When embarking on a project to improve their website, the biggest mistake a brand can make is to start by listing out a set of features the site is to include.
Lists of specific features mask the true reason the brand is considering a revamp of their website: to improve specific business metrics.
We at The Good have seen it time and again. A brand team gathers to brainstorm a list of needs for the new site, and everyone starts listing off features they believe will assist in improving their business metrics. But the goals, those specific business metrics, never make their way on to the list.
In the spirit of beginning with the end in mind, the team at The Good has developed a democratic path to improving those business metrics. It takes the form of a goal-setting session, and while having an impartial third party to facilitate will produce better results, any brand can do the following activities themselves.
Jobs to be Done
Goal: Understand the jobs to be done for the site. Meaning, if your website was a person, what would its job description be?
Form: Free discussion. Start the discussion by asking the following questions. If you had to hire your website to do a single job, what would it be? If you had to hire people to do each task the site needs to do, who would you need to hire?
Goal: Form an unsorted list of outcomes to understand the “why” behind the project. Each of the outcomes should start with “increased” or “decreased”. For example, “increase the number of repeat customers” or “decrease the time needed to maintain site content”.
Form: Post-it exercise. Hand out post-it notes and write one desired outcome per post-it note. Everyone share their outcomes and discuss as they post it to the wall.
Rank, Prioritize & Prune Outcomes
Goal: Ranked list of categorized outcomes, based on participant voting and follow-up discussion.
Form: $5 test. Hand out five or so voting dots (aka garage sale price stickers) to each participant. Everyone walks up to the Outcomes wall from the previous activity and, all at once, starts “spending” their “$5 in voting dots” on the outcomes they would most like to see. Participants can “spend” all their dots on one outcome, or spread them out however they wish.
Create an Audience List
Goal: Form a general list of people who will need, want, share, use, or visit the website.
Form: Brainstormed list, facilitator to write on the whiteboard as participants contribute.
Understand the Audience
Goal: Understand the site audience on an individual level, what does their world look like?
Form: Empathy Map exercise. Looking to understand how participants perceive the individuals coming to the site, and understand more about their world. To do so, participants write what the audience is seeing, saying, feeling, doing, hearing, and thinking. Discuss as each participant posts their responses.
Completing these five exercises before forming a website feature list will allow the team to properly decide if a feature is needed, or just desired.
Using a democratic process for deciding on the direction of a redesign (or a new site) will earn buy-in and reveal truths that many in the organization may not have realized. The result will be a website that serves its customers, meets business objectives, and is a star employee.
About the Author
Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.