Data-Driven Design: The Key to Improving Conversions

By David Hoos - Updated On 2/12/2020

Too often, designs are created without giving serious thought to the users who will be engaging with them. The assumption is that if a design looks nice, the user will be pleased. This is a mistake.

Has a poor user-experience ever impacted your decision to buy something online?

Initially, you may have been really interested in buying a product, but because the brand’s website was difficult to navigate or use, it turned you off to buying the product.

A highly-experienced designer spent a good amount of time developing and building that user experience, but because it doesn’t work for you, that effort had little to no impact on your perceived value of the product or brand. A website’s user interface might be innovative and aesthetically appealing, but if your customers don’t know how to navigate it, it’s only going to hurt your business.

Fortunately, implementing a data-driven design approach can help with this problem. Tailoring your website design to your user’s preferences, goals, and behaviors will make it far more engaging and will positively impact your conversion rate.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the four reasons why data-driven design is essential for ecommerce businesses, and how you can get started with it right away: 

1. UX Designers Don’t Think Like Users

Hiring a brilliant UX designer doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive actionable results on your website performance. Creating a highly stylized website for an ecommerce business is great, but if your customers don’t understand how to navigate it with ease, an elaborate design will likely have a negative impact on your bottom line.

53% of consumers feel brands fail to meet their user experience standards. The biggest contributor to this dissatisfaction among online shoppers is likely the current trend of website design that’s easy on the eyes, but impossible to navigate.

It’s surprising how a majority of ecommerce business owners believe that a talented designer will eliminate the need for user testing and research. Having a good designer on your team will allow you to make changes to your site a lot quicker, but if you don’t invest in user testing and research, you’ll be playing a guessing game trying to figure out what your audience responds positively or negatively to. The key to great website design relies on how well you know your users.

If you’re contemplating slashing your research budget and shifting everything towards hiring a first-rate designer, you may want to instead consider dividing the budget equally between research and talent. It doesn’t make sense to have one or the other. If you want to see real improvements to your website performance, you have to have a good balance of the two.

2. Data Analytics And Innovation Don’t Have to Clash

A common hesitation we’ve seen regarding data-driven design is the belief that it hinders daring, innovative changes to websites. It’s true that focusing on improving conversion rates by minor percentages can potentially hinder designers from breaking the mold. But in these cases, the problem isn’t with the data, it’s how the data is being used and interpreted.

Designers should have the liberty to propose large, daring changes to a website, as long as those changes are supported by user research and testing. If a designer wants to implement an expansive, site-wide tests, they should have evidence to back up their hypothesis with data, otherwise you’re just playing a guessing game hoping your test moves the needle forward.

So how do you avoid stagnation when you’re relying on data to make improvements to your site? There’s no singular answer to this question, but we tend to believe in dividing your time equally between small, iterative tests, and large, site-wide tests. Too much on either side and you’ll likely start experiencing diminishing returns when it comes to optimization.

3. Successful Brands Focus on The User’s Needs

There’s an undeniable value in putting your customers’ needs above everything else. If you look at the most successful ecommerce brands of today, you’ll notice a trend running among them. They all have an extreme focus on the customer. Customer-centric brands use data collected on their users to help inform and improve their business strategy. According to a CEI study, 86% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience. If you can focus on providing your customers with the shopping experience they want, you’ll be putting yourself at a significant advantage over your competition.

Balancing the needs of your customers with your overarching business objectives can be a

difficult task for an ecommerce business. Auto-rotating image carousels are a great example of this. It’s not in the user’s best interest to have their shopping experience convoluted with a series of constantly changing sales promotions, but it doesn’t stop businesses from continuing to use them. Designers see it as a way to feature multiple offers on the homepage at once, but users rarely have the patience to even interact with them.

If you really want to build lasting relationships with customers, you need to put their needs and preferences above your own.

4. Data-Driven Design Encourages Designers to Think Beyond “Best Practices”

It’s easy for a designer to get stuck following “best practices” that are guaranteed to improve conversion rates but more often than not, these tips lead to uninspired and ineffective design. Every brand has their own unique audience and the chances that a list of 10 general design tips will produce positive results for every ecommerce website is highly unlikely.

Data-driven design helps designers combat their assumptions about user intent and encourages ideas that move beyond simple “best practices”.

If you find yourself stuck following rigid design rules and guidelines, you’ll end up creating experiences that look like everything else. If you want truly innovative design that also moves the needle forward, focus on what your users need and how they interact with each element of your site.

Instead of following the “guidebook” to good ecommerce website design, you should perform user interviews, track mouse movements, and view screen activity. This is the data that will show you where you can improve your site.

How to Get Started With Data-Driven Design

Data and web design work hand-in-hand with each other. If your designers don’t utilize user testing and research to inform their approach, they’re likely missing out on a significant opportunity for growth. The truth is: data-driven design can seem overwhelming at first, but it’s guaranteed to have a huge payoff if you stick with it.

You should start by looking at what your current customers are doing on your site. Start by analyzing your website analytics, looking specifically at behavior flow, and pageviews. What are your customers engaging with the most? The least? Develop personas based on audience demographics. Once you feel like you have a solid understanding of your audience, move into more specific types of user research such as: heatmaps, eye-tracking, screen recordings, and usability testing.

The more in-depth you decide to go with your research, the easier it will be to meet the needs and expectations of your users. Don’t approach website optimization like a guessing game, you should have evidence to support every change you decide to implement on your site.

About the Author

David Hoos

David Hoos leads marketing for The Good, a Portland, OR based ecommerce conversion rate optimization firm that has helped a variety of clients including Adobe, Nike, and Xerox, achieve great results with their suite of conversion rate optimization services. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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