For a business, particularly a web based one, a website redesign can be quite risky. What if it doesn’t work the way its planned? What if users hate the new design? What if it drives users, or worse, paying customers away?As a freelance web designer, I need to deal with these questions regularly. The concerns raised are of course all quite reasonable. A redesign is definitely a risky proposition and can cause a great deal of harm, if done wrong. So how can businesses avoid such catastrophes without getting stuck with a dated design? The answer lies in data-informed design approaches.Data-informed design process is essentially basing your design decision on data points by constantly testing design changes to see their effect on performance and user behavior and adjusting appropriately.
Data-informed design is not a new trend and almost all designers have long used data points in their design process. Most commonly, a user’s browser choice and screen resolution are used in determining a design layout that would appear properly on most users’ screens. The problem is that that’s where most designers stop. Data-informed design goes beyond that by testing different design treatments simultaneously against two sets of users, and measuring their effects. You may know it as A/B testing, or multivariate testing. If not, here’s a good intro.
Now, if you’re already familiar with this approach you may be wondering why I am calling it “data-informed” rather than “data-driven”. That’s because with limited resources you need be able to draw a line between relying on data alone versus relying on your own design instincts. Numbers and metrics may look great on paper but they don’t tell the whole story and don’t necessarily reflect the emotions of the user. The data-informed approach is to take your metrics into consideration and then relying on your own creativity to come up with unique design solutions.
Data-informed design isn’t only for web designers. You can make modifications that improve your website metrics, particularly if you are using a versatile CMS such as WordPress. Here are some tools that’ll help you out:
- Google Analytics: It’s powerful and free and has A/B testing tools built in. Integrating it with your wordpress site is a breeze too.
- A/B Test for WordPress: A free plugin that lets you run A/B Testing and has can be integrated with Google Analytics.
- Visual Website Optimizer and its wordpress plugin: A paid alternative to Google Analytics. It’s super easy-to-use, and built for all kinds of data-analysis.
- KissMetrics and its wordpress plugin: One of the best paid analytics soutions with some unique data analysis tool. Their funnel analysis is particularly good if you are selling goods online.
You’ll find lots of others neat little wordpress plugins and other services by searching around the internet.Beyond that, there are a couple of pointers that you should keep in mind when redesigning your site:
- Follow your analytics data closely. Watch out for improvements related to changes made to your design & content.
- Sometimes your analytics may not tell you everything. Speak to your customers directly and ask them for their feedback.
- Follow in the footsteps of other successful companies. Take a look at their choice in layout, color, and content style.
- Don’t waste time testing small details. Large improvements can only be made with significant changes. Be bold!
Guest Post. The author’s views above are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of AnnexCore. Ashraful Sheikh is a freelance web and interface designer from Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is currently dabbling in web developing and is the creator of YouFM. You can find him at MadeByArgon and follow him on twitter @ashraful.