Build a Website Customers Will Actually Like

August 21, 2019
Contributor: Kasey Panetta

Thinking about a website redesign? Don’t forget about the customer.

The situation: Two financial services firms discover unusually high bounce rates on their website product pages. Company A decides to rework all of its product content pages. Company B decides to start with usability testing and user research.

The result? Company A found that an expensive rework of all the pages didn’t improve the bounce results, and they were back to square 1. Company B’s testing revealed that the problem wasn’t actually the product pages, it was the global navigation. Session replay and customer service call recordings validated that customers couldn’t navigate to the pages easily. The company then launched a plan to rework the navigation.

It might seem obvious that organizations should consider how customers use websites before redesigning them, but this step is often skipped. According to Digital Synopsis, 35% of people couldn’t complete even simple tasks on the average website.

“Websites should deliver what your customers want or need in an engaging way that easily allows them to take action,” says Jane-Anne Mennella, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “A website that isn’t easy to use or understand and that offers no relevance can result in lost sales, squandered internal resources and damaged brand reputation — costs that are too high for companies to absorb.”

Identify your website’s strengths (and weaknesses)

Before you can figure out what needs to change, and how, you need to identify what’s working and what’s not. It’s important to understand who your customers are and what they need and do, as well as their motivations, challenges and successes.

First, make sure you have at least three months of baseline data and the answers to these six questions:

  1. What are your customers’ needs and goals?
  2. Why do your customers have those needs and goals?
  3. What do your customers do and don’t do, and what are they thinking and feeling during those moments?
  4. Why is that your customers do and don’t do certain things, and why do they think and feel the way they do at those moments?
  5. Where do your customers go, what actions do they take and when do they take those actions?
  6. How do your customers prefer to achieve their goals or complete tasks at a high level?

"Websites should deliver what your customers want or need in an engaging way that easily allows them to take action"

Gartner research recommends using a mix of methodologies to collect this data. The best methodologies to use will depend on your existing data and the outcomes you seek, but some common user research methods include:  

Methodology: Analytics/session replay

What it is: Website metrics and recordings of what users do on your website

How to use the data: Identify current customer behaviors and existing issues on your site.


Methodology: A/B Multivariate Testing (MVT) 

What it is: A/B testing compares two versions of a customer experience to see which performs better. MVT examines multiple changes at the same time.

How to use the data: Compare which design/layout/messaging performs better/drives more conversion and greater customer response, and/or increases business value.


Methodology: Card sorting

What it is: Determination or assessment of your site’s information architecture

How to use the data: Learn how your website navigation and content should be structured and labeled.


Methodology: Tree test

What it is: Discovering the findability of topics on your website by showing the site’s navigation in its most basic form and asking users to find items

How to use the data: Learn if the content on your current website is organized logically.


Methodology: Usability test

What it is: A technique where customers try to complete real tasks on a website, app, device or software.

How to use the data: See where usability issues may exist, and determine how easily customers can accomplish tasks on your website.

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