We are, and have been for a while, in the age of data. In this very moment in time, we have more data at our fingertips than we know what to do with. Within this new world, we have been divided into two divisions of people. There are those of us who, when exposed to all this data, curl up into a tiny ball and begin to cry uncontrollably. Not everyone is a number person, after all. Then there are those out there who see all this data and begin to froth at the mouth, eager to dive into it and see what stories these numbers have to tell.

Hyperboles aside, within the confines of digital marketing, and even all avenues within the marketing field, data rules. And it takes a certain kind of person to thrive in an area so dependent on data. You need to be a data nerd. Businesses, consulting firms and agencies who know how to properly extrapolate data will put themselves ahead of their competitors by miles. 

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What is Data Driven Design? (Hint: It’s more than just fantastic alliteration)

The foundation of data driven design is found in the form of quantitative and qualitative data. By using these two types of data, you can properly address any issues and make the necessary changes to improve your website, paid search ad, landing pages, etc. Any alterations made were therefore influenced by data, otherwise known as being “data driven” (Aha! It all makes sense now!). But what exactly is quantitative and qualitative data?

Well, let’s say you’ve just launched a new website last week and now it’s time to check Google Analytics and see how the site is performing. You notice that the bounce rate for the homepage is a little too high for your liking. The bounce rate is known as quantitative data, or data that involves hard numbers (other examples of quantitative data includes how many users have visited the site, the average amount of time they are spending on each page and the total tallies for how the user reached your site, whether via organic or paid search, etc).

Okay, so that’s a good start. But your bounce rate stat doesn’t mean much to you if you can’t figure out why your users are leaving the landing page without interacting with the site. That’s where qualitative data comes in. Qualitative data is used to figure out the cause of your quantitative data. In other words, quantitative data can be used to alert you to problems, where qualitative data can show you how to solve the problem.

For the most part, quantitative data is fairly easy to find. But if you aren’t a mind-reader, then finding the qualitative data is a bit more complex. How are you supposed to find out why your users are leaving your homepage?

One way to find out the answer to this question is to use surveys to enhance your site. Creating a website feedback survey and sending it to those who have used the site is a great way to hear about the issues of the site straight from the source. Asking questions like, ‘how would you rate the site from a scale of 1-10,’ and, ‘how easy was it for you to find the information you were looking for?’ is a great way to gain insight into the mind of a user.

Another way is to simply use the site or look at the landing pages or paid search ads as if you were a user. What aspects and details of a website do you look for when deciding if a site is worth your time? Is it the lack of clutter? The clearness of the top navigation toolbar? The design layout? Whatever it is, see how your website stacks up against your expectations and maybe you’ll find why people are leaving without interacting.

HiPPOs… Not Just Big Mammals

Data driven design is ultimately the devil’s advocate to using human instinct to drive decisions. A company that makes decisions through the HiPPO method differs to the most experienced person in the room driving the decision (HiPPO stands for Highest Paid Person’s Opinion and while it is a fantastic acronym, it is a terrible business practice).

It seems natural to differ to those who are high paid, as they usually hold a position that requires extensive experience within the field. This experience is likely to bring forth lots of knowledge. A HiPPO may say something along the lines of, “well, we had this same problem with client x, and we took this approach and it worked out well. So, I say we go with the same approach.”

Okay, it’s easy to see where the HiPPO is coming from. However, this claim is anecdotal, meaning it is based on personal accounts rather than facts and research. Their assumption relies on the idea that business environments never change, whether it be customers’ preferences or buying tendencies, competitors, etc. Just because a marketing plan worked in the past, doesn’t mean it will work today. The business world is constantly evolving and if you base your decisions simply on instinct and intuition, you will get left in the dust.

That’s where data comes in. Data allows you to understand trends and make educated predictions based on these trends. You can look at the data to find out why consumers are buying which brands and why. Which mediums reach which demographics most effectively? Based on panel testing data, which colors work best for your logo? What aspects of your product/service do your consumers care most about? What can your business improve on?

Sure, you can speculate on questions and arrive at your own conclusion. But why not let the data do the thinking for you?

Quality Over Quantity

One great way to utilize data driven design is to try and cut out excess content. For example, Three Deep worked with Magenic to streamline their website. Magenic came to Three Deep with the hopes of revamping their site to be used as more of a sales tool than a billboard. In other words, Three Deep was tasked with creating a conversion-friendly site. What’s the best way to do that? Eliminate waste.

 

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The Quantitative Data

 Using analytics and web metrics from Magenic’s current site, Three Deep worked towards weeding out good content from bad content by looking at which pages received the most traffic. Using this information, Three Deep was able to pinpoint which content mattered to those viewing Magenic’s site.

The Qualitative Data

 Why are people accessing Magenic’s site? To do business. They are in need of help with the technical aspects of their business and that is what Magenic provides. So, they are looking for specific areas that Magenic can help them with and information on how to partner up with Magenic. In other words, content that doesn’t involve these two aspects can be wasteful. Because Magenic’s site is used as a sales tool, then content that could possibly negate conversions should be removed from the site.

So, by understanding why people were accessing the site and using analytics and data to see which content was most important to the users, Three Deep concluded that in order to optimize the site, cuts had to made to the site. Pages that had little interaction were slashed as well as those interfering with the users from reaching the content they wanted and the subsequent conversions that you would follow.

The results spoke for themselves, as pages per session dropped 12% while session duration increased 31%, meaning visitors of the site found what they were looking for faster and were then able to spend more time focusing on relevant content. The new website got rid of noisy content and instead gave visitors content that was truly valuable to them. Once again, quality trumps quantity.

That is just one of many ways data driven design can help influence a digital marketing project. You can’t optimize your email campaigns if you don’t first establish what the problem is (ex: certain emails aren’t doing as well as others) and why the problem exists (are those emails content cluttered? Is the message confusing? Is the copy poorly written?).

If data isn’t driving your digital marketing decisions, then it’s time to reevaluate your strategy. As you can tell, we love data, let us know if we can help you move towards data driven design.

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