Designing and implementing a successful, revenue-generating website involves a lot more than just coding knowledge. While coding is the vital element of any web project (without it websites would not even exist), we want to highlight some of the periphery functions of web design that market research plays an important role in. These stages, not typically recognised as part of a design process, are able to help align online business goals with customer needs and create a better customer experience.

  1. Customer Journey Development
    First and foremost, before any aspect of the design process is undertaken, the expected and ideal customer journeys must be mapped. To do this, there are two parties that should have input: the client and the customers. The client will have an idea of how the customer should interact with the website, what marketing and sales materials they want them to see and in what order. This might even go as far to include interstitials and pop-up adverts.

Customers, on the other hand, are more likely to favour a simplistic journey which guides them efficiently to their desired destination. Striking the balance between these two is crucial as it will form the backbone of the website and navigation tree. Discussing ideas with your client should be easy, but gaining input from customers is where market research is required. We would recommend leveraging question board focus groups to provide participants with ample time to give detailed, reflective but collaborative insight into their ideal experience.

  1. Co-creation & Innovation
    Developing an ideal journey is one thing, but taking it a step further involves inviting customers to co-create the website with you. Obviously most customers won’t have the expertise (or time) to actually develop the site – and even if they did, it is not advisable. Instead, this stage involves asking customers to contribute their innovative ideas that would make the site stand out.

Perhaps there are community or social driven aspects that would make the site more engaging, or maybe customers want a more interactive experience. Without being limited to the technically possible, creativity is free to run riot. From the results, you can pick and choose the elements that both integrate well into the proposed customer journey and are within budgetary constraints. Even if only a few ideas fit the bill, the remainder can be shelved for further development.

  1. Concept Testing
    Once a few possible variations of the site aesthetics and design have been mocked-up, the next stage is usually to present the ideas to clients for a decision on which to carry forward. We would suggest inserting an extra step beforehand which involves testing the concepts with customers. This can be achieved through smartboard tools that are specifically designed to incorporate and drive feedback on visual stimuli.

A smartboard allows you to upload pictures and designs to show to participants who are then able to comment on defined areas and provide feedback. For example, you could split a web page into: header, navigation, body, sidebar and footer. Participants would then be able to provide sentiment-tagged feedback on each section with detailed insight on what exactly they like or do not like. The unique aspect of a FlexMR smartboard is the collaborative nature of the tool. Our tool enables participants to respond to comments and have ongoing discussions on the image, generating further insightful feedback.

  1. User Experience Feedback
    As you near the end of the development cycle and head steadily towards launch, you must not forget to collect usability feedback from customers. No matter how similar the site to your initial wireframe, there will no doubt be differences that alter the experience and usability slightly. From load times, to the aesthetics and navigation of the website, customers will always be more critical of the finished product than either yourself or the client.

But gathering this feedback at this stage is a positive action, however negative it might be. Understanding customer opinion and ironing out the flaws will ensure a smoother launch and more excitement rather than frustration. Gathering in-depth opinion at this stage can be tricky though. Our best advice would be to give a small, select number of customers access to your development platform.

Once access has been granted, ask participants to use the site once a day for three to four days. During this time request that they keep an online journal of their experiences. This will ensure you gather in-the-moment feedback that is true to their thoughts and feelings. More importantly, it will be actionable advice that can be built in to the final version prior to launch.

  1. On-going Refinement
    Congratulations – you have launched your client’s website. They are thrilled with the results and it is already generating revenue. But don’t let this be the end of the journey. Even the best websites have room for improvement. To find out which areas could be improved and what to work on next, build in a small non-intrusive feedback device.
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