It's rare for your first website build to be the perfect fit for your users—or even for your business objectives.
In the six (or more) months it takes for a traditional digital agency to build your website, business goals have likely shifted, users have demanded new features, and a competitor may have beat you to market.
Yet, too often, companies spend months to launch a website and then do nothing to improve it. Instead, we tend to focus more on seemingly more important marketing channels: blogs, social media, email, and more.
Though it's vital to engage customers on those channels, your website is the ultimate conversion tool. Instead of treating a website launch like a just another item on your to-do list, it's time to view it as a digital property that requires incremental investment and improvement to connect with your customers.
Marketers know better than anyone the value of listening to customers, and it's time to apply that value to website development.
Delivering a high-quality user experience (UX) is critical to digital marketing, and marketers need to play a central role in optimizing that experience. But the target is in continually moving: User behaviors change, business goals shift, and new technologies emerge. Accordingly, taking an iterative approach to your website—gradually introducing new features and functionality rather than trying to completely overhaul an experience in one fell swoop—is the most effective way to create a digital experience that truly resonates with your customers.
Since website development is never a one-and-done process, here are three major UX principles to manage your site's iterative process.
User feedback is key
Let's just get this out of the way: You can't create a satisfying user experience without actively and consistently gathering user feedback. You won't sell a product to Millennials and Boomers the same way; more importantly, you need to know whether either group actually wants your product.
Analytics can tell you how users behave, but real-time user research through on-site surveys and user testing delivers valuable insight into how users (and others) feel about your services. Since user needs and preferences change on a regular basis, marketers need steady insight into their user groups.
Creating user personas and buyer personas are vital to building a user experience that guides website visitors through the buyer's journey, but those are only a start.
Many marketers think their marketing funnel reflects the buyer's journey, and they leave it at that. The result is a serious disconnect between user needs and business goals; a strong user feedback loop can help marketers bridge that gap.
Remember: A strong user experience that's tailored for and relevant to your users makes more of an impact than a weak online experience on multiple external channels.
SEO and UX are vital sides of the same coin
Investing in user experience isn't just for your customers; it's also for your most important non-human users: search engines. During the last two years, Google has evolved to place much higher emphasis on sites that deliver quality user experiences across platforms and devices. Though traditional ranking factors are still king, search engine optimization is increasingly becoming user optimization.
Hopefully, the unfortunately named Mobilegeddon served as a wake-up call for marketers. Gone are the days of obsessive keyword stuffing and link building. Search engines are embracing more user-centric ranking signals like page speed, bounce rate, time on page, and more.
Your organic traffic reports will make it clear whether your website delivers on its SEO promises, which can help identify areas of your website that aren't providing value to users and give you the opportunity to test and improve website content.
Success comes with a cross-functional team
It may seem obvious, but your business goals can't align with your users' needs unless UX holds a primary role in your development process. Cross-functional Web teams give you all the tools needed for fast-paced, iterative success.
However, this approach works only if all team members continually work toward a shared vision and goal: UX strategists, marketers, and developers must collaborate to choose new feature development, conduct ongoing user research, and build targeted content for dependable user feedback and iterative development.
UX and marketing are often perceived to be in a cold war: It's not always easy to bring marketing, UX, and product design teams together to create true impact. But the reward is immense, and it shouldn't be hard to find common ground.
To succeed and create great digital experiences for today and the future, it is crucial that marketing and product design teams work together to build brands, products, and services that are meaningful, relevant, and able to connect with customers.
If doing so seems overwhelming, don't fret. The philosophy of iteration should apply to both your website and your team.
Ultimately, an iterative approach requires building a lightweight product with room to grow. Rather than taking months or years to build a full-fledged website, focus on a minimum viable product—a core product offering that provides enough to capture and delight customers. Then, through in-depth user testing and feedback, you can create a stronger experience crafted by user demands.
This approach will help align your business goals with customer needs—a winning formula for any business.