What are the 3 steps to GDD and could it suit your business?

Like all good things – the three bears, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Beegees – Growth-Driven Design comes in a three-step structure, made up of: strategy, launch pad and continuous improvement. There’s something very comfortable and manageable about three of anything, and with GDD it provides a familiar structure by which to run what could be a daunting change in direction for your business. So what is GDD?

Three cactus lined up on a bench

GDD is a methodology that uses a steady, systematic approach to creating continuous growth which differs greatly from the more traditional process of “set it and see”. As HubSpot powerfully puts it:

“The current website redesign process is broken. Growth-Driven Design brings testing, learning, and iteration to the website redesign process to improve performance, and reduce cost.”

So as long as you’re keen to make productive changes, want to listen to your customers and embrace a touch of experimentation, GDD could be a fantastic alternative to traditional web design for you. Here we’ll explain how those three phases break down and what to expect from each.

Phase 1: Strategy

Every great adventure begins with looking at what you already have. Before setting out to traverse a mountain, you’d check what was in your backpack first, before adding the essentials that were missing. A website is exactly the same.

By conducting an audit – though it may sound a little dull for the start of an exciting experience – you know exactly what you’re starting with. This is the time to focus on what your users really want and care about, gathering information to help you craft an experience they’ll love later on in the process.

A chess player considers his next move

What does this phase look like?

  • Auditing what you have – this isn’t an excuse to completely overhaul your content: most websites already have fantastic, valuable content that should be salvaged into its next iteration. Deciphering what can go, what can stay and what needs building upon is an essential first step.
  • Taking a closer look at the user experience – aspects of the user experience will be closely monitored to see how existing customers are behaving on your site. Where do they bounce? Which CTAs are getting the most hits? This analysis might involve studying heat maps, customer surveys and analytics reviews.
  • Considering SMART goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely goals make up the fabric of all successful strategies. At this stage in the process, everyone in your team needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet.
  • Reviewing buyer personas – you may have them, you may not – if you need to create them, there are many online tools to help you, or if you’re working with a growth agency to build your new website, they’ll help you build them, too. Personas are essential for helping you target a specific audience.
  • Creating a wishlist – one of the most enjoyable tasks of GDD redesign. Creating a wishlist allows your team to dream big for all the functions, modules and features you wish your website could have. This list can be as long as you like because once it’s created, it’s going to be broken down into essentials/nice-to-haves, helping you prioritise your first steps when building, progressing into the elements that can be added later on.

Phase 2: Launch pad

Like all great adventures, the middle section is where everything moves along. This is the real ‘journey’ of the process where changes are actioned, results start showing and data is rolling in. The function of a launch pad website is to begin setting in motion structural, coding and aesthetic changes, based on user behaviour.

This is a quick-fire website which launches far faster than a traditional website because of it’s constantly evolving nature. The aim is to create a “sticky site” that users keep coming back to. Many companies use ‘sprints’ to move work along: these are one- or two-week cycles to complete a certain element of the workload.

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What does this phase look like?

  • Key pages – the most urgent web pages on your site will be identified and prioritised; it can’t all be done at once. Page plans will be drawn up, paying close attention to UX, SEO objectives and their flow.
  • Content creation – it’s far easier to create solid, high-quality content first, get it into wireframes, then design how the pages will look, than doing it the other way around. Starting with content means your pages already take shape before a designer has worked their magic on them.
  • Design focus – with content created, the wireframes can now be used to design an initial idea of what the new website will look like. In this sprint, time should also be built in to collect feedback from the team and to work any changes into round two of the designs.
  • End of sprint essentials – at the end of this sprint, some time needs to be left to allow developers to code in COS, insert links and meta data, and conduct testing. It’s also advisable to launch heatmap and screen recording to help you with the continuous improvement phase.
  • Other pages get a brush up – broken links, old logos, font changes and other small tweaks can be rolled out across the pages that haven’t yet been worked on, just to ensure there’s alignment across the site and less to do later once you do get around to those pages.

Phase 3: Continuous improvement

As you enter the last stage of GDD, the adventure isn’t over: it’s only just beginning! Once your launch pad site is live and collecting that precious user data, you can start identifying which high-impact actions can help grow your business from hereon in. GrowthDrivenDesign.com reminds businesses that:

“Peak performing websites are not built overnight. Optimal performance comes through data-driven optimizations. Traditional ‘launch it & leave it’ website builds can never ascend to the level of performance of a Growth-Driven Design website because refinement is where performance is achieved.”


What does this phase look like?

  • Prioritising your focus metric – every plan starts with a focus metric that you want to improve: this is how we manage and measure progress. This is where we decide on the ideas that will have the highest impact towards achieving the focus metric goal and build it into the sprint.
  • Building action items – this is the point where action items are built around your brainstormed and prioritised in the planning step. You will work in sprint with cross-functional pod or team.
  • Testing – you have to test your new, better-informed strategies now, and give them enough time to throw out some results. Be patient and, even if something isn’t performing the way you’d like, let it run its course: this is precious data.
  • Reviewing and analysing – a key part to optimisation is reviewing experiments and analysing the data you’ve collected to extract important information about your audience. Learning what works (and what doesn't) will help inform your planning of the next steps in your following sprint cycle.
  • Transferring learnings – this useful data is no good stored away nicely in your own head – go forth and share! Once you’ve learned about your users, it's time to share those findings with other parts of the company; marketing, sales, service and beyond. Cross-department collaboration is what growth is all about.

Who does Growth-Driven Design suit?

The beauty of GDD is that it can suit any business, with a website of any size and function. The principles of monitoring user activity, improving page by page and analyzing effectiveness remain the same, from large e-comms sites, through to small, simple ones. For larger sites, a little more time may be required, but as far as the systems and processes of a launch pad site go, everything else will stay the same.

As Impact explains in their article on GDD:

“According to the 2017 State of Growth-Driven Design Report, “agencies that used Growth-Driven Design reported seeing 16.9% more leads after 6 months [and] 11.2% more revenue.”

This isn’t based on small businesses, or mid-sized websites – this is a statistic from across the board. Anyone who wants to improve traffic, leads and sales can make GDD work for them; all it takes is a mind shift.

And while most business leaders like to imagine themselves as forward-thinking and progressive, even the most innovative companies sometimes struggle to come to terms with the fact that they won’t get a shiny new website, completely finished and tied up in a bow after 6 months. Some people like the finality of a single, polished result.

It takes a flip in thinking to embrace a constantly evolving, changing and proactive site that reacts to the behaviour of users and changes accordingly. A website that seems ‘unfinished’ (even though this isn’t the case – and nothing will ever appear this way to users) seems confusing to some businesses, in a world where ‘getting things done’ and ticked off is such a focus.

But once you get past these mental barriers and appreciate how much quicker you could start seeing results, we think you’ll be convinced that grown-driven design could suit your business even better than your previous, more traditional approach.

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