Having a website can make or break your business. And not just having a website, but having a good website that is well designed, stands out from the competition, and is able to convert visitors to customers. As a business owner, you may not be equipped to create a well-designed website on your own, so you rely on your web designer or marketing team.
If you are a web designer or marketer involved in building or updating a website for a client you may have heard terms like data-driven design, data-informed design, UX design, and user-centered design thrown around. If you don’t have much experience in these fields, these terms may be quite daunting.
What is Data-Driven Website Design?
Data-driven web design could be broken up into data-driven design, data-informed design, and data-aware design:
In data-driven design you use objective, quantitative data to inform your design decisions. This approach focuses on using objective data such as analytics, testing, and surveys.
In data-informed design, you use subjective feedback to inform your design decisions. Data-informed design focuses on using subjective feedback on a user’s experience.
In data-aware design, you use data as just one factor to inform your design decisions. Data-aware design tries to not focus solely on data and instead uses data as just one source of useful information for design.
Image Credit : Pexels
All of these approaches follow a philosophy of user-centered design. In the user-centered design philosophy, you focus on the user experience when designing a website. User Experience (UX) design is a set of strategies that put the user-centered design philosophy into practice and optimizes the user experience.
Just as marketing strives to bring customers to your company and then keep their business, all of the terms in data-driven and user-centered design strive to bring visitors to your website, keep them on the website, and encourage them to convert to customers.
By understanding how users interact with your site and customizing it to best suit their needs you can make a great impact on lead generation.
How Data-Driven Design Works
Start to view your business’ website as a tool with its primary use being to generate leads for you.
Now while data-driven design is useful, don’t let it obstruct your intuition and creativity as a designer. Data-driven design is a tool meant to supplement and strengthen your design approach. You should combine your artistic design philosophies with objective and subjective data on how your audience thinks. This is so that you can make better-informed design decisions that will lead to a beautiful and functional website.
Instead of guessing what your audience likes or wants, audience research can allow you to make educated guesses using facts about how your audience interacts with the website. You will be able to identify what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.
Image Source : Pixabay
How to Gather Data for Data-Driven Design
Since data-driven website design focuses on objective data, it requires research. There are four common methods of research for gathering data.
Usability tests show how easy or difficult it is for a visitor to interact with your website or a specific page. These tests are often conducted by having a user complete tasks on your website while a researcher watches. This researcher will make notes about where or how a user struggles on the website.
Usability tests help identify design problems in the website. Usability tests can be conducted on a finished website or a prototype. Although, usability testing is great for finding weaknesses in a design that already exists.
You can conduct usability tests either in-person or remotely by using third-party software. You can set tasks for participants to complete without a moderator and then, in your meeting room setup, view recordings of the sessions later. You can also monitor how participants interact with your website in real-time by having a moderator.
Analytics tools such as Google Analytics, capture large amounts of data about how website visitors interact with your website. This data includes information like most viewed pages, the route a visitor took to arrive at your webpage, how long a visitor engages with a page, and more.
Analytics tools are great at collecting first party data on how users interact with your website. Using analytics tools to look for red flags makes it easier for you to spot issues such as 404 errors, slow loading times, and broken calls to action. You are also able to catch these issues as they come up.
Image Credit : Pixabay
I think we all know what a survey is. Surveys ask potential site users directly about what they like or want. Survey questions can be close-ended, looking for simple yes or no answers (quantitative data), or they can be open-ended, looking for information on a user’s opinion on their experience (qualitative data). Surveys could be done in-person, through a conferencing call, or by sending a form to be filled in.
A/B Testing Tools
A/B testing tools allow you to create different versions of the same page or page element and test to see which version visitors like more. A/B testing tools are great for experimenting and testing the effect different specific design choices may have on a webpage.
For example, you want to see if changing the image call to action using different free images will have any effect on conversions. You would create two versions of the same page; one with a red CTA image and one with a green CTA image.
You show half your visitors the red version and half your visitors the green version. At the end of the experiment, you could then check and see which version prompted more or fewer conversions.
A/B testing can be really helpful when you need to choose which version of a design to implement to get the best results.
Data-Driven Web Design Best Practices
Now we know what data-driven web design is and how we can gather the data needed to inform our design decisions. Here are some best practices on how to best implement data-driven web design into your website design.
Understand The Basics of Data Gathering
To make better-informed decisions about your website design, you need to understand how to gather data using methods like we discussed above and then interpret that data.
Image Source : Pixabay
You can go about learning data gathering and interpretation through a variety of methods such as working with an analytics expert, taking online courses, or reading articles on this subject.
Identify Your Buyer Personas
To help inform your website design, you should put together some buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional (although can sometimes be real) representations of your ideal customer. Buyer personas will help you to better understand and empathize with potential customers who will use your website.
To create a buyer persona, interact with real customers who use your website. You should also use data about users that you gathered from surveys, feedback, analytics, and testing. Another way of informing your buyer personas is to talk with the people in your sales and customer service departments. They work with your customers directly and should have a lot of first-hand knowledge.
When you create your buyer personas make sure to include information such as demographics, needs, goals, fears, frustrations, and pain points.
A bonus benefit of creating buyer personas is that they can help you identify good participants for usability tests. This will give you a great idea of how real customers will react to your website designs.
Gather Data Scientifically
When you gather data and set up user experience tests, ensure that you employ the scientific method:
- Establish a goal.
- Identify obstacles to achieving that goal.
- Form a hypothesis.
- Perform a test.
- Analyze the results.
In the scientific method, when gathering data it is important to have a strong hypothesis. A good hypothesis includes a segment of users to be evaluated, the changes you will make, what effect you think will occur, why you think that, and what measurable result you expect to see.
To create a good hypothesis, take from whatever data you already have about your users and use the template:
“For [user group], if this is [changed], then [effect] will happen, because [reason], which will [measurable impact].”
Once you have your hypothesis you can then run a test or tests that will meet your needs. Don’t forget to control variables just as you would in a scientific experiment.
Finally, analyze the results of your experiment, see if they match your hypothesis, and see what changes you need to make in your designs.
Image Source: Pexels
Incorporate Testing Into Your Ongoing Marketing Strategy
If you make testing a regular habit, you may be able to find and solve UX issues before they become an issue. Saving you both time and money.
It is well-known wisdom in the development industry, from web development to IoT application development, that fixing an issue in development costs ten times more than fixing it in design. It’s even more expensive when you have to fix an issue in a product that’s already been released.
Conducting usability tests on just small groups of users can help you detect a large amount of UX issues. It may even help you to spot weaknesses in your security and prevent ecommerce fraud.
Running regular tests also means that you are making regular changes to your website. This can become an issue of time and money if you have to get a developer involved each time. Using a flexible content management system (CMS) like WordPress or HubSpot can make adjusting your website easier.
When Gathering Survey Data, Consider User Experience
When you are gathering data by conducting surveys, remember to consider your participant’s experience. You want to keep your surveys short so that participants are more likely to complete the survey. About ten to fifteen questions is a good length. Calling participants through a small business voip phone service may be better as people may prefer to just answer questions instead of filling out a form.
You may be tempted to incentivize users to take a survey but be very careful. Offering an incentive may bias your results. Once participants complete their survey, don’t forget to thank them.
Take Mobile-First Design into Consideration
Today, everybody can access the internet through their smartphone or mobile device. And as more and more businesses implement a bring your own device policy, It is no surprise that in 2020 almost over half of web traffic was mobile devices.
It has become essential for businesses to have a mobile website that rivals or surpasses their desktop version.
Google is well aware of this mobile world. Google now analyzes a website’s mobile version and grades your website based on how good your mobile site is. Your mobile website can affect your SEO results.
Because of this, many businesses now use mobile-first design in their websites. Mobile-first design means that you design your website for its mobile version first, and then adapt the mobile version to the desktop version. This ensures that your mobile website is as user-friendly as possible. Google will also analyze the best version of your website.
Getting more traffic on your mobile site, or your desktop site, or both versions getting the same amount of visitors, depends on your business. If you are actually getting most of your visits on your desktop site, then mobile-first design is not a top priority. Instead, focus on designing an amazing desktop experience and then make sure that your mobile version is user-friendly. If most of your visits are to your mobile site then mobile-first design should be your top priority.
Data-driven design isn’t meant to replace your creativity or design instincts. It is meant to supplement and improve your website design. By using both qualitative and quantitative data you can make better-informed design decisions as well as spot any issues a design may cause.
You can gather the data you need by making use of analytics tools such as Google Analytics, surveys, A/B testing, and usability tests. The data gathered from these tools can help you optimize your website for engagement and conversions.
PJ has a background in management consulting and software development. At DesignBro, he combines both. Personal favorite brand of PJ is Jeep.