Traditional Web Design is Broken - Enter Growth-Driven Design

By Craig Wiltshire - August 18, 2015

We've revisited this very useful, and very valuable blog, and updated it to reflect the state of growth-driven design (GDD) in 2017. This is the story of one inbound marketing agency's journey of transforming their approach to website design based on the principles of GDD (this is part one of a series of two blogs on our GDD journey).

Growing & Differentiating Web REdesign

Like so many journeys into the unknown, Struto's path to transforming our approach to website design began with a deep sense of dissatisfaction.  

It had been two years since the launch of a previous iteration of our Joomla based website (Joomla is an open source CMS) and the time had arrived to move our website onto the HubSpot CMS. It was a new beginning and another chance to nail the website of our dreams.

All the same, our hearts weren't exactly brimming with anticipation. We had been in the web design industry for long enough to know that even if we aced all our design requirements, we'd end up in the same spot within a year or two; dissatisfied with our website's performance and planning our next iteration.

Questioning our methods wasn’t comfortable, but it was necessary. The need to differentiate ourselves within the inbound industry had become more critical than ever before. The differentiation we’d been aiming for extended past brand alone - it influenced the way we package and sell our services, the verticals we target and where we position ourselves within those verticals - you get the picture. It's like chasing a moving feast and a static website just couldn't keep up.

The Old Traditional Web REdesign Story

Over the years, we've seen a similar biennial redesign cycle in our client base. We've been an inbound marketing agency for over five years now, and website design and development has always been part of our offering. We used to have clients that were on the 3rd iteration of their website in 4 years. All our clients had a new website built by us as part of their onboarding process. Those that had websites at the time we engaged, all had sites developed within the previous two years. Sound familiar?

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Our Head-of-Design's frustrations

Stefan Pheiffer, our Head of Design at the time, and I had a chat about how to tackle the continuous improvement of a website from a UI and UX perspective.

We had implemented about 10 HubSpot CMS new builds, redesigns, integrations or template customisation projects over the previous year and Stefan handled around 90% of the user interface (UI) and user experience design (UX). Stefan also took the lead in the UI and UX on a complex SaaS platform for one of our clients. As a result, he had steeped himself in all things UX and UI for over a year.

This is what Stefan had to say:

"Here's the challenge. When we build a website we gather all the best practice we've picked up over the previous few months, we tap into the latest trends and thinking around design and how a user reacts to or interacts with a website. We then build hypotheses based on our learning. But we never get to test those hypotheses."

The situation gets compounded by the fact that most prospects don’t factor management, let alone continued improvement, into their website builds and budget in the first place! In another blog of ours, this gets framed into perspective in accordance with growth-driven design, and how it allows for agile, ongoing optimisation in your website redesign

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my concerns as the ceo of a digital marketing agency

As the CEO at Struto, my concerns are always two-fold; what's best for Struto and what's best for our customers. The more we build websites on HubSpot's CMS, the more we're convinced that it's the right platform for our clients. We love HubSpot's CMS because it gives our designers and developers the flexibility to create modern websites that directly support the marketing strategies we build for our clients. We love it because your site gets hosted on kick-ass, stable, enterprise-class network infrastructure and we love it because the HubSpot CMS out-performs most popular CMSs from a speed perspective (Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal).

What I didn’t love at the time was that we weren't given the opportunity to implement the features that really set HubSpot's CMS apart from good old favourites like Joomla or Wordpress. I'm talking about addressing user context with smart content.

Imagine the potential to personalise a prospect's journey through your website by dynamically presenting them with the content they need to see based on factors such as where they are geographically, the device they're browsing on, the website they've just come from, their buyer persona or where they are in their buying cycle. Awesome! It's proven to increase conversion ratio's, but very few companies are taking advantage of the opportunity. Why?

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Because ... it's tough. It requires an in-depth  understanding of your buyer personas and their behaviour. It requires the balls to embark on a process that will almost certainly go wrong sometimes. It requires an iterative process to get it right and that quite simply does not fall into the traditional website project methodology. There can be no "let's build this thing as a one-off, and we'll see you in 2 years" scenario. There can only be a "let's go on a journey of discovery together, we're going to make some mistakes, but in the end we'll kick ass and chew bubblegum, are you with me?" kind of scenario. 

There was another super-massive black hole holding progress back, and that was the lack of focused education in the market. We were in the midst of one of those perfect storms where the lack of information on how fast-and-furious the approach to design and development needed to change was hindering its own progress. The number of "tenders" or RFPs/RFQs we got that came from companies who had pre-determined their solution in-house without actually speaking to an agency at the coal-face was mindboggling. These tenders focussed 99% of their effort on outlining a brief that means there is only "one solution". This is the solution they had chosen for themselves along with a potpourri of technical requirements. Only 1% of the brief (and I'm generous here) focussed on how the site will attract, convert and nurture prospects through their buying cycle. This is a personal bugbear of mine but there you go. #justsayingthatswhywedontdotenders

The Web Redesign Industry reaches critical mass

We could sense that the way we, as an industry, traditionally built websites in the past, was broken. How could we continue in the same vein and expect to see dramatic increases in performance or multipliers on return-on-investment? We intuitively yearned for a new web design process that gave us: 

  1. A method for launching a website quickly with the most important content locked and loaded at the start. This is the content that will move the business forward in the short-term.
  2. Enough flexibility to  accommodate continuous content additions and therefore scale well to support future plans as well as take advantage of as yet unforeseen opportunities.
  3. The opportunity to document and test our original hypotheses in an ongoing, structured manner with an eye fixed firmly on a prize.
  4. A framework that allows us to build out the user journey for each of our buyer personas over time. In doing so, we must take into account the user's context and as such tailor the content we show the user dynamically as they move through the journey.
  5. A way of breaking out of the two-year cycle of restrictive capital outlay where tight budgets make way for measured operational expenditure focused on results.

Enter Growth-Driven Design

It was at this very serendipitous moment that HubSpot invited some of their partners onto a Webex with Luke Summerfield. Luke was heading up the launch of their new growth-driven design programme. Okay, what's in a name? It sounded like it should probably be called "design-driven growth" but I thought I'd check it out. 

If you're interested in watching the webinar you can watch it below, or jump ahead to our synopsis.

 

The short of it

HubSpot clearly had their ear to the ground, and no doubt had themselves experienced some of the pain I highlighted earlier. Luke's own experience in website design came through loud and clear, as well as his passion and belief in the growth-driven design approach.

Luke tackled the fundamental issue head on: We were simply lurching from website redesign to website redesign every 2 years by spending 3 months working on a hypothesis, launching a hypothesis and then replacing that hypothesis with a new one. Very rarely did that output get measured. This process is not smart.

It was time to get smarter:

  • Let's minimise the risks of traditional design, he said.
  • Let's measure what we do, he suggested.
  • Let's continuously learn and improve, he recommended.
  • Let's underpin and inform Sales and Marketing so they can use what we have learned, he concluded.

I was sold.

Want to Discover our GDD Process? 

The next blog in this series will take a look at how we proceeded to adapt the growth-driven design principles and process to a managed service lifecycle. We'll look at some of the lessons we learned as we moved through the process ourselves.

Are you ready to take a deeper look at the growth-driven design methodology? Dig into your own copy of the eBook below.

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Photo Credit: and you thought you had computer problems via photopin (license)