Customer Needs: The Key to Website Effectiveness

Aligning your website with your customers’ needs is the single best way to stand out from your competition and to drive more revenues and leads.

Understanding customer needs are key to an effective website.

To design an ecommerce or lead generation website that aligns with customer needs, it is important to start by identifying two things: the right goals, and the right process that will lead to the accomplishment of those goals.

From there, you can design the features that support the behaviors your customers can take in order to accomplish their goals.

Focusing on customer needs

Your goal should be to create a site that serves others, rather than just your company.

Focus on The Customer Needs

Shifting the focus to your customers’ goals will help your team to engage in less debates of opinion and instead turn to testing for validation of ideas. The ideas that win those tests are the ones that help your customers the most, not simply the ideas of someone with the highest title.

Your goal should be to create a site that serves others, rather than just your company. Click To Tweet

You and the entire executive team who oversee the website need to leave behind their subjective opinions and personal preferences. Customer revenue is the core of your business; opinions and preferences don’t sell anything.

Ask “why” frequently

The key to gaining foundational understanding, and aligning features with customer needs, is asking “why” frequently and being genuinely curious about the answer.

It is important not to hold any answers too sacred. Keep yourself and your team open to new ideas and solutions that do not already align with your expectations of what should exist on your site.

Use the define, align, refine & build model

Here is an overview of the path from goals to implementation:

Customer goals (define)

Goals set up behaviors to be validated, but do not need to be validated themselves.

Key Outcome: Review and validate customer goals against overall company goals.

Ask These Questions:

  • What do our customers’ want to get out of the website?
  • What problems does this website solve for our customers?

Fill in the Blanks:
In the 3 months after we’ve launched this website, we’ve seen a/an     (increase/decrease)    in/of    (customers’ goal)    by    (key performance indicator)    .

Behaviors (align)

Behaviors need validation. Highlight hypotheses and validate through data analysis, user surveys, and user testing.

Key Outcome: Make sure what you want your customers to do is actually what your customers want to do, validated by an analysis of their behaviors.

Ask These Questions:

  • What can we help our customers do to achieve their goals?
    • How can the website be a catalyst for these goals?
    • How well does this behavior support that goal?

Make sure the result of an action always points to underlying goal (i.e. – help customers do action). Qualify all guesses before building them, by attaching a key performance indicator (KPI) or decisive metric to track which aids in determining relevance to brand and goals.

Features (refine)

It can be difficult to think outside the realm of features, and it is important to ask questions designed to lay a foundational understanding of the site. This includes restraining the team from any discussion of features until the goals are set. The resulting understanding can then be formed into a list, prioritized and then reduced to just the main features needed for the site.

For example, if your customer’s goal is to “quickly find the most affordable event tickets” and your company’s goal is to “sell more event tickets”, then adding a whimsical feature like a custom animation on the homepage promoting events may not be the best way to meet these goals.

Key Outcome: Possibilities, not prescriptions.

Ask These Questions:

  • How can we facilitate the customers’ behaviors to accomplish their goals?
  • How well does this feature support that behavior?
  • How well does this feature help a user accomplish something, act, behave, etc?

Implementation (build)

Here the task is to diagram “the why,” so it can be shared across teams. This prevents the need to diagram deliverables around “the what,” because ultimately “the what” is your website facilitating customer behaviors towards their goals.

Key Outcome: The actual process to support alignment of behaviors and goals.


  • Align goals with supporting behaviors and their associated features.
  • Determine how you will track conversions on behaviors.
  • Wireframe and prototype solutions that can be tested with users before launch, increasing the likelihood that you’ll find success at launch and avoid rework.
  • Launch features to small segments of your traffic for testing hypotheses using multivariate testing software such as Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely.
  • Measure the effectiveness of each feature against your previously established KPIs.

Aligning your website with your customers’ needs is the single best way to stand out from your competition and to drive more revenues and leads.

Following the Define, Align, Refine & Build model will provide a path to aligning your site to your customers’ needs, from setting goals to implementation and measurement – resulting in more revenues, customers, and leads.

Want to find out if your site’s features align with customer’s goals? Get your free Stuck Score™ and brief explanation of the score with one of our Conversion Strategists.

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.