It’s okay for digital experiences not to meet your expectations, as long as they meet your customers’.
A good website, like nearly any product or service, puts the customer first.
Almost everyone who runs a digital agency would agree with this statement, but relatively few know how to put it into practice. This is because it goes against the intuition of most professional creators.
Digital creators like to take charge and have a tendency to project their own aesthetics and usability frameworks onto their work. This is natural, but it doesn’t predict long-lasting success the way customer-centric development processes do.
A customer-centric website is one that caters to a target audience. It answers the problems that potential customers face and recommends products or services that address those problems. Speaking your customer’s aesthetic and design language is extremely important when making these suggestions.
What Are the Characteristics of a Customer-Centric Website?
It’s easy to understand the goal of customer-centric website design. When visitors click onto the website and view it for the first time, they say, “Wow, that’s exactly what I need!”
This doesn’t happen very often. 46% of website visitors bounce away because they don’t immediately understand who the website is for. 37% leave due to poor design or confusing navigation.
A website with a customer-centric design is easy to understand, simple to navigate, and immediately valuable to website visitors. Most importantly, it is tailored to the needs of a target audience.
That means there is no one-size-fits-all solution for creating a customer-centric web experience. It depends on the type of end-user your customer is trying to reach with digital messaging.
A website designed for a rock band will have an entirely different look and feel than a website designed for supply chain and logistics professionals. Each customer wants to appeal to an entirely different set of users, with different expectations.
The design rules you must follow necessarily change from one project to another. The better you know your customers and their target audiences, the better you will be able to craft a digital experience that meets their expectations.
Develop Buyer Personas That Build Trust and Credibility
A great website builds trust and credibility with users from the first moment they interact with it. This is one of the primary goals of good website design, but it isn’t easy to achieve. It’s challenging because different groups of people look for different indicators of quality when visiting websites, and you can’t always cater to everyone.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional character who represents an ideal customer. It’s a profile based on real-world marketing data and informed by customer interactions.
Web agencies and marketers who establish buyer personas can narrow down some of the indicators of quality that their users are searching for. This approach allows you to design a website that meets very specific criteria for trustworthiness and credibility.
For example, if you’re creating a website for a healthcare advocacy group (think the American Cancer Society), you probably have to design for multiple buyer personas:
- Patients rely on the website for accurate information about their disease.
- Doctors rely on their website for up-to-date research on treatments.
- Pharmaceutical companies may fund clinical trials or propose commercial partnerships.
- Hospital administrators depend on the website for large-scale healthcare protocol data.
- Life science researchers contribute to the website by publishing the results of their work.
A good buyer persona will use real-life examples to build a character around each of these roles. They’ll have names, jobs, relationships, and education that contribute to the expectations they bring when clicking onto your website.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that all of these peoples’ expectations are not necessarily equal to your own. Successful digital agencies know when to put their own judgments aside and build solutions that establish trust and credibility with end-users.
Rely on Data, Not Intuition
It’s okay for a business owner not to like a certain shade of blue on their website. They may not like a particular image, font, or any number of elements that you agree with. These kinds of conflicts can take valuable time away from the project itself. Web agency owners should be prepared to resolve these kinds of conflicts quickly and effectively.
In this kind of situation, a design professional might ask what shade of blue converts best with customers. This is a powerful question because it refocuses the conversation on the customer, bringing the whole team closer to customer-centric design.
It’s common for web developers and business owners to rely on their intuitions about design elements. But the true customer-centric design makes no assumptions. There is a color, or an image, or a font that converts better than all of the others – but our intuition is not equipped to identify it.
Instead, we need to rely on hard data. The most valuable kind of data you can use for this kind of conflict resolution is split test data. Split testing ensures you can tell, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that one design choice outperforms the other from the customer’s point of view.
Your Customer is the Hero of the Story
Every aspect of your website should reinforce the idea that the customer is the hero of the story. It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of thinking that puts the business – or its owner – in the spotlight. But this approach can alienate customers and drive them away from the website.
Customer-centric design thinking can have structural implications for the way content is arranged and communicated.
It might be expedient for a business to categorize its products by price, and list all of them accordingly. But if customers aren’t likely to search for those products in the same way, then the categorization becomes a point of friction.
In most cases, what is expedient for business processes does not contribute to a streamlined customer experience. Customers rarely think of price points or demographics – they think about the problems they’re trying to solve. A website that provides coherent solutions to those problems is one that is well-positioned for success.
Social proof is another way to keep customers at the center of the story. Sharing testimonials, case studies, and reviews help to build trust. At the same time, this type of content establishes the customer experience as the primary selling point – and that’s something that almost everyone can appreciate.
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