In our design practice, we often come across ambitious marketing decisions that arise impulsively and reflect unmet expectations from the current website performance. These decisions have very little data to back them up and they are not explained by a long-term strategy. But at the same time, they require a lot of effort for implementation.
How to Ensure Value-Driven Design in Your Website
What is behind these decisions? Is it a value-driven or emotional need?
Let’s look at an example of a value-driven need: “We are launching 3 new services that will enable us to reach a larger consumer audience. Before establishing a data science team, let’s evaluate what is needed and prepare the change-list for our website”.
Here’s an example of an emotional need: “We are tired of our website, it looks like everyone else, let’s do a redesign. We want to refresh it and make it look different from others…”
There is a difference, right?
The value-based solution offers a specific product to the end-user. It is a need that we discovered, responded, and expectedly improved the performance.
Acting from emotional decisions, we run the risk to come to the wrong conclusions. Here we essentially roll the dice. For example, the look of a website might reflect the unique brand. Changing it can lead to negative results.
We’ll explore best practices using the examples for the service company website. We will see how value-driven thinking can be applied to the website evolution process.
Indicating specific performance targets
Usually, we start by setting objectives for the website. At this stage, it’s important to be realistic.
First of all, it’s a good idea to talk with the stakeholders in the company. It could be the engagement department, marketing department, etc. The purpose is to find out how they use the website to achieve their own business targets.
Practically, interviewing department heads at the beginning of the process will allow us to get the broadest view of the expectations from the website, and further make a comparative analysis for prioritization.
After this we set objectives. A good framework for structuring the business targets of the website is the “Smart” template (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely). This framework allows us to write down the objectives as points aiming towards achieving the concrete result.
You can fill out the table involving all stakeholders in the brainstorm session. Documented goals will literally create a clear vision and keep everyone on the same page. They lead to a focused approach and strategic thinking.
Each goal should have set time-referenced KPIs. For example, an increase in traffic by 7% in the upcoming 4 months.
Solving the user’s problem
It’s easy for visitors to get stuck on the website where things that matter to us are a maze to them. Indeed, they don’t care who we are or how good the service we provide. They came to the website because they have a problem they need to solve.
Website shouldn’t be a platform for service promotion. It needs to provide a solution to the problem.
This is a regular mistake on many websites. All services info is presented in the inner pages or components on the main page. It includes description, specifications and that’s all.
For some of the clients, of course, specifications and details will be important, so they will come in handy as well. But most people don’t order services guided by their description. They do it intuitively, based on their feeling if the service is solving the problem they brought to the website or not. This is what we sell them.
We are not selling a car by laying out the entire lineup with detailed descriptions. But we first ask the client “Why do you need a car?” in order to choose what the client needs and present only one or two models.
And similarly, IT services can’t be sold directly, due to including highly qualified specialists, exciting workshops, and a full range of activities divided into sprints. We sell a completed product that will facilitate the client’s business processes. It will give him the opportunity to earn money and no longer remember that this was a problem some time ago.
Every business has pain points. As better we make research and discover the client’s difficulties, as better, we will be able to meet their needs. Only conducting interviews with users and asking questions about the problems they face, can help to understand these needs, sort them out, and create a meaningful value proposition .
Showing tangible results
The next important component for value-driven design is the building of an understanding of the end result. It is important not to be abstract here.
The client should clearly project the impact of the efforts on the results of his business.
In my practice, I have often seen that clients were aware of the importance of a well-considered service and were confident in the developers’ expertise but still were not always sure what the final result they would get. And most importantly, they couldn’t understand how to measure the positive and negative scenarios.
In different words: We have created a service, but what exactly will it provide? How will the client’s business change after our involvement?
Information that the company has already done 350 websites doesn’t bring the value. It also makes no sense to show the awards of well-known companies that have contacted you. It may look spectacular, but it will not be Youeffective. They could entrust you with an insignificant role in the project.
Reaching the Case Study page, the user wants to know exactly what we had to deal with, what the situation was at the beginning, and what was the process of solving the problem, and what were the business indicators after cooperation. It will be especially convincing for the clients whose case is identic to the described one on the website.
There are the most common KPI that we use to measure the performance:
- Net promoter score
- Customer Satisfaction Score
- Customer Effort Score
- Basis Points (BPS)
What kind of indicators to use in the proposal depends on the specifics of the service provided. But it definitely gives the message of aiming at results, instead of selling the service itself.
Turning customers into heroes
Another mistake service companies usually do is positioning themselves as heroes by means of collaboration with a client.
Typically, the list of clients is published as a collection of awards with brief explanations of the experience, where we tend to take more credits and believe that we look perfect in this way.
This way, we are missing the opportunity to convey another value to the customers — empathy for success. The companies looking for a contractor are essentially playing the role of Luke Sky Walker and want to find Master Yoda, who will be leading them to their goal.
By making a hero from the client, it makes clear that we associate our own success with theirs and we have a personal stake in helping them build their business.
McKinsey research has shown that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they have been treated
I’ve seen a lot of heatmaps, which showed that the user is particularly interested in the portfolio. Then he moves to the services, reads the description, and visits the page “about the company” to get familiar with the company. If the portfolio section is designed correctly and the client’s success is highlighted first, and you are displayed as an assistant, the website visitors will understand your values and it will immediately inspire confidence.
If you want potential clients to care about your company, first show that you care about them. Putting the customer in the spotlight will definitely increase loyalty and open up new business opportunities.
Testing assumptions with analytics
Value-driven decisions don’t come directly from analytics. We need this quantitative data only to confirm or deny the hypotheses we are testing.
When we see a need, we are formulating a hypothesis to satisfy it. And at this stage, it’s okay to sometimes make emotional conclusions as well. The challenge is to make sure that our thoughts are correct and that the decisions based on emotions make sense. Analytics helps combine emotion and science.
A/B testworks best for hypothesis testing. But it doesn't fit if, for example, we are adding an element for a tactical long-term goal and want to test its effectiveness. In this case, validation is possible through general statistics from a long period of time.
It’s important to set a time frame for the validation of each performance goal. In my opinion, the ideal period is 2 weeks for each test. After this period, we make conclusions from the results. Some tests may take less time. While we are following the data, it’s possible to make minor adjustments to eliminate the inaccuracy of the result.
At the end of the test, we can come back to the questions that were raised at the beginning of the experiment and answer them:
- How did the client respond to the new strategy?
- What was the most successful on the way to the contact form
- How many visitors increased on a specific page on the website?
Revising and adjusting strategy long the way
One of the certain things to remember from documenting the strategy is that it is a living document. Extremely important to continually review the strategy and make adjustments based on test results or new requirements.
A good example is a current situation. The world has significantly changed with the outbreak of COVID-19. A large part of the business has gone online. Therefore, it is time to update personas and rethink the positioning strategy according to the changes in the target audience.
This will be followed by a list of changes to adapt the website to the new reality.
It could be the implementation of different information policy in the blog or approach modification in some of the service activities. Maybe it will make sense to highlight a short message on the main page of how you run discoveries, workshops, and meetings, in general at this period time.
And of course, it could be the opposite: we can keep everything the same and create the impression that there are no changes in the company. It makes sense if we feel that customers expect this kind of behavior.
To obtain qualitative data from users' behavior on the website, I would recommend such a tool as Hotjar. In addition to basic analytics, it allows us to test user behavior on a specific page. There is also the possibility of creating a survey or collecting quick feedback. But you need to be careful with this. This type of testing is not suitable for all audiences.
Resources I found helpful:
- From a data-driven to a value-driven company by Isabelle Flückiger
- Perceived Value in User Interfaces by Aurora Harley
- Why the customer experience matters by Bill Javetsky
- Value-Based Design by Meg Lewis
- The Risks of Imitating Designs (Even from Successful Companies) by Kathryn Whitenton
- Original Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design by Jakob Nielsen
- Goal-Directed Design Process by Alan Cooper