How to continuously improve your GDD website

Growth-driven design isn’t about “set it and see.” There’s no leaving your website to it in the hope that it’ll perform the way you want it to. A GDD website grows and develops according to constant monitoring, identifying patterns and closely reviewing how users are interacting with its content. GDD is for those who want to continuously improve.

Runner ready to start a race

As with everything else in GDD, there’s a tried-and-tested process to help you know what to do once you’ve strategised and put your launchpad site live. After all, this step isn’t the end – it’s only the beginning. The remaining months of your annual cycle will be dedicated to observing how well your site is performing through:

  • Improving
  • Iterating
  • Experimenting
  • and learning.

This is the time to monitor the initial changes you’ve decided to make, and build on them – adding more and more functions into your site from your wishlist. Here, we’ll introduce the four-part process to help you get into a repeatable rhythm when reviewing the effectiveness of your new website:

1. Planning

2. Developing

3. Learning

4. Transferring knowledge.

Step 1: Plan

A notebook and pen with pans drawn out

The most challenging parts of the GDD process – the strategy and launchpad stages – are done! Now it’s time to go forth and improve. This starts with planning your next steps.

How to start:

The entire GDD cycle should begin with your personas:

  • How do your actions relate to your customer?
  • How do your new features provide your persona with value?

If you find yourself choosing new features for your website without a clear idea of the answers to these questions, you may need to pause and reconsider whether to pursue them.

Your purpose during the planning step of the Continuous Improvement stage is to identify the most impactful items to go on your new website right now and plan to introduce the top ones into the current cycle.

As Six & Flow explains:

“In the plan stage, you pick the metric you wish to improve and where you’re going to focus your time during the upcoming cycle.”

Ways to achieve this:

There are several things you can do to help you identify the areas to improve, based on your existing data – here are just some ideas:

1. Performance vs. goals

Taking a look at any discrepancies between where you are and where you want to be will be a great way to decipher where the opportunities are for you to make improvements.

2. Additional data and research

Coming out of your last cycle, there’s likely to be additional data and research needed. Do this to help you clarify the action items you should add to your wishlist next.

3. Learn from sales and marketing

Speak to your marketing and sales teams; they will have key takeaways to share with the team that no-one else knows about. These gems of information can be turned into meaningful actions in the next cycle.

4. Brainstorm

It’s time for another brainstorming session (following the initial one you conducting during the strategy phase): get everyone back together. Ask everyone for research, evidence and results, then synthesise it all together to decide the new action items to add to your wishlist.

5. Prioritise wishlist items

Organise this updated list of action items into priority order. Assign them with a high, medium or low grading based on what level of impact they will have on the user.

6. Plan GDD sprint cycle

The number of items you pick will depend on how long the cycle is: it’s wise to pick fewer items and really focus on producing excellent results with them, than taking on too much and doing a mediocre job of them all.

Step 2: Develop

small boy takes photograph with camera

How to start:

Now it’s time for you and your team to get down to the business of implementing those key action items you’ve selected and set them live on your site. It's your chance to develop the ideas you haven't yet managed to initiate and watch how they do by:

  • Asking for the help of your marketing team – during the development stage, working closely with them will mean campaign strategies can be developed to promote the new features you’re working on.
  • Remembering there’s no point developing all these exciting new features on your website then just hoping users find them: it is the expertise of the marketing team that will really drive engagement with your evolving website.

Ways to achieve this:

There are several methods you can try during the develop step of the cycle, including:

1. Responsibility

Decide who in your team is going to be responsible for implementing each action point in this cycle, meaning time is used efficiently, toes aren’t stepped on and every item is given equal resources to help it succeed.

2. Experiment

To see the impact each point has on the performance of the website overall, each must be broken down and monitored individually.You can’t validate what you don’t track, so ensure your data-tracking metrics are set in place before anything goes live.

3. Marketing support

As mentioned, your new changes need marketing support to help get them noticed. Try using social media, pay per click, and blogging strategies to drive traffic to these new sections on the site.

Step 3: Learn

Books line the shelves of a library

How to start:

This is the step where you evaluate the performance of what you’ve implemented and learn what you can from the results. Taking time to stop what you're doing and observe is a powerful activity. Start by asking yourself:

  • How are your visitors interacting with your website?
  • Is their behaviour as expected or throwing out some unexpected turns?

Element 7 Digital highlights the importance of including this stage during your continuous improvement:

“Here you step back and observe how the actions you implemented came about... It is the stage to learn, reflect and document about your user personas and their behaviour; figure out what went wrong and which experiments actually worked as planned, so that references can be drawn and to inform actions for future cycles.”

Ways to achieve this:

In order to get a thorough and useful overview of the results of your website changes so far, try to:

1. Allow time

There’s no point drawing information about your users from two days’ worth of activity: set yourselves a realistic time goal to gather substantial data. It’s hard not to be impatient, but you’ll run the risk of gathering incorrect data if you rush.

2. Accuracy of your hypothesis

Based on the information you have collected, you can now validate or disprove your previous hypotheses: did your changes have the impact you expected? You can now learn more about your site visitors, too.

3. Sharing this information

This is valuable data that needs sharing with your wider team. This is best done in a central location where everyone can access it: you need to make it as easy as possible for everyone across your organisation to find and use it regularly.

4. Acting on your findings

Particularly focus on the behaviour of your users and how you might be able to innovate other aspects of your site to improve their experience: your team needs to search for patterns across the data you’ve accumulated.

Step 4: Transfer

Two men transfer files to one another via their phones

How to start:

This is the final stage in the GDD cycle where you need to transfer your learning to other parts of the business: it's no good only a select few having this knowledge. First you need to:

  • Review what you’ve learnt from each completed action item.
  • Decide which information might be useful to others across your wider team.

Luminate explains the purpose of the transfer stage:

“In the spirit of collaboration, everyone benefits in the transfer stage. Your agency collaborators have an intimate understanding of what your site is and needs to be, going forward. Meanwhile, your colleagues will benefit from your findings, while you can learn from their insight. With interconnected relationships like these, a greater, deeper understanding of the website and (specifically) its users will be reached.”

Ways to achieve this:

Here are some methods for implementing the transfer step of the cycle:

1. Learn and share

You might, for example, have discovered that using social proof (testimonials and case studies) on your site is influential for your visitors and encourages conversions. This isn’t only useful to your marketing team but across the business, for your sales team and service operators who will be the ones asking happy customers for feedback.

2. Go back to the start

Go back to the beginning of the cycle and start planning your next cycle. Once you’ve completed the first cycle with one set of action items, it’s time to begin your next round.

The objective each time is to deliver a better end result, progressively learning more about your website visitors.

And so the cycle described in this post repeats itself over and over again until it becomes a natural, automatic part of your GDD process. The more you work through your wishlist, the more cycles you will complete and the more effectively targeted your website is going to become, thanks to the collaborative and information-sharing nature of this model.

This is a solution for data-driven businesses who are seeking an agile, smarter way to use their website, creating an experience that benefits their customers.

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