5 Data Driven Design Tips For Improving Site Performance
As an Inbound Writer for Lean Labs, Melissa writes about high-converting websites and customer-centric marketing. She's an avid traveler, with trips to Iceland, Ukraine, and Portugal under her belt. She currently resides in Wilmington, North Carolina with her dog, Morrie.
What is your website data trying to tell you?
A website can look great, and still not perform. That's why it's crucial to set website goals and monitor performance. It's the only surefire way to determine whether or not your website is attracting customers and converting them to the level you need it.
While metrics such as visitors, exit pages, bounce rate and more are all helpful to know, it can be difficult to tell which declining numbers require immediate action. One of the biggest mistakes of a brand is to make a knee-jerk decision.
To optimize and improve the performance of a site, you need a plan. When companies make website changes strategically, testing design elements, the impact of changes can be measured. As a result, there's more insight into the UX elements that work.
5 Critical Data-Driven Design Tips
With these data-driven design tips, brands can make productive changes that improve overall site performance.
Tip 1: Know and Track Your Key Pages
“Designing a great website user experience requires understanding the problems different visitors have to solve.”
Every visitor that comes to your site has a problem to solve. The most effective way to improve their experience is to prioritize the performance of critical pages first. The homepage, core offer pages, and buyer-journey pages play a prominent role in the customer’s journey through your site. To determine how well these pages are performing, ask:
What's the bounce rate?
Measure your bounce rate by the percentage of visits lost versus the total number of visits. A high bounce rate can indicate customers aren’t finding value in the content on that page, so they’re bouncing (or leaving your site). However, sometimes a high bounce rate can indicate the customer found what they were looking for, fast. It’s important to have the context of the goals of your site when measuring this.
What's the conversion rate?
A conversion is when a customer achieves a site goal. For example, when a transaction occurs, when a customer downloads an asset or completes a form inquiring about a free trial. Measure your conversion rate by the percentage of visits that ended in a conversion versus the total number of site visits. With a solid understanding of your conversion rate, you can use analytics-based conversion rate optimization to see how users are behaving on your site.
How long are visitors staying?
Ever hear of the 10-second rule? We’re not talking about food. Within 10 seconds, users should understand your value prop. To gain actionable insights about the time visitors hang out on your site, measure how much time users are spending on your key pages. It indicates their engagement, especially if they leave before meeting a conversion goal.
Where are the roadblocks?
There’s no such thing as a perfect website, but you can get pretty close. Use the data about user behavior to identify areas where visitors get stuck or confused. Despite the complexity of these roadblocks, resolve them to serve the customer.
Tip 2: Make Incremental Improvements
"Apple and Google are leading the way in terms of design, it’s not just because they can hire the most talented people. A big part of their success is their tenacity in testing every design variable they use."
Don’t make every design change right away. Instead, update with intent, and make changes a little at a time. Over time, making small improvements will not only deliver results, but you'll also have insight into which changes made the most significant impact.
Use these tactics to identify incremental changes to make:
Choose specific variants and run tests to see which one performs better. Make changes to the preferred elements as you go, and use average site time to measure whether or not the improvement increased engagement. Some variants can be as small as a CTA button color, or as large as a creative tool or a better content offer.
Go beyond just A/B testing, and get insight into a combination of design elements. One button change isn’t going to make a significant impact, so it’s important to see the bigger picture and how all of the elements work together.
You can learn a lot using heat maps. With heat maps, you can see how visitors interact with your site. For example, on the homepage, you can see how they react and respond to your CTAs, headlines, etc., and where they go.
Tip #3. Don't Work With Assumptions
“What gets measured gets managed.”
- Peter Drucker, Management Expert
When your site isn’t performing well, everyone will have an opinion why. Instead of jumping in to fix every problem that’s based off assumptions, test, test, test, and validate. That way, every change or tweak made to will have intention and reasoning behind it.
To help compile better data and proof points that show website performance, aim to:
Set Binary Metrics
When testing out certain elements (such as a CTA, navigation, etc.) measure performance without a grey area. Binary metrics won't work for every test (sometimes you need more context), but you can start to evaluate what % of your visitors took a specific action, instead of listing reasons why they may or may not have taken that action.
How quickly are users finding what they're looking for on your site? Heat maps can reveal how long it takes users to navigate your site.
Where does a user click first, and where do they end up? Following the user path can help identify roadblocks. Focus on what is converting, and optimize the paths that are less successful.
When website visitors express frustration with UX or findability, take note. After making a change, check in to see if they feel their problem was resolved.
Tip #4. Set Quarterly Growth Objectives
"Go for the better user experience every time."
- Rand Fishkin, Moz
For your website performance to improve, there need to be specific goals set in place. Each quarter, assign objectives to your website. If you don't, it will be difficult to track whether or not your site is performing the way you need it to. Using the following tactics, you can set and measure the right objectives.
Set SMART Goals
Each website goal you set should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. The success of your website goes beyond aesthetics; it needs to fulfill the objectives of your company.
Know Your Numbers
Start out with last year's page views, pages per session, exit pages, average time by page, % of new sessions, conversions. To know where you're going, you need to understand where you're at.
Get Key Input
Request feedback from key stakeholders, such as the sales team, customer support, and others outside of marketing about your site. Even with data, you can still have blind spots regarding the performance of your site. Listen to what they have to say.
Focus on setting goals that matter. Social likes and shares aren't as important as your business goals.
Tip #5. Prioritize Tests
"Design like you are absolutely right, then optimize like you were wrong from the start."
- Jordie van Rijn
Website testing can fall flat. When you're not getting any significant conclusions while conducting A/B split tests, multivariate testing, the issue may be your approach. It can be overwhelming to prioritize testing website elements, having a strategy will help your team keep focus.
When prioritizing testing for your website, start by:
Creating a Framework
Organize your testing by defining prioritization criteria and measuring effort versus impact. Make it easy for team members to submit ideas with a spreadsheet.
Go by the numbers. Regardless of how you feel about website projects, focus on the tests that will provide the most useful information.
Resist the New
Don't get distracted by shiny new plug-ins and tools. Focus on the tried and true testing methods that can help you see results, faster.
RICE, a product management method, can help teams make decisions about testing. The acronym stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort. This framework is primarily used to organize ideas but can help you make better decisions.
The goal of regular testing is continuous, intentional improvement.
Data Driven Design Improves Site Performance
You can't overhaul your site in a day. The best sites optimize over time. Take it slow, make changes impactful, and conduct incremental changes to see what works and what doesn't.
Tools like HubSpot make it easy to measure the performance of your website pages. Although HubSpot can be expensive, in our eBook, we share our HubSpot savings strategy. We'll show how you can save up to 60% on your first year of HubSpot.
Download the guide to learn more.