How to Run a Growth-Driven Website Design Project
Learn the nuts and bolts of running a successful Growth Driven Design website project, as we give an overview of the methodology, and our process.
Published: 02 Feb 2021
7 minutes read
Your website isn’t a physical product that you can “build” and once complete, set down on a pedestal for people to admire. It's an ever-evolving entity, meaning effectively, there should be no completely “finished product”.
This sounds scary, I know. But think of it this way - your website is effectively your most important marketing asset, and your best salesperson. Imagine if you never updated any other marketing collateral, and were instead sending out of date communications to your customers? Or you never trained your salespeople, who would continue using outdated sales tactics?
It would be a nightmare. So why is your website any different?
It isn’t. Growth-driven design (GDD) is built on this principle: that your website should be subject to continuous improvement, so it never goes out of date.
GDD is an agile method of website design and development that ensures you’re able to launch a minimal viable product in as little as 60 days, following a strict framework and involving a huge level of collaboration between creators. So, instead of launching a “finished” product after 2 years, GDD allows a new site to go live much faster, and uses real data to inform the remainder of the project, and therefore drastically improve the outcome.
Need a complete refresher on what Growth Driven Design (GDD) actually means? Not to worry, check out our blog here.
However, while it’s great to talk about the benefits of GDD compared to traditional web design, before undertaking a redesign project, it helps to have an understanding of how a GDD project works, and how it’s typically run.
So we’ve broken it down into 4 key project stages: strategy, wishlist, launchpad, and continuous improvement.
Before you get caught up in the excitement of designing your site (choosing the colours and such), it’s absolutely vital to have a strategy for the project in place, which should include the following:
It should go without saying that all projects should have goals - if you don’t, how will you measure if your objectives have been met?
Of course, GDD projects are no different. However, when setting your goals, it’s essential that you're as specific as possible. That means outlining goals beyond “we want the website to look good”.
Since the foundation of any great GDD project is data, you should have accurate, realistic and most importantly, measurable goals that you can achieve through continuous improvement. To do this, think about the product or service you’re trying to sell, how much of this you wish to sell, and how your site can achieve this.
Identifying users and constructing a persona
Arguably the most important part of the strategy phase is taking the steps necessary to fully understand your users and their motivations. Without this, you’ll end up with a site formed by your internal marketing team and the unwanted input of other departments - which, frankly, doesn’t work for anyone.
Your website, above all else, needs to be focused on users - those visiting the site who have the potential to become customers. To do this, you need to have a viable representation of who this person is, using:
- Quantitative data and research
Take a look at the data you already have on your website - anything that can help you better understand how users currently use the site, and how it’s performing. This could be data taken from heatmaps (if you don’t have them, use them, stat), or any other analytics referring to user behaviour and site performance.
Even though you’re creating a new site, don’t ignore the one you currently have - the data you find could be invaluable. For example, you may find that users are particularly interested in finding out where your different sites are located, which suggests a “locations” page could be extremely useful on the new site.
- Qualitative data and research
Not got all the data you’d like from your users from the above activity? Well, it’s time to ASK your customers. Conduct surveys, and ask for feedback from real-life customers and users of the site - what they do and don’t like, what they’re looking for that they couldn’t find - that sort of thing. Your user persona should always be as accurate as possible, so it never hurts to ask those who fit into the category.
Once you’ve conducted a thorough amount of research, you’ll now have fundamental assumptions that you can make about your user persona that can be used to inform how your new site is designed and built. These are usually based on data that helps you figure out what locations users are accessing your site from, what devices they are using, and the pages they’re most interested in.
Not only does this give you a better understanding of how to scope the site, it can even strengthen your product/service offering.
From these fundamental assumptions, you’ll form global and page strategies for the site - a plan for how you’ll engage users both across the site and on individual pages. For us here at AG, this is when we really begin to see how a website will be pieced together - it’s exciting!
Once you’ve established your wider strategies, it’s time for the fun bit - deciding what actually gets to go on the site through the creation of a wishlist. This is typically conducted through an interactive discussion with all key stakeholders, where each member of the project team thinks about what they think should be on the site, and how it can help achieve the goals you’ve outlined in the previous stage.
At Axon Garside, this discussion tends to involve a lot of creative thinking, problem solving and a huge amount of post-it notes. We’ll ask everyone involved to determine what they think should be on the site, and collate it in one huge wishlist which is then narrowed down - but more on this shortly.
TOP TIP: When doing this activity, view it as a creative exercise. Try not to get too bogged down in how achievable your wishes are at this stage, and don’t be held back by the functionality of your current website. After all, you’re creating a brand new site, it should have fresh thinking.
Some examples of where to begin these discussions are:
- Design - what should the site look like on a basic level? E.g, are you looking to do a complete brand overhaul, or should it adhere to current guidelines?
- Important pages - what service or product pages should the site have?
- User experience - how can current user experience be improved?
- Specific modules/features - are there any cool features/modules you’ve seen elsewhere you think would work well on the new site? Bring them into the discussion However, don’t worry TOO much about specifics here - that’s what designers are for!
Once you’ve got a complete wishlist (this is a live document however, so it can be updated/amended as needed), it’s time to start narrowing down the items based on:
- Must-have items
- Should-have items
- Could-have items
- Items you don’t need at this time
To do this well, we recommend using the 20/80 method. Identify 20% of the items that can deliver 80% of the desired value for users. For example, if one of your items is desirable, but it’s not essential for the initial launch, it stays in the remaining list of items to be actioned after the initial launch.
We find this method, also known as MoSCoW, is most effective in GDD projects.
Once you’ve narrowed down your must-have items on your site through the MoSCoW analysis, this is the stage in the project where the “doing” really begins. First, you’ll want to create a sitemap for your website, containing the core pages and how they’ll fit together in a visual representation.
You can do this through a simple spreadsheet, or you can use our free template.
This sitemap will inform the next phase of the project, the launchpad. This will be the site (launched in as little as 60 days) that all future additions and improvements will be measured and actioned from. So it’s important to get it right.
TOP TIP: At this stage, we recommend re-visiting the goals and user personas you developed in the strategy phase. This ensures that the sitemap you’ve created, and any further actions will all be consistent with the wider project goals and objectives.
Once you’ve ensured that all phases of the project are consistent and have narrowed your goals down to individual items, it’s time to assemble the creative team and get to work. This is the stage where all actions related to the site creation can be actioned, including:
- Content & Messaging
- Wireframe & Design
- Development & build (with UX architecture in mind)
- Beginning of inbound strategy & continued content creation (this is something we begin at this stage here at AG, as we believe any further marketing materials should be a part of this process)
This is where you’ll see the benefits of GDD in action. Instead of the delays and confusion experienced in traditional web design projects, those involved in GDD projects should share the same goals, and be completely aware of their jobs in achieving them.
At Axon Garside, we don’t action any of these creative elements in isolation. Instead, practicing what we call collaborative design, all web copy, messaging, design and development is done cooperatively - where words, design and structural build are directly informed by one another. This facilitates a more streamlined, harmonious website - which is then launched as a minimum viable product (MVP), and improved over time in the final phase.
Now that you’ve launched your MVP website, it’s time to begin implementing the GDD process - continuous experimentation and improvement that ultimately leads to a more efficient, successful and sustainable site.
However, in order to do this, you’ll need data from your launchpad (or MVP), which means you’ll need visitors. Of course, if your site is optimised correctly, it should start climbing the rankings, leading to organic visitors. However, this can take a while. To generate visitors more quickly, you can use paid social media and PPC to get the data you need. Once you’ve got the data, you can start improving.
Remember the 80% unactioned items from your wishlist? This phase is where you’ll start to add these to your site, using real data and results from experimentation to decide which are best to implement. But remember:
- Your wishlist will undoubtedly evolve at this stage as you gather more data. It’s important to keep reviewing and tweaking your list based on this, and not simply implementing something because you like the idea.
- Your users are still the core focus. Continue to develop and refine your user persona as you collect data, and speak to your team. Keep tabs on how your customer is developing. Although your site is a digital entity, use those out in the field to gain more information about your customer - have their concerns changed? Particularly in 2021, this an essential activity.
As you’re adding more to your site, you’ll need to keep reviewing your site performance in relation to the goals you outlined in the previous stages of the project, and creating further goals for newly implemented items.
Even if you meet your goals, don’t assume your job is done. Look for new problems, and try and solve them. It may become clear you need new assets, which you can begin to create. Remember that your site is always evolving, and it requires continual evaluation.
TOP TIP: If you’re actioning a few items, remember that QUALITY comes above all else. Don’t try and create too much at once, meaning that things are rushed and mistakes are made. Pick fewer items and execute them well.
A Growth Driven Design website project requires ongoing experimentation, and relies on continued content creation - if you aren’t willing to do this, then your project won’t be as successful as it could be.
And that’s how a GDD project is typically run. Of course, this is a condensed version, but that’s essentially how it works - repeating each stage of the process over and over, with the goal of creating the best possible website for your users. The more cycles you do, the better your site will be.
Hence the growth-driven nature.