How to use the 80/20 method to improve your website fast

It’s a system many of us dream of: imagine if you could only put 20% in but get 80% out. For our working lives or going to the gym, the idea of minimal effort for a huge return on investment is very appealing.

Well, in the world of growth-driven design, this is exactly what you’ll be aiming for when planning your launchpad website. You’ll have started the process by strategising, auditing what you already have, and bringing your team together to review all the changes that need to happen in the new version of your website. This wishlist is likely to be long – over 200 items might be on it – so you can’t action all those changes at once: you need to prioritise.

In this post we’ll walk you through choosing the 20% of elements to go on your new website that are going to produce 80% of the impact and value for you and your users.

A meeting is conducted with people around a table

Once you’ve conducted your wishlist meeting with members from across your team, it’s time to whittle down the items you’ve collaboratively added in order to decide which 20% are essential to implement from the start, and which can wait on the list for a while.

You need to ask your team to be honest in their analysis of each idea, not taking things personally: if none of an individual's ideas are selected for the first wave of new additions to the site, this isn’t a personal slight on them – it’s just that there are more urgent changes needed. As the strategist will be leading this session, they need to help prevent confrontational conversations but keep the end goal in mind of launching a lean, strategy-driven website that can start to show instant results.

Step 1: 'Must haves' and 'nice-to-haves'

Your wishlist is a living, breathing document: not something that's set in stone. This new, flexible approach to changing and shifting what you add to your website and when you do it, is what makes GDD stand out against traditional redesigns and, ultimately, what will make it a more successful option for your business. As HubSpot says:

“Your wishlist will be used both to determine the initial action items to implement on the new site, but is also an agile and flexible list that you will continuously be adding to (and subtracting from) as you are re-prioritizing action items over time.“

  • Once you’ve whittled your list down to the initial 20% of ideas you’re going to move forward with (not forgetting that you’ll be coming back to the others further down the line), it’s time to categorise this new, smaller list down even further. Ask yourself: is this a ‘must have or a ‘nice-to-have’? Any ‘must haves’ remain on the 20% list, any ‘nice-to-haves’ are returned to the initial list to be actioned later on.
  • Next, of the core items that remain on your ‘must haves’ list, further filter your answers down by asking: is this absolutely necessary to be added to the initial launchpad site, or could it wait a couple of months to be added?”

Remember: The whole aim of the launchpad stage in the three-part process is to create a quick turnaround: you want to get the new site live and producing results for your customers and business as soon as possible. By using the 80/20 method, you’ll be sure to include only the absolutely essential items at the initial launch.

lightbulb post it pinned to a board

Step 2: Create hypothesis statements

The survivors of your wishlist cull are now ready to be scrutinised more closely. If they’ve made it this far, they must be really important to the success of your business – well done to them for surviving and being on the way to helping your website become your best salesperson!

Now it’s time to create hypothesis statements for each remaining item on your wishlist. Let’s go back to your science lessons at school: remember the moment before you were allowed to pour beaker 1 into beaker 2, you had to write a few sentences explaining what you thought would happen? This is much the same as what you do with hypothetical statements for your launchpad site. Create statements in the following structure:

  • For [enter your buyer persona e.g. Blogger Betty]
  • Visiting the [enter an element of your website e.g. the blog]
  • We believe changing [enter existing element e.g. most recently written blog post]
  • Into [enter new element e.g. a blog post from the library relevant to their recent searches]
  • Will [explain the benefit e.g. boost time spent on the blog and improve CTR].
  • We believe this to be true because [enter reason e.g. previous validated assumption].

By using this same sentence structure for each website item on your 20% wishlist, you’ll ensure you’re making the right decision and changing elements that will really make a difference. Creating one of these for each idea on your list, will force you to closely review the relevance, required input and expected impact of each change.

Now it's time to impact score these hypotheses. Beneath each statement, add these four considerations:

1. Expected impact: This should be represented by a single number. This number should indicate the value your user will get from the new item, as well as the impact it will have in moving your business towards its goals.

For example, you might give the above example 8 (out of 10) because increasing user time spent on the blog is one of your business goals.

2. Effort required: This should also be represented by a single number. You’re now considering the resources and time that will be needed to implement this action, as well as how quick and easy it will be to implement for your team.

For example, you might give this an 8 (out of 10  with 10 being easy): all it will require is some input from your developer to alter your blog template, allowing the order to change from a chronological system to one where relevant posts to the user appear at the top.

3. Metrics measured: You need to decide what you will measure to test the effectiveness of the new items being added to your site. Which metrics will help evaluate whether your hypothesis is actually correct? The more specific the metrics, the better the knowledge.

For example, you might monitor visits to your blog, CTA clicks, average time per page view, and bounce rate to monitor relevant user behaviour.

4. Definition of 'complete': Ask your wishlist team how they’d define each point being finished. Make a record of this from the start so there are no grey areas: eliminate ambiguity so that reviewing effectiveness and efficiency later is straightforward.

For example, you might decide that once your monthly visits are reaching 350, your CTA clicks are at 3%, average time spent on the page is 3 minutes or over, and your bounce rate is at 70%, you’ve achieved this item: but only when all these elements are satisfied.

Remember: 'For__ visiting the__we believe changing__into__will__. We believe this to be true because__.'

These sentence starters are the structure to use for each hypothesis statement you create. Then add the four statements underneath for each website element. Keep these consistent, founded in evidence and visible to everyone on your team to refer back to.

Computer screen showing analysis dashboard

Step 3: Web process and data collection

Once you have identified the most critical action items for your launchpad website – and applied the above hypothetical thinking on them – you can run them through your website implementation process. This should include:

  • Messaging and content
  • User experience
  • Site architecture
  • Inbound marketing strategy alignment
  • Wireframes
  • Design
  • Development
  • Quality assurance and testing
  • Setting up data collection tools and accounts

Top tip: When you set up your data collection tools, make sure you define these around the goals you laid out in the strategy phase, your fundamental assumptions, and the hypothesis statements of your action items that are going live on the launch pad site.

You are now ready to set up your launchpad website! You’ll want to establish a secure and repeatable data-collection process, including a combination of qualitative (talking to your users) and quantitative (data-led behaviours from your website) methods.

Ensuring you set up data collection methods to evaluate your new website by will inform where you take it next: the remaining points on your wishlist can be re-prioritised and tweaked according to the initial data you track on your launchpad.

Remember: At the heart of these changes is your user. By making their journey more enjoyable, creating a ‘sticky’ site that they keep coming back to, and ultimately meeting their needs, your GDD website will be keeping everyone happy – customers and your business, as both reach their goals.

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