• Emily Malone

GDD: the ultimate web design process for growth-driven businesses

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes, 37 seconds.

For a while now the website design process has felt flawed. So many companies have outdated websites due to the time-consuming, stressful nature of a complete redesign.

How do you launch a website in a fraction of the time of a traditional website design? How do you make sure you won’t go over budget? How can you be certain that it’ll help your business grow?

You could be wasting time and resources on your website without even knowing it. But there’s a better way to approach your website that unleashes a huge amount of potential to grow your business.

Growth-driven design (GDD) is the process we recommend to our clients – and is how we chose to update our own website. If you’re considering a website redesign, read ahead to learn what’s wrong with the traditional web design process, and decide if GDD is right for your company (spoiler alert: it probably is).

Traditional design: what are the risks?

Your website is your best weapon. It’s your number-one salesperson, and number-one marketing asset. Did you know a prospect has already moved through 70% of the sales process before even reaching out to your sales team?

Unfortunately, the traditional design process is failing us. Marketing is pushed back in order to deal with the months of focusing on planning, lead-up work, content audits, site navigation, wireframing, usability testing, and frustrations over budget and scope. All this in return for an educated guess, at best, as to how the redesign will improve business outcomes after the site is birthed into the big bad world.

My guess is if you were to look back on your last website redesign, you’d start remembering what a headache it was.

Think back and ask yourself:

  1. How was your last redesign experience?

  2. What went right and what went wrong in the process?

  3. How much time/energy/resources did it take to get it live?

  4. Did it launch on time or on budget?

  5. After the launch, did anyone continually improve it?

  6. How excited are you to do another redesign?

Chances are, you’re probably rolling your eyes and rubbing your temples at the mere thought of answering these questions. And you probably recognise a lot of these problems:

  1. Large upfront costs, resources and time. This means your website can be out of scope, over budget, and late to launch. The average website takes three months to complete, and needs a huge amount of resources and energy from your team. Not to mention it requires full payment before going live.

  2. Results are based on assumptions instead of hard data. Your design is made up of what you think might work instead of what you’ve witnessed to actually work. The traditional method launches a website on a theory. But this method lacks a “trial and error” run with your visitors, which would help to determine what would be best for the design process.

  3. Your website becomes outdated due to two/three years’ neglect. Loads of companies get a redesign, launch it, then forget about it for years until they decide to spruce it up again. This makes the website out-of-date and much more expensive and time-consuming to build each time.

  4. As mentioned above: marketing has to be postponed while the site is being created. At the end of the day, marketing can’t and shouldn’t have to afford to take three months off to focus on a site redesign, which might not even be as effective as you’d hoped!

This kind of web design is dictated by your internal stakeholders or web designer, rather than the user. And that’s the root to all of these problems.

It’s crap for marketers, who have to take time away from daily projects to focus on the website redesign. It’s crap for business, which has to spend an extortionate amount to create something that’s static for two to three years. And it’s crap for the customers’ user experience, which isn’t strategized from hard data, and worsens as the site becomes increasingly outdated.

Overall, it’s a lengthy process that’s expensive and lacks impact.

Smarter website design: Growth driven design (GDD)

Growth driven design changes our approach to building and growing a website.

Growth Driven Design is the new gold standard for delivering successful website redesigns that bring measurable business value…

…it is a smarter, agile and data-guided approach that minimises the pitfalls of traditional web design and produces high performing websites.  (Gabe Wahhab, Square 2 Marketing)

GDD minimises the risks of traditional web design by systematically shortening the time it takes to launch. To do this, you need to focus on real impact, data, and continuous learning and evolving.

It allows your website to grow as your business does, as it’s an iterative, ongoing process, not a stressful ‘all-at-once’ event. Launch, analyse, then enhance!

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”

Benjamin Franklin

What is growth driven website design?

GDD has a shorter wait for launch, reduces the chance of any over-budget, and there’s no chance of lateness because, well, your site is never ‘finished’, as it’s always learning and improving.  This means there are no hard deadlines for you.

It’s a process of continuous website design that’s spread out over time with a quick launch so improvements can be made. This makes it agile, on time, and on budget. You can make data-based decisions to minimise guesswork.

This will not only minimise risk, but it’ll allow your marketer to test theories and run experiments to find out what works best for the customer. The ability to constantly test, learn and adapt your site will actively inform and interact with both marketing and sales.

Derived from visitor behaviours on your site, GDD allows informed performance improvements. This is certainly better than going under a site redesign every two or three years to rid yourselves of outdated UX and stale content.

Result: delight customers by constantly evolving, enhance messaging and UX by reading what works in data and listening to feedback from those who use it. Create a web experience that completely surpasses your competitors and keeps those customers happy.

Plus, as a nice little bonus, updating your site in small iterations will make a faster impact and require less of your time, attention, and budget.


The growth driven website design process

The GDD process is broken into 3 stages. The first stage is strategy, which ensures you develop a solid plan for growth. The second stage is building and launching a foundation website, which is the starting point for GDD activities and improvements. The third stage is the GGD cycle, on-going cycles of planning, developing, learning and transferring knowledge.

Stage 1: Website strategy

Establish your website goals 

What are the performance goals that you’re trying to achieve with your website? How has your site performed in the past, and where would you like to improve?

A SMART goals setting framework is best for this process. It enables you to measure progress, improvements, direction, and success in a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely fashion.

You need to set goals based on business performance in the past, projections of your team, and if applicable, on data around other businesses in the same industry.

A good example of a SMART goal is “Get X new visits by 1/09/2016 through content related to the new campaign.”

Define your buyer personas The fundamental base to all growth driven website designs is to form a deep understanding of your buyer personas and their goals.

Your buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. You can create different groups of personas based on common characteristics your audience shares. This could be a point of pain, industry, job title, etc. This helps you to form an idea of how best to use your website to attract, engage and convert them.

Here’s a great video from HubSpot’s Stephen Higgins explaining buyer personas:

Dig into your website analytics Collect analytics, funnels, heatmaps and recordings (we use Google analytics and Hotjar) to analyse your current website’s performance. Then do a quantitative audit of the good things and the bad. It’ll show you how users get to your site, how they interact with it, and why they abandon it. Learning this will allow you to recognise why they’re taking a certain action, and help you to figure out what creates a high-performing web page.

User research Reaching out to your existing users to learn more about them, what they want and why, and find ways to improve. This will also help you to validate the stuff you’ve put in your persona profiles and your website messaging.

Oh, and don’t forget SEO Launching a new website can have negative effects on search ranking so be sure you’ve devised what your buyer personas will be searching for on the web, and identified which keywords are driving traffic and leads to your current site.

Fundamental assumptions By using what you’ve found out from all the previous steps and putting yourself in the shoes of your users, you can now start forming some fundamental assumptions about your users.

These assumptions can include:

  1. Value propositions for each product, service or offer

  2. The various locations and devices users will be accessing your website from

  3. What information your users are looking for

These assumptions will help you to explain the behaviours and motivations of your users. They influence both the global and page strategy, and also future growth-driven design cycles

Global and page strategy This last step in the strategy phase develops both a global strategy for the website as a whole and a specific page-by-page strategy for each major page on your site.

Both of these global and page strategies need to incorporate all the previous steps. They should also lay out a detailed strategy of exactly how to best engage and influence your users to best attain your goals.

Stage 2: Foundation website

Wishlist Brainstorm a wish-list of everything that will help you achieve your strategy in an ideal world if money, time and development skills were not an issue. Include everything that’ll increase the impact of your website, creative and innovative ideas, such as key website sections and pages, marketing assets or tools, specific features or functionality, design elements, or personalisation.

80/20 analysis on wishlist In the wishlist phase, you will have compiled a long list of all the action items you’d ideally want on the site. You’ll need to sort and prioritise these to determine which action items will happen first.

The best way to do this is to review the list with your entire team and identify 20% of items that will produce 80% of the impact and value for your website’s users. Once you’ve identified those core 20% items, pull them to the side and do some additional filtering by asking yourself: “is this action item a ‘must have’, or actually just a less important ‘nice to have’?”

Narrow down the list so your impactful ‘must have’ items can be added straight away to ensure a quick launch.

Hypothesis statements for each core action item Once you’ve narrowed down your list of action items for the launch pad website down to the most impactful 20%, then you’ll need to create a hypothesis statement for each one of them. This allows you to be clear on how each action item relates back to the goals you’re trying to achieve, the persona you’re focusing on, and the expected impact.

Here’s an example of a hypothesis statement:

‘Action item 1 For [MARKETING MARY] visiting the [PRICING PAGE], we believe that changing [ENTERPRISE PRICING] into a [REQUEST A QUOTE] will [BOOST MGL CONVERSION BY 10%]. We believe this to be true because [RESEARCH OR PREVIOUSLY VALIDATED ASSUMPTION].’

Website user experience Now the standard website process starts. Starting with mapping out the foundation sites’ user experience and information architecture, wireframes and draft content. Think about how you’re going to represent the information, and what would be most effective and user-friendly.

Website design and development (“What? All the way down here?” you say. Yep)

Okay, now it’s time to start designing and building. I know what you’re thinking, seems a little late in the process, right? But it’s important you get the other things right first before you start designing. This saves time by reducing the risk of making uninformed design decisions and designing based on assumptions. Make sure it’s easy to look at, easy to navigate, easy to grasp, and easy to share. The trick is to make sure your users won’t have to think too hard.

Automation and workflows This applies if you’re planning on using marketing automation software, such as HubSpot. You can set up all the automation for what happens once someone acts on your site. This includes email nurturing and lead scoring sequences that let you keep track of your visitors’ actions and give them tailored content.

QA, browser testing and launch Before you make the site live, set up qualitative and quantitative data collection to measure your goals and each of your fundamental assumptions. This way, you can start learning about your visitors straight away and make sure you’re going in the right direction.

Test it, test it again, and test it some more for good luck, then make it live.

The GDD cycle: continuous improvement.

Review and brainstorm wishlist After you’ve launched and collected data, you can use this to inform you what needs improving to reach your goals or improve your users experience. This could be an inactive CTA, a page that doesn’t get any click-through love, or something else!

You should also speak to your sales team and see what insight they have learnt about your personas that could impact your GDD wishlist. This could even be a blog article your customers really liked.

Plan and deliver your sprint Add any new items to your existing wishlist, then prioritise them based on high / medium / low impact on goals and value to your users.  You can then pick the most impactful action items to put into your sprint cycle.   

Rinse and repeat. Plan, prioritise, develop, learn, apply impactful actions, rinse, repeat.

So there you have it! The GDD process broken down into delectable, bite-size chunks. If you’ve any more questions, don’t be shy. Let’s have a chat in the comments section below.