Headline text

The 3 stages of growth driven design - as told by a project manager

  1. Strategy
  2. The Launchpad
  3. Continuous improvement
I was recently hired as a project manager to build a new ecommerce site for a leading e-bike company in the US. With a small but competent team we set out the tasks needed to develop the scope, create the business plan and got the approval from the client at the early stages to use a simple mock up / wireframe approach to jump into development. We were using Waterfall. Mainly because this was the methodology we had been used to working together on. We had defined milestones, tested and proven software and the project had, seemingly, very little unknowns. Everything was off to a good start until...well until after the 2nd month, we were still staring at endless wireframes, very little code and a team of developers looking to work elsewhere. Waterfall failed me for the first time. And the last! At this point, enter Agile and the 3 Growth Driven Design stages.

The internal process improvement

It became apparent early on that we had to improve our internal process first before we could achieve an outcome that would satisfy the stakeholders and more importantly the customers. Seemingly stuck in a quagmire of inertia, going no further than a few empty page skeletons, we had to brainstorm and focus on the problem, the goals and the customer. As a small team we were adaptable and we moved to an Agile and Lean way of working by the second month. This was a seismic move to something that got us out of the inertia of the slow start and moved us into a process of customer focused thinking. Building a strategy around what the customer wants, not the stakeholders, and then moving right into a web dev to build a launch pad site, go live, gather feedback, plan, test, build and quality assess. By the 3rd month we were Agile-like and it was having a positive impact!  Morale went up, deliverables were produced and met and stakeholders and customers were happier! So here begins the story of how we shifted to working within a Growth Driven Design framework.

So what is Growth Driven Design?

Growth Driven Design (GDD) is based on the fundamentals that traditional web design project build is broken. It is a proven alternative to the traditional waterfall approach of web design.   Using three core stages, GDD is structured on a road map to get a site built fast and gather information to incrementally improve that site in short development sprints. The developer team works to deliver a working website that is better than what the original site was but it is not the completed site.
In fact, in GDD, the project is never complete because customers' needs change and so should your website change with them. This is a shift away from how a traditional site is built: scope, business requirements, build the team, design, code and test then after months and months - launch and hope that what you planned for 6-12 months ago is still what the customer wants.  A Waterfall approach (traditional) may work on a small project where the needs do not change, a brochure site or a small blog.  But when given the task of a larger site or an e-business site, this approach rarely ends on a successful launch date, within budget or meets the customer needs. So this is where GDD’s 3 stages of development help - it reduces the time to launch, delivers a high impact product faster and is leaner than what was the previous method.So let’s dive into these 3 stages in a real world scenario and see how GDD is transforming the business of building websites.
The average traditional website engagement generates an average of $18,500 in revenue. With Growth-Driven Design, the average website engagement is $48,000. -www.growthdrivendesign.com
1. Strategy. Understand your customer and empathise with what problems they may have. Customers use a website for information on HOW to do something. The strategy stage helps define the persona and the challenges they face and how the website (content) can solve problems along their journey. What are their goals and challenges? How will the website help solve these challenges and achieve the goals? Focus on finding out what job needs to be done and how will the user experience help the customer reach their goals. This stage will transition based on fundamental assumptions about your user behaviors. Research your customers and create buyer personas to help you empathise with each one and help guide them along the journey using a journey map - tracking how the customer moves through the website through use of a site map and call to actions. This helps you understand better how the user navigates and finds the information they want.

At the early stages, we had little or no idea about who our buyer personas were, so we developed an MVP (minimal viable product) to start pulling in user feedback. Here is where GDD overlaps with Lean Startup - building something fast that is NOT a final product but can help gather user data quickly.

In GDD this website is called a launchpad, the second stage.

2. The Launchpad. The launchpad is the foundation on which you build. It is important that this is NOT the final site but rather a deliverable that provides quicker time to value rather than a traditional site which can take 3-6 months before a new site is launched. It’s important to note that the launchpad site is better than the existing or old site. We are building something that is always better than the previous iteration.So how did we build our launchpad site? We moved into sprints. 1-2 week turn around of important designed pages that were launched in the first month. These sprints helped the team focus their energy on a few core pages, which were then designed and built with the goal of gathering feedback.

Once live with the launchpad we collected data from real world users. This helped us get passed that enormous inertia that occurs in trying to get anything built while trying to build everything.  Changing to an Agile / GDD methodology is part of the improving internal efficiencies process of GDD. The launchpad site also helps develop content. I can say over the last 25 years of building websites that content almost always holds up launch in the traditional web design waterfall project.

So the launchpad site we built allowed content writers to focus on the core foundations i.e. homepage and product pages first as these were the pages that would get 85% of site traffic.

3. Continuous improvement. This stage is key - continuous improvement on the launchpad site using sprints.Each step of this phase was defined by an Agile approach - Plan > Build > Learn > Transfer. Plan what are the most impactful pages or functionality of the site that will deliver a better experience for your customer and drive you closer to your business goals. We established an area of focus -such as to build the e-commerce customizable module for building your own E-Bike.This was our road map. We got all stakeholders to buy in on this and focus on specific metrics to allow us to report on this “customizer module” and then learned how customers used these features and continuously improved upon these during each sprint.

We then optimized these sections for usability. We wanted to be sure of the conversion path to complete the process of customizing an E-Bike. Understanding our users helped us transfer knowledge back into the process as we went wireframe to production of an MVP module in less than 3 weeks, roughly 3 sprints. This reduced time frame versus the 3 months at the start of the project that saw very little movement beyond wireframes, extensive documentation, and basic coding.

This is the Agile process of planning, building, learning from customers' usage and transferring the data back into the project to plan and build again. It works. It worked for us and it can for you. It brought continuous improved features back to the launchpad site and consistently met the sprint goals, meeting the customer needs and achieving the business objectives we set out to accomplish.

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