to gauge the impact it has on the overall success of your website.

To do this, you will need to set up targeted tracking metrics and marketing campaigns to drive traffic to each site element you wish to measure.

Reconstruct and iterate on campaigns as needed to refine your message and resonate with your audience–one wishlist item at a time.

Learn

After you’ve experimented with new site elements and gathered performance data, it’s time to put that knowledge into place.

In the “learn” phase, you’ll review the data about your website visitors and their behaviors.

Do the behaviors validate or invalidate what you hypothesized about your wishlist and website?

What adjustments can you make for better results? Did you learn anything new that you can apply to your buyer personas?

As you answer these and other questions, update your hypotheses and socialize learnings with the rest of your team.

It will keep everyone focused on the right approach and ready to make the most impactful refinements possible in the next round of website design.

Transfer

The last step in the second phase of the design cycle is to transfer learnings to other parts of the business.

Often, user behaviors transcend website preferences and can help inform a better sales and marketing experience for potential customers.

Finally (and perhaps most importantly) these phases and their steps are not meant to be completed once and never thought of again.

The process should be repeated and revisited often to ensure the biggest impact possible for your site.

The benefits of growth-driven design

The impact of this approach is remarkable.

As previously mentioned, it alleviates the up-front burden of time, money, and resources and presents an opportunity to make continuous improvements to the user experience and site performance over time.

Research from the 2017 State of Growth-Driven Design Report cites that “agencies who use it see 16.9% more leads after six months [and] 11.2% higher revenue.”

It stands to reason that organizations that follow a persona-centric approach will only be more appealing and important to those personas.

The immediate effects might be higher website traffic, but the benefits reach far past digital marketing and into brand loyalty and customer retention and advocacy.

The internet is a crowded place.

Your audience is distracted by site after site—all screaming for their attention.

Modern businesses can’t afford to leave web design to trial and error–spending thousands of dollars and months of precious time on a strategy that may not even work.

Growth-driven design, by comparison, is backed by research, data, and a careful methodology that considers what the user actually wants from your site.

No matter where you are in the website process, it isn’t too late to take a methodical approach to website planning and launch to stay agile and relevant now and for years to come.

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