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"How design drives marketing results Ft. Ross Johnson of 3.7 Designs" (Inbound Success Ep. 118)

"How design drives marketing results Ft. Ross Johnson of 3.7 Designs" (Inbound Success Ep. 118) Blog Feature

November 25th, 2019 min read

How does web design influence inbound marketing results?

Adam Sand headshotRoss Johnson Headshot
Ross Johnson

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Ross Johnson of web design agency 3.7 Design talks about why your design choices are about more than just making your website look nice.

From color theory, to website sliders, "above-the-fold" designs, and font choices, Ross debunks several web design myths and shares best practices that really drive marketing ROI.

The conversation isn't just theoretical.

Ross shares how one client he worked with saw a 1000% increase in leads following a visual rebranding of their website, and there are plenty of takeaways for how you, too, can use design to improve ROI.

Highlights from my conversation with Ross include:

  • Ross and his agency 3.7 Designs specialize in design strategy.
  • His belief is that design choices matter and have an impact on marketing outcomes, and he cited one example where split testing an image on a client's homepage showed that using a certain image would improve engagement on the page by 40% or more.
  • When redesigning a website, Ross says that rather than thinking about what you as the company want, you need to think about what your audience really wants.
  • The best way to do this is by starting with the creation of audience personas. Rather than doing this by focusing demographics, Ross suggests you write a story about your target audience.
  • From that, you can create a list of tasks that your audience will want to accomplish when coming to your site, and marry that with the things that YOU as the owner of the site want to get out of it.
  • Ross sees branding as a separate process from this, but one that needs to happen in parallel.
  • When it comes to website visual branding, one way to refine what you want your site to look like is to look at the sites of other businesses in your space and see which ones you like, and then try to narrow down what it is about them that speaks to you.
  • While many brands want a website that feels very unique to them, Ross says that sometimes there are very good reasons to have a site that feels familiar. There are user experience (UX) patterns that are tried and true and proven to work, and that is why many sites will use similar-looking design styles.
  • Many people tend to rely on long standing supposed web design "best practices" for designing their websites, but Ross says that if they result in a poor user experience, you shouldn't rely on them. Examples of these include website sliders, above-the-fold design, trying to keep all information within three clicks (and therefore designing very large navigation menus) and scroll jacking.
  • Color theory is similar. Ross says there are no "universal rules" that dictate what colors you should or should not use and instead, its best to rely on colors that stay true to your brand while using split tests (and tools such as Google Optimize) to determine what will work best.
  • The same holds true for fonts. Choose a font that matches your brand, test to ensure it performs well on your site, and make sure that you set the typeface on your site up so that it is large enough for all of your visitors to read.
  • Ross provided an example of how design can drive results. He talked about working with a construction company on their website redesign. On the surface, it seemed like the site should be geared towards construction clients, but when they dug deeper, they discovered that the company got a lot of leads from architects, who tend to be very visually motivated. They enhanced the visual appeal of the site and the company was able to 5X the number of leads it generated when the site relaunched with the new design.
  • Following the site launch, they used the personas they built to layer on SEO and PPC campaigns, and today, the company gets 1500 leads a months, which is a 1,000%+ increase.
  • For businesses thinking of hiring a web design agency to help them redesign their site, Ross recommends that before you hire anyone, you understand your audience, identify your goals, and review your existing website analytics to learn what is working well and what is not. 
  • From there, he suggests considering a staged website redesign approach with a focus on performance (often referred to as "growth-driven design").

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn you can leverage design to improve your inbound marketing results.


Transcript

Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

I'm your host Kathleen Booth and today my guest is Ross Johnson who is the founder of 3.7 Designs. Welcome, Ross.

Ross Johnson (Guest): Thanks, Kathleen. I'm glad to be here. Hello everybody out there.

Ross Johnson and Kathleen Booth
Ross and Kathleen hamming it up while recording this episode.

Kathleen: Glad to have you. Tell my listeners a little bit about yourself and about 3.7 Designs and what you guys do.

About Ross and 3.7 Designs

Ross: Sure, yeah. I'll just kind of give you just a brief overview. So yeah, my name is Ross Johnson. I founded a design marketing marketing agency in 2005 called 3.7 Designs. I've always been on the design side of things, although originally it was just me. I kind of dabbled in a bit of everything from building sites to designing sites. Eventually got into SEO marketing and we've kind of grown organically since then.

I'd say that what we specialize in is design strategy. So kind of working with people upfront to really try and figure out what's the direction we should be going in and who are we targeting and what do they care about?

And then making sure that we refer back to that and use that to drive every stage of the marketing efforts. So it's not just your website, although that's important, but also how do we take that information and also apply it to your SEO campaign or any paid media or any sales funnels that you're creating, that sort of thing.

Kathleen: So one of the reasons I was really excited to talk with you is that I come from a marketing agency background. I've been in this industry a long time and a lot of my work has been focused on lead generation, digital marketing. And I think there's this split in the marketing world, right? There's the design oriented part of the marketing world, and then there's this practical kind of digital marketing lead gen, funnel oriented part of the marketing world.

And I feel like very often the lead gen side tends to think of design as something that you need to check the box with. You need to make it look nice. But very often they don't go deeper than that. And so I was really interesting to kind of pick your brain on this and talk about design beyond making things look pretty.

Making things look pretty as great, and I think it's important because that it and of itself can help you stand out, but how does design drive results? Because this podcast is all about marketers getting results, and I really haven't had anybody talk about design. And I think part of that is that there aren't many designers that quite honestly do a good job of tying design back to results.

I realize I'm going on a little bit of a diatribe here, but it's important for context. And I think that that's partially why designers are underestimated very often and not brought in at a very strategic level to discussions. I used to have designers that work for me and they would always say that.

"We need to be brought in earlier because we can contribute to strategy." But I feel like part of the reason that doesn't happen is this closing of the loop between the design recommendations and what really matters at the end of the day, which is things like traffic, leads and sales. So this is a very long way of saying can we talk about this?

How design influences marketing results

Ross: I completely agree. I think part of what has happened especially recently is almost a commoditization of design. There's a lot of tools out there that make it easy for somebody who maybe has a bit of an eye for aesthetics to kind of come up with their own designs or potentially any existing templates so that they could make something, "look pretty" without necessarily having to involve a designer.

And while that's typically better than building you a landing page that doesn't look pretty, it's also not as effective as a landing page that's designed as most effectively as it could be.

In some senses it's a resources thing or maybe not realizing the importance of it. But, yeah, I completely agree that a page that is designed or an ad that's designed with strategy is going to be a lot more effective in driving those leads and sales compared to one that's just designed to look pretty.

I think it ends up kind of being a bit of mirror person'ing where if you look at something and think, I think this looks good, the assumption then is everybody else will too without realizing that well, A, that might not be the case. We all have different visual preferences. I've been in enough design meetings where half the people love it and half the people hate it to prove that.

But also there's a lot of psychology in the design decisions that you make.

What image you pick, even if you're choosing from two aesthetically pleasing photos, for example, if you're using a photo and have a dramatically different end result in terms of how effective something is. Because there's these things that happen kind of subconsciously when people see visual stimuli.

We even have a hard time describing... We're not even aware that we're being influenced by them, but the truth is, is that we see something that primes our brain to think a certain way and our subconscious then drives our conscious, causes us to behave differently, and then we're more likely to convert. But if you asked us why, we wouldn't be able to tell you why. It's all happening on the subconscious.

And if you're not thinking and designing with those things in mind or even testing to see which works differently, it's just never going to be as effective. Not that it won't be effective, it's just more effective to design this way.

And so, kind of as an example, one thing that we did recently with a client is we're having these battles over what should the primary image be in the hero area of their homepage?

There's multiple people on the firm, and multiple partners in the firm, so leadership, and they all had a different opinion about what approach we should take. They all had pretty good, good rationale. And all of them looked approximately about as aesthetically pleasing.

And just to kind of stop the argument, we did a split test with three final options to see, did it make any impact whatsoever on how people behaved on the site? And what we found is that there was one version that performed slightly better than the baseline. People would visit 10% more pages if they saw that one, they'd stay on the site, maybe 15% longer. It was significant, but not overwhelming. But there was one winner that people spent 40% more time on site and I think it was at, they saw 25% more pages.

So this one image increased engagement by 40% or more. And all the messaging was the same. It's basically just changing an image. And I think that's an example of how the subconscious and designing strategically can make a very significant difference compared to just trying to make something look pretty.

Where to start when redesigning your website

Kathleen: So where do you start? Let's say I'm going to redo my website and I come to you and I say, everything's on the table. I want a website that looks great. I want it to perform well. I want it to effectively reflect my brand. How do you begin that process?

Ross: Sure, yeah. I think there's some very simple processes you can go through to kind of identify what is most important. And I think this is where people get tripped up, especially in these early stages, is it can be so daunting, especially if you're a marketer and you're a creative person you probably have all these ideas about things that you could do to stand out, to drive more leads, to try and engage your audience. And it's kind of hard to figure out, what do I do first? Or how do I kind of translate these big picture ideas into something actionable?

So what we usually recommend is, rather than starting with "what do I want", think about the people who are coming to your site and think about what do they want? Because if all you do is prioritize "what do I want" from my organization you can very easily end up with a site that's kind of very focused on your own needs and then completely ignores the people who are volunteering their time and attention to come to your site. And nobody wants to be there, nobody wants to come.

So what I'd recommend is start off by creating personas of your targeted audience group. And personas kind of get a bad rap because a lot of times in the past they were kind of focused on demographics, which these days not as important. But I think what's most important about putting together a persona is really taking the time to research and understand who your audience is.

So rather than focusing on demographics, focus on their story. Write a story about where are they in their life? How do they first find out about you? How are they interacting with you? Identify, what is their ultimate job to be done? So not just what are they trying to accomplish in this one sliver of the task of hitting your website, but what does that life picture look like that they're trying to accomplish?

And then outline the tasks as far as, okay, they've gotten to your site. What information do they want to find? What are they trying to accomplish? And that kind of creates this inventory of things that you need to have on your site at least to start.

And then you can create your own objectives and see where those things line up. So if you see where your objectives line up to your target audience's objectives, you know those are the most, the highest priority things. If your target audience wants to learn how to you use your product in their drawing, maybe they're an architect, and you want them to use their products in their drawing so it ends up getting sold, you can kind of see what tasks relate to that and prioritize those.

And then in terms of branding, that's almost kind of a separate process. We actually go through a process where we've got some adjectives that are near opposites that we ask our clients to respond to and say, is your brand more progressive or conservative? Is it more organized or is it more spontaneous? Kind of going through that process you can kind of get a sense of what is the personality of your brand?

And once you have that kind of defined and written down, it becomes much easier to take a look at a visual concept and reflect against those words and say, does this communicate orderly, or does this communicate spontaneity? And then it becomes less about people's opinions, do I like this or not, and much more of a scientific process where you can say yes, what we have visually does match up to what we decided we're trying to communicate to our audience.

How to select the best images that capture your message

Kathleen: So you have these theme words, if you will, that you're trying to capture in imagery. How do you go about finding, or how should somebody... If somebody's out there doing this kind of a project themself, how should they go about finding images that really reflect their theme words?

Ross: Yeah, that's a great question. I think the first thing to do is try and find examples of other people doing what you're trying to accomplish. It's not a super brand new technique, but one of the ways to try and to find your own brand is to think about other brands that maybe you aspire to or could be your version of that brand for your particular niche or industry.

If you were a car brand, which car brand would you be? And then start looking through how do they do their marketing, how do they do their imagery? But I think you can still kind of do that with just looking at other websites, or other marketing materials, other ads and see which ones did I come across that feel spontaneous? And what is it about this that feels spontaneous? And start to draw inspiration from there.

And I also always recommend to get outside opinions too, because you're going to interpret things one way, other people are going to interpret it another way. Not you should take everybody's opinion as gospel, but just start to see are there any trends? When you ask somebody how would you describe the personality of this design, how do they respond? And does it seem like it's in line with what you're trying to accomplish?

Creating a clear and unique brand identity

Kathleen: Isn't there a danger though? If you're looking at other inspiration sites or even competitor sites, I feel like sometimes there's a danger to just be a copycat, because there's a difference between inspiration and mimicry, if you will. And I feel like the strongest brands are the ones that are able to create really unique and clear brand identities. So any thoughts on that?

Ross: Sure, yeah. I think the first thought is... I think there actually is a time and a place for unoriginal design. I think there is something to be said for design that feels familiar. Obviously not in every situation, but I think there's a reason why most websites kind of conform to some very common patterns. You can look at probably 12 sites and they're all going to have navigation across the top. They're all going to have kind of a hero area below it with some primary message. They might have a call to action below that.

And the reason is is because people become very familiar and comfortable with this pattern, and when somebody's visiting a website one of the things you're always trying to combat is this concept of cognitive load, which is essentially just a way to say like a lot of mental effort. The more mental effort that it takes to do something, the less likely you are to complete it because we're psychologically designed to try and conserve mental energy. So any little pieces of friction actually makes your website less successful. So when you're kind of borrowing some of these patterns, it actually makes it more effective because people don't have to think as much.

Now that said, I think obviously there's going to be places where you need to put your own spin on it. You need to look different and it's kind of finding where can you make those creative differences within the framework of what you're seeing that works?

I kind of think of it a lot like watch design. I'm a watch collector. But watches kind of have all these same components, but if you look at them, people find these really ingenious ways to be unique and creative within the framework of you have to be able to have hands so you can see what time, it has to be strapped to your wrist, it can't be too big or too small. So it's kind of like finding those opportunities so that it isn't just a copycat, there still is kind of that element.

Web design best practices

Kathleen: Yeah. Now when it comes to web design, are there certain universal rules or lessons learned as far as in this day and age, things you should or should not do?

I'll give you an example. I was just having this conversation with somebody who was not really in the web design field and they were saying they really wanted to do a slider on their website. All the data I've seen just indicates that sliders don't work.

Are there other things along those lines, and maybe you'll tell me I'm wrong about sliders, but are there other things like that that you say in just about every single case this is a don't do, or this is a must do?

Ross: Yeah, that's a really good question.

Well first I totally agree about sliders. I think the data does show that those don't work.

And I think there's a lot of other kinds of similar misconceptions that still exist out there about what's the best way to do things. The first one that I'll say is always respecting the end user, which is kind of what I think the issue is with sliders, is people put in sliders because they wanted to send five to 10 messages to the end user without having to take up too much space. It was all very selfish in a way. This is what we want, we don't care what the user wants.

And so that's kind of the universal rule is to always first think about who's arriving on your site and how can you be a good steward to them? Because the better you are to them, the better results you're going to see. Because it's too easy just to say, I'm frustrated with the site. I don't like it. I'm going to find a competitor.

Now outside of that, I think there still are a bunch of really bad ideas out there trying to keep everything above the fold. We're past that point. If you're not above the fold, it's the point where you have to scroll.

For one thing, with the different sizes of monitors and stuff like that, nobody really knows where the fold is. If you're trying to keep everything above the fold your web page would have to be so short that you practically have no content. So that's not a great idea.

Trying to keep everything within three clicks is this kind of other bad misconception that people assume that that makes things easier. But what ends up happening is in order to facilitate that, you end up with this kind of massive navigation to try and make everything accessible within three clicks.

And there's this other psychological principle called Hicks Law, which basically says the more choices you have, the harder it is to make a decision. So if you've got 20 items in your navigation, it becomes really hard to make a decision. It's actually harder to use your site.

And so again, what the research shows is that as long as people feel like they have a strong information hierarchy, meaning it's very clear what the next step is to accomplish whatever your task is. And knowing that task again, very important, and that's to you get it through putting together those detailed personas. People will continue to click three, four, five, six, 10 steps deep as long as they feel like they're making progress.

The other thing I strongly recommend against is scroll jacking, which this is where you try and scroll down and the website intentionally stops your scrolling. At times people do that so that as you scroll something animates, so it kind of lock you in a section, animate something and then you scroll down further. When somebody first figured out how to do that, they probably thought they were clever, but mostly it just kind of causes people to not understand how your site works because they have this mental model about scrolling down moves the page down. And similarly-

Kathleen: That sounds incredibly annoying. If somebody did that to me, I would probably leave their website.

Ross: Right. And that's what most people do. Yeah. And again, it's kind of not respecting the user. And then kind of the last thing I'll say is horizontal scrolling. So some people think it'll be clever instead of scrolling down, you scroll left and right. Again, people... It's like you have to relearn how to use a website. Unpleasant. People don't like it. It's not that clever a site, I'd avoid that.

Color theory in web design

Kathleen: I would agree with every single thing that you just said, by the way, based on my experience.

What about when we go... Let's go back to the topic of actually visual branding and design: colors, imagery. How important... Or how can I phrase this? Are there certain universal rules about that, too? There's always that... People say things like red, it means stop, or every CTA button should be orange. How do you approach decisions like that?

Ross: Yeah, that's a great question. I have probably the unpopular opinion that a lot of color theory is bogus. People make these universal rules and I don't think that they apply. Every time you see stop or red you subconsciously think stop or danger? No, no I don't think so.

So in terms of actual visual design, yeah there's going to be things that are more aesthetically pleasing, but I think the interesting thing is aesthetically pleasing doesn't always necessarily mean more effective. And this kind of goes back to strategy and even more important, testing. I've seen split tests where the less attractive version of a site actually performs better.

So while most of the time you're going to be looking for an attractive design, what's most important is are you communicating who you are as a brand? Obviously you wouldn't want to communicate that... You wouldn't want to look very high end when in actuality you've sold a cheaper product and vice versa. Because people would just get confused.

So as far as what color should CTA buttons be and should we use red versus green here, I recommend doing again, split test. And it's so easy to do nowadays.

So anybody listening who's never done a split test before, look up Google Optimize. It's a free tool by Google that allows you to do split tests. Setting up your first split tests can be done almost completely just through your web browser. You don't have to know any code, you just point and click. You can change colors, change words, that sort of thing. It'll probably take you less than an hour, and it's a great way to get started in this idea of...

What I decide here is my best guess, but I don't know for sure. And the way to know for sure is just to run some tests because the data will tell you. Even if you did a lot of design research, at the end of the day most people don't understand why they behave the way that they do. So anything that they've given to you gets you pointed in the right direction, but it's not going to get you that last 20% of increased performance.

Kathleen: That's a great tip. I have not tried Google optimize before, so I'm definitely going to check that out after we finish here.

Ross: Incredibly easy. Anybody who feels intimidated by it because it sounds complicated, it is really easy. I've done a lot of talks kind of demonstrating how to set it up the first time. 30 minutes or less is what most people can do.

Picking the right fonts

Kathleen: That's great. I'll definitely put a link to that in the show notes. Now, what about... Here's one I'm always curious about: font. So I know when you talk about font on actual paper pages, they always say that serif fonts are more easy to read, for the eye to follow, et cetera. Do the same kind of rules hold true in a web environment?

Ross: Yeah. So generally, people say that sans serif fonts are easier to read on the web. I think a lot of that came back from when we had smaller monitors and lower resolutions, fonts just didn't render quite as crisply.

So these days, I don't think there's necessarily a big legibility difference between sans and sans serif. I think it's more about what font or typeface best again reflects your brand and will resonate with your target audience. Serif fonts tend to feel a bit more traditional and established where sans serif fonts feel a bit more modern. But there's so many options out there. It's really just a matter of trying to find the one that is still legible because you don't want to go crazy and pick some script font that nobody can read, but does reflect that-

Kathleen: No comic sans on websites?

Ross: Probably not. But there's probably some situations somewhere where maybe comic sans makes sense.

Kathleen: Every designer I know basically hates comic sans.

Ross: Right, right. And the funny thing is it's not necessarily a horrible font. It was just so misused. Like it was the only option that looked like handwriting. If people thought that, you know, it's going to be more personal if I use it. But yeah, it was kind of abused for so long that we've all kind of said I never want to see it again.

But yeah, I think one good rule of thumb when it comes to font is make sure that it's big enough. In general, I would err on the side of making it bigger rather than smaller. I've seen a lot of split tests where even just bumping up the font size a couple of points increases conversion rate.

Kathleen: Amen. This is the number one piece of feedback I've always given on web design projects. I don't know what it is. The font is always too small. You almost never make it worse by making it bigger.

Ross: Right.

Kathleen: Unless it's huge poster board size font. It makes an enormous difference. I couldn't agree more.

Ross: Yeah. Yeah. I completely agree. I see that all the time. And I think it's people kind of focusing more on the aesthetics of the font. What are the proportions? Because there are some proportion differences between the heading and the text itself where if there's greater contrast there that tends to aesthetically look better.

But at the end of the day people are there to read your content. So yeah, pick legibility over aesthetics every day.

Examples of web designs that have driven marketing ROI

Kathleen: I love all these tips. Now I would love to actually shift gears for a second because everything we've been talking about is fairly theoretical in nature. Do you have any examples of actual projects you've worked on where you've made design decisions and they've really translated into marketing ROI?

Ross: Yeah, definitely. There's a couple that come to mind.

The first one we were working with a client that essentially provides building materials, which is not all that exciting, kind of a boring niche. And when we first started working with them, that's kind of how they felt about themselves. Their website is mostly informational. It's very transactional. Nobody's coming here to actually consume information. But the more that we talked to them, we realized that's not true. People still make judgments on the design of your site and how professional it is based on how it looks and what it's telling them.

We went through the same process where we worked with them to identify their personas, research their personas, and then use that to inform the design. And one of our biggest takeaways was they aren't actually targeting the person who's building the building, the contractor, even the owner of the building. What they were trying to do... What they actually needed to do was really target the architects because they were the ones who included the materials and the drawings and then would make the recommendation or include the specifications that they would hand over.

I don't know if you know any architects, but architects are very aesthetically driven. So while they were kind of thinking we just need a very simple site for people who are contractors, they're doing construction, we realized that we need something very visual to connect with the architects because we want to impress them.

And again, this kind of happens on a subconscious level. They were getting, before we started working with them, about three leads a week, not that many. Now granted their average sale was large but only about three leads a week. And then after we launched the site, before we started driving traffic to it, that jumped essentially 5x.

So it wasn't just the visual design. We did a lot more to prioritize the calls to action, some better labeling so it wasn't just this generic contact us, it was request a quote or send us your files and we'll make a recommendation. But that's a pretty huge difference.

And then as we continued to work with them and start driving traffic to it, and again use those personas to identify what content are these people looking for, what words are they using to search? And then did an SEO plan, did a PPC plan, and then drove traffic to it.

They're at a point now where they're getting about 150 leads a month. So I think that's an 1,000% increase over where they were. But a lot of it kind of stemmed from understanding who we're targeting and making sure that that was carried through sites, the content, the keywords we were targeting, and then the ads themselves.

Tailoring web designs to your audience

Kathleen: So when you think about taking what could have been a basic builder or contractor site and gearing it more towards this architect audience that's a higher end, more visually motivated audience, how do you approach that from a visual design standpoint? What are the elements that you would change to appeal to that higher end, more high design audience?

Ross: Yeah, that's a great question. So what we ended up doing is actually just looking at a whole bunch of architect websites with the idea that if these are the people we're trying to target what type of website do they want? And how do they kind of see themselves? And what we saw is that they like really big, beautiful pictures of buildings.

This is what they're creating. This is what they're excited about. This is where they're passionate about. They like lots of white space. And they liked subtle... Not subtle, occasional splashes of really vibrant colors.

So you tend to have kind of a stark design, a lot of emphasis on the building itself, and then the stark black and white would be accented by a single color.

And so we kind of mimicked that. We didn't make the site look just like an architect site, but we pulled those elements in thinking that if this is what they're looking for, then they can kind of see themselves in the design that we created.

What to know before hiring a web design agency

Kathleen: Nice. Well, I love the idea of 1,000% lead increase. I think anybody would like that.

So if somebody is listening and they're thinking about undertaking a website redesign and they're not going to do it themselves, let's say they want to work with an agency, which I think is probably 90 some odd percent of cases, what are some things that they should do before they approach agencies to go in prepared and also provide the agency what they need to be able to respond and do their jobs successfully from a design standpoint?

Ross: Yeah. So I think, as far as homework on your own end that can make the whole process more effective, really trying to understand where you're trying to go goes a long way. I would say go into it high level.

A lot of times when people come to us they have this idea of what they want to do. We want to redesign our site, we want to publish events, and it's very important that we showcase our team, and that sort of thing. And you might have some of those ideas, but what's more important is how does this fit into your overall marketing plan and what are you trying to get out of it? Right now we get 10 leads a month. We want 100, but right now our conversion rate is 5%, we want it to be 10%. those sorts of things.

And then also kind of doing some initial research into identifying who your target audience is and what they care about, some of that persona work that we talked about. Because the good agency should be able to make a recommendation for you as far as okay, we see what's going on.

This is what we recommend you start with. Because otherwise you can kind of end up spinning your wheels and spending a lot of money and time producing parts of your site or putting a lot of emphasis on parts of your site that really don't matter that much. You might find that people don't really care who works for your company. They never really go to that page. What they really care about is who your partners are, something like that.

And kind of to that end, it'd be really worth spending some time in your website analytics to kind of dig through and see working, what's not working. Now, what you're seeing is what's happening. You don't necessarily know why. So keep that in mind. If nobody's visiting a particular page, it doesn't necessarily mean nobody cares. It could just be they can't find it. But it will give you some insights.

So I think those are the sort of things that if you could give that information to an agency and say, what do you recommend? Then the right agency will be able to give you some really good advice.

I think the other thing to consider is doing a staged redesign as opposed to tackling everything all at once. What we find is the people who want to do a really big redesign, especially if you have a big website already or you're aspiring to a big website, that can take a really long time; three months, six months, a year. We've had projects that have gone over a year. That's a whole lot of time that your current site, which is not performing that great, is sitting there not performing that great.

And what we recommend is doing more of like a launchpad approach, which this is a HubSpot term. They've got a whole website on growth driven design.

The idea is you very quickly, the idea of being eight weeks, let's launch kind of a minimum viable website as quickly as possible. It's better than what you have now, which usually is a low bar, and then iterate it on it longterm. So instead of doing a six month to a year project, you do a quick two month project, get something up that performs better, and then use the data to say okay, a lot of people go to this page, let's improve that. Or, here's a place within the sales funnel that things aren't working as well. Let's improve that. And that tends to work much, much, much better over time.

Kathleen: Yeah, I'm definitely familiar with the growth driven design model. I do think sometimes it's complicated to do what they call a true launchpad site because certainly if your site is large or you have a ton of content you don't want to get rid of a lot of that and hurt your SEO. There are ways to do it, but it works really well for smaller sites or newer companies that don't have as much content. But what I love about the whole approach is this fundamental change in your mindset from website redesign projects being one and done once every few years, painful exercises, to you are always in the process of redesigning your website, like it never ever ends.

And I liken it to a house. It's like when you buy a house... If you treat home upkeep, maintenance, et cetera, as a once a year thing, stuff's going to break in the meantime, things are going to start to fall apart, and then you're going to have these big projects. But if you're just always doing preventive maintenance, taking care of stuff, et cetera, you're not going to get to that painful state. And I think it's the same with your website, which is the great thing about the GDD, or the growth driven design approach.

Ross: Yeah, I love that analogy because yes. And it's not just maintenance, it's not just preventing it from performing worse, but the idea of little improvements here and there. Again, with the house analogy, which I think is great, you spend a little bit of time working out your garden and then every time you come to your house, your house is nicer, where you do a little bit of time improving the fixtures in your bathroom.

Kathleen: Repainting a room, finishing a floor. I'm in the middle of this right now. Replacing windows.

Ross: Right. So your house is actually getting nicer over time. And same with the website. It actually starts performing better over time.

Kathleen's two questions

Kathleen: Yeah. Well I could talk about this forever, but we don't have forever. So shifting gears, there are two questions I always ask all my guests. The first one being... We talk a ton about inbound marketing on this podcast. Is there a particular company or individual that you think is really killing it with inbound marketing right now?

Ross: Ooh, that is a good question. That is a good question. I think, I mean, maybe it's obvious, but Russell Brunson.

Kathleen: Why Russell Brunson?

Ross: I think he just knows his target audience really well. Either he or his team knows what words trigger people's interests and his funnels are great. Even if you never buy anything from him, getting his emails are really entertaining. There's a lot to learn from him. So yeah, I think he does a really great job.

Kathleen: Great. I will definitely add a link to his stuff in the show notes. Second question is... The world of digital marketing changes so quickly. Most marketers I know feel like they're trying to drink out of a fire hose. How do you personally stay up to date and keep yourself educated on the latest and greatest?

Ross: Yeah, that's a good question. So I subscribe to the crowd sourcing method where the things that are really important, you can start to see people talking about early. So just kind of keeping a loose eye on some industry leaders, showing up at conferences. Just kind of getting a sense of what are people talking about.

In these situations I like to listen a lot more than I talk just because that's where you start to see the patterns. There's always going to be the things that everybody thinks is the next big thing and then there aren't. But when you start to see a pattern of here's a place where there's a conversation about something, and then you hear about it in person at a conference, and then you read a blog post on it. If you're paying attention, you can kind of start to see those trends much earlier than when it's essentially hit the mainstream.

How to connect with Ross

Kathleen: Great. Well I have a feeling people listening to this might have a question or want to learn more about some of the things that you guys are doing. Maybe check out some of the things that you've designed. What's the best way for them to learn more or get in touch with you online?

Ross: Sure. Yeah, so you can check out our website at the number three, number seven, designs dot com, so that's 37designs.com. Or feel free to shoot me a message on Twitter. You can find me at the number three P-O-I-N-T Ross. So @3pointross, and I'd be happy to answer any questions. You can also find links to our blog and and the other things we're working on there.

You know what to do next...

Kathleen: All right, I'll put those links in the show notes. If you're listening and you liked what you heard or you learned something new, I would love it if you would leave a five star review for the podcast on Apple podcasts or the platform of your choice. And if you know somebody else who's doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @workmommywork, because I would love to make them my next interview. Thanks so much, Ross.

Ross: Thank you. It was pleasure to be here.

 

Featured Image Credit: Doug Coombe

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