How To Do Customer Research to Build a Successful Website
It is imperative that your customers’ interests and goals are at the forefront of your website design and development efforts – your business exists to serve them.
The science of customer research
After you have determined the main business goals and objectives, the second part of the equation understanding the needs of your website visitors. It is important to highlight just how important this step is, especially since many simply glaze over or disregard this step altogether.
The naive approach is to solely focus on your business goals. Although important, it is not nearly as important as your users’ goals. After all, your website exists to serve potential and existing customers. It is imperative to ensure your website allows them to achieve their goals with ease.
Current website analysis
If you have a current website, conducting an audit may prove very valuable for you. We have included our tips for getting the most out of your website analysis from Google Analytics, Moz, and Hotjar. Particularly take note of these key audit metrics:
- What pages are getting the most visits?
- Why are these pages effective, design and content wise?
- Which pages are getting the most conversions (i.e. turning visitors into potential leads)?
- What works for these pages?
- What are the common characteristics of people filling out your contact form or emailing you?
Vanity vs. actionable metrics
When analysing your website, you will need to know how to interpret your metrics properly. Serial entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup, Eric Ries differentiates between two different types of metrics – vanity and actionable metrics.
Vanity metrics are typically big-number statistics that bolster the real engagement you have on your site. They are simply “feel-good” analytics, but the metrics you should really be focused on are the actionable statistics. They are named so because they inspire action, measuring much more specific details about customer retention, engagement and repeat visits. The tools we’ll cover later on focus on analysing actionable metrics.
What are your opinions about your site?
Your current website analysis shouldn’t solely just be a data crunching exercise, but should also give you an opportunity to think about the current flow by which your users are navigating the site.
- What is the current flow of information retrieval?
- Is it too long or complicated?
- Are users going to the places you want them to?
Having an existing website means that you have the added benefit of not starting from ground zero. You will be able to carry over the things that work to your new site, after all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, more often than not, after a thorough review of your current website you have identified some specific weak points that you can raise with your web designers to ensure that they can be addressed in your new website.
If you don’t have a website: Customer base analysis
If you do not currently have a live website, there is still an opportunity to conduct customer research by using the data you have already collected about your current customers. If you are just a new business, with no current database about customers, we’ve written an article about how to gather this information, which you can read here <link to article >.
Some key information you should be gathering from your customer base analysis, for the purposes of website development include:
After you complete your current website and/or customer analysis, it’s time to put this information together in a meaningful way. Creating personas is the secret to conducting effective customer research.
The importance of creating personas
Taking your data and creating fictional characters to represent your users is an excellent exercise in empathy. By putting yourself in the shoes of the user, you will be able to gain insight into users’ needs and behaviour.
It is easy to fall into the trap of looking after your business goals first, but your users should always have first preference. Keeping your personas at the back of your mind means you do not lose this focus and can make better decisions, as a result.
Finding patterns in your data
At this point, you may have a huge clutter of data with very little organisation. To create effective personas, you should try to narrow down your data to workable clusters, by finding common characteristics.
Mark similarities between different people as you comb through your data, and eventually you’ll find that there are customers whose correlation is greater than others. Cluster these interviewees together as “one character”, and you’ve got yourself a persona. We will need to a do a little work on these to formalise your personas, but you’ve now prepared workable data to work with.
Now that you have gathered the similar traits, here’s where you put your empathy and creativity to the test. Characterising your interviewees involves creating an imaginary user who encapsulates a segment of your target audience.
In order to solidify these characters, you should develop a persona report that can act as a reference. We’ve prepared a template with our essentials, which you can fill out below:
Value of customer research
After you have developed your personas, you should have a good idea of the customer segment you are targeting. This will not only help you in crafting your website, but will be invaluable for your general marketing endeavours. Remember to always have these ‘characters’ in mind when you are making decisions. You should always be asking, what does the customer want to see?