A Quick Introduction to Growth Driven Web Design

by Chad Carpenter | 12 MIN READ


Most marketers or business owners do not have fond memories of their last website design project, and understandably so. Fortunately, while web design is a mandatory facet of online survival, the traditional process involved with designing your website is no longer the only option.

Growth Driven Design has quickly become the smarter way to handle web design, .

Without a redesign, over time the quality of your website will deteriorate, look out of date and even lose rank on the search engines. It will no longer be a viable marketing and sales tool.

Most websites are currently built as a set project, with marketing scrambling and without time for a fully fleshed out user strategy to create the perfectly designed website. Once the website begins to take shape, often the company--especially as more teams begin to give insight--realizes they want much more than initially was discussed and the project becomes larger in scope.

Then come the unexpected budget increases, scope creep and extended deadlines, causing many in the company to start wondering if the web design juice is worth the squeeze.

This is not ideal, as opportunities for website improvement are overlooked, tasks that can improve conversion rates are missed, and the website just doesn't perform as the ideal sales person for your company (the goal of any kick ass website). In other words, “marketing atrophy” begins to set in as soon as you launch the new site.

And history has shown that after 2-3 years, this process will need to happen again.

This doesn’t seem very desirable considering the resources, and time, that are required for a traditional website redesign.

Growth Driven Design looks to address these pain points and marries the redesign process with an agile methodology, combined with marketing and sales goals.

What is Growth Driven Design (GDD)?

Growth Driven Design, or GDD, is a new way to approach web design with the goal being to create a peak performance website while minimizing the risks of traditional web design.

Founded on the principal of continuous learning and development, Growth Driven Design projects are a more systematic approach that focus on real impact by learning from real data inside your analytics allowing for smart, tangible design improvements on a continual basis. Besides shortening your time to launch, this design process makes the website work better for your business.

In contrast to undertaking a new all-at-once site redesign every two years, continuous learning and improvement are the core of GDD, which focuses on iterations, or “sprints” for shorter timeframes—which are less risky and less costly. These iterations allow the research and data of visitor behaviors on your site to better inform and improve the strategies and tactics of both marketing and sales. There is continual learning instead of one launch with your fingers crossed that the website has the impact with users you want.

Growth Driven Design is an adaptive model that allows businesses to change, improve or enhance their marketing plans to take action based on variables and conditions they both find and encounter during the sprints between updates to the site. Growth Driven Design is deeply integrated with marketing & sales. What we learn about visitors helps inform and improve marketing and sales strategies & tactics (and vice versa).

To better understand the comparison, the following illustrations from Hubspot’s Luke Summerfied (@SavvyLuke) show the additional cost and time that is associated with a traditional website design. Notice the continual growth and impact that GDD has on the business versus the delay related to the traditional model.



How Growth Driven Web Design Works

There are two phases in the Growth Driven Design process:

  1. Strategy & Launch Pad: Lasting around one month, during this initial phase a web design strategy is developed, in addition to a features wish list for the site, and the launch pad website is built.

  2. The GDD Cycle: With the launch pad website live, the focus for the remaining 11 months of the year are to improve and fine-tune the performance of the site. This cycle is a four stage process that includes planning, developing, learning and transferring knowledge.

The illustration below gives you a visual of the two stages.


Strategy & Launch Pad Phase

Similar to the traditional website design process, the first phase of GDD begins with strategy and goals.

This encompasses the following:

  • Goals and Personas: What you are trying to accomplish as well as an understanding of who your buyer personas (targets) are and what they are looking for when visiting your website.
  • Website & Analytics Audit: The quantitative research to understand your user’s behaviors such as how they arrive at your site, including what types of information they consume, the pages on they visit on your website, where they interact/have touch points with your business, how they interact with it and why they might be bouncing or dropping off the site.
  • Opportunities: What are the users’ pain points and where are opportunities to improve the user experience on the new site.
  • Pulling Fundamental User Assumptions: Why do your users come to the site, what are the value propositions for products or services they receive, how and where are they accessing the site (Desktop? Mobile? While shopping? In traffic?), and what information your users are looking for.
  • Global site strategy: Applying this analysis into your new website design with an overall strategy.

Once the strategy is complete, you will develop a wish list.

These are all the things you want in your new site to improve and enhance the user experience to provide an impact. For the initial list, it usually has between 50 and 150 items, but don’t hold back on dream items to have on the site as you will be able to prioritize.

When you complete your wish list, you’ll prioritize it to determine what will be included in your initial launch pad website and organize what list items will be completed at a later phase in the GDD process. Remember to use the reliable 80/20 rule as you prioritize—determine the 20% of project wish list items that will produce 80% of the impact and value to the users on the site. This will give you the “must-haves” on your list and these action items will go into the launch pad site.

Sort the remaining ideas or wants that didn’t make the first cut of the launch pad site before you move on to the next stage.

These items usually fit into one of four buckets:

  • Boosting Conversion Opportunities: Conversion opportunities and points, user paths/flows, value proposition tests, split testing or A/B testing.
  • Improving User Experience: Navigation updates/changes, Improvements to UI, blog layout or enhancing/adapting the mobile experience.
  • Marketing Assets to Build: Tools, marketing resources, or assets that are SEO-focused (these are assets that are going to bring value to the user and can build SEO for your site as well).

The Hypothesis Statement for Action Items

As you have narrowed down your list through this process, you have defined your website’s core purpose—essentially what your site is and what it is not. For each of the action items you have identified for the current phase of the project, you will create a hypothesis statement that defines 1) the persona it is targeting; 2) the proposed change; 3) the specific impact on site performance; 4) what measurement will show the desired impact; and 5) any supporting research or data you have that validates your assumptions.

Here is a hypothesis statement example from Hubspot’s Luke Summerfield:

"For [Marketing Mary], visiting the [Pricing Page], we believe changing the [Enterprise Pricing] into a [“Request a Quote”] will [boost MQL conversions from this page by 10%]. We believe this to be true because [research or previously validated assumption.]"

These hypothesis statements for your action items circle back to the goals you are aiming to achieve, allowing you to gain clarity. The focus is to create measurable changes, and through the process go back to measure whether the changes had the success you hypothesized.

As part of the continuous learning and development at the core of GDD, the “we believe” portion of the statement pulls from research, previously proven assumptions, UX Data, feedback from the marketing and sales team and previous experiments on your site.

In this sense, the Growth Driven Design process is clearly focused on the user and about data-based decision making. It is constant, continual improvement with an eye on achieving peak performance from your website.

Keep in mind that the launch pad site is just the starting point as you move to the GDD stage. This can be uncomfortable for many companies that are accustomed to the traditional web design process, where the goal is to have the ultimate site at one launch. Remember the benefits of testing and improving as you move forward, and avoid falling into “analysis paralysis”.

The GDD Phase: Iterative Development, Improvement & Validation

The GDD process truly begins once you have the launch site live, focusing on iterative development, ongoing improvement and validation - including the monthly sprint cycles over the remaining eleven months.

This entire cycle is solely focused on the end-users—the buyer personas—who visit your website.

Recall the stages of phase two:


At each step of this phase, constantly ask how any action or proposed change relates and provides value to the targeted buyer personas visiting your website. If you are ever unsure as to how an action item provides value or relates to the personas, you should take time to reassess what you are working on and adapt as necessary.

There are four steps that are required in this iterative development/ongoing improvement and validation process:

  • Plan:What will be accomplished during the month? Compare performance against goals, gather additional research as well as consulting with marketing and sales teams. Use this to update your wish list or pull the higher priority items to the front.
  • Develop: Create the tasks and deliverables, set up measurements like tracking codes, and develop marketing campaigns to drive traffic to the new pages or places you’ve built, i.e., blogs, social, email, PPC or a combination.
  • Learn: Ask what you learned about the user. Review results and data from your experiments, i.e., A/B Tests, and decide whether the results validated, or invalidated your previous assumptions. Record these results for reference moving forward.
  • Transfer: Share what you’ve learned with your marketing, allowing the process to achieve the results without unnecessary shifting of focus of the marketing team.

Is Growth Driven Design Better for Your Business?

Based on the overall process and user-based focus in the development, a Growth Driven Design website will have considerably more impact on your business over time than a traditionally designed website. Specifically, if you simply look at the outcome of your website and its impact on your business, GDD is a better process and clearly less risky.

With GDD, you have the benefit of better cash flow management with a lower upfront cost. Your launch pad website will be up and running within a month, taking all the pain out of the traditional website creation process. Then begins the data analysis and validation process - justifying the decision-making process for better design in order to make the website perform and work better.

Each month there is a process of continuous improvement providing you with a website that's getting better, working harder, and delivering business results.

As an added plus, your website doesn't need a design refresh after 2 years as it will already be up-to-date—the process of self-improvement will continue.

The questions to ask yourself...

Do you prefer the upfront costs and risks of a traditional website that may not be able to do the job, or a website that is continually optimized and delivering better results for you?

Discover these 25 other website must-haves to propel your growth online.

Free Guide: 25 Website Must-Haves for Better Traffic, Leads & Sales

Originally published November 11, 2015. Updated November 28, 2017.