Continuous Improvement: A New Approach to Web Design
We’ve been rolling out a new approach to web design and marketing that increases the value of our client’s digital offerings over time. We call it Continuous Improvement (CI).
Compared to a traditional web design project, this approach is able to provide better results for several reasons:
- It brings a new web platform ‘to market’ faster
- It leverages data on user behavior to make incremental improvements
- It extends the lifecycle of a site beyond just a couple of years
- It spreads the cash outlay over time
What is it?
In short, CI is an iterative design methodology geared towards the fast-paced nature of digital marketing. It is rooted in Agile and inspired by HubSpot’s Growth Driven Design as well as Blair Enn’s concept of “website as a service”*.
In a traditional web project, you spend several months designing, developing, and tweaking a website before showing it to the market. You then let it sit for 2–3 years before another major redesign is needed.
With a CI approach, we stand up a paired-down version of the new site in a relatively short amount of time, then use user data to prioritize the next several months of incremental improvements. This keeps the focus of the website on initiatives that can drive success metrics upward and prove both immediate and growing value into the future.
What it Involves
At its core, CI involves defining goals and objectives for the site’s content, design and development features. A ranking system is established early on to prioritize these features based on their value, level of effort, cost-benefit, user data and finally, the shifting business needs of our clients.
For many companies, this iterative approach can be put into place almost immediately after a short strategic discovery session.
In some cases, though, a company needs an immediate and drastic change for any number of reasons: their site is aesthetically dated, not responsive or built on an aging platform. In this case, we create a custom-designed launchpad site that can be taken to market quickly (typically 6-weeks) and is built on a modern platform that is usually head-and-shoulders above their existing site. We then build off the platform through monthly initiatives.
A Breakdown of the Benefits
Beyond the benefits listed at the beginning of this post, Continuous Improvement has 3 core benefits that make it a valuable and viable option for any-sized company.
- Minimize Risk: The traditional web design process requires significant effort and cost prior to ‘going live’. With our approach, we move quickly and get to ‘go live’ with the launchpad site in a much shorter timeframe and then learn and iterate quickly.
- Continuously Learn & Improve: The goal is to improve the site based on user and sales data — if we’re getting users but not conversions we need to focus on UX, value exchange, and/or calls to action. If the traffic isn’t there, we need to focus on SEO, content, social, and/or paid media and so on.
- Break out of the ‘Big’ Web Design Project: Most companies undergo a traditional web redesign project every few years. These projects are expensive, time consuming for internal staff, and usually end up sitting static for a few years until it’s time to do it all over again. With a Continuous Improvement approach your web platform is treated as a living extension of your marketing efforts that grows, improves, and adapts to your users and changing business priorities over time. Extending the life cycle and effectiveness of the site considerably.
Different clients have different needs and there is certainly a time a place for the ‘traditional’ redesign process. The iterative approach may not be possible in large companies with many stakeholders or complex needs. Companies with established web presences may be a candidate for jumping into the iterative cycles and skip the launch pad. However, we do like this approach as it helps anchor a company’s online presence as a central focus of their overall marketing efforts.