Nothing brings on the feeling of dread quite like hearing these five words: “We need a website redesign.” It’s usually a long, expensive, and stressful process. But, it doesn’t have to be. Enter: GDD, aka Growth-Driven Design. With its marketer’s mindset, this approach gives you a quick, agile website, based on data — not assumptions. In this episode, we’ll explain how Red Door’s own development team uses GDD to turn websites into digital marketing machines.
We’re here with Dennis Gonzales, our Chief Technology Officer and Candice Wyatt, Director of Project Management at Red Door Interactive.
What is Growth-Driven Design (GDD)?
Reid: Well, this is an exciting one to learn about, because people are always trying to figure out, how do we know for sure this website is going to work and how do we make it as easy as possible? I think there's always the assumption too, that it's going to take forever. It's not going to launch on time. I think there's a lot of horror stories that back that up. But we believe in this idea of Growth-Driven Design, so I think we need to first start by explaining what it is. So what is growth-driven design, called GDD, and why should you care about it? Candice, can you give us the lay of the land?
Candice: Yeah, I like to think of Growth-Driven Design as an approach that uses an Agile methodology to build high-performing marketing websites. It's really centered around your users, centered around your marketing goals and it's agile so that you can adapt to your users, your goals. And as technology evolves, you can also adapt there.
Reid: So "Agile" is a thing. It's not just like, "Hey, we're being agile." But Agile is a methodology that people are familiar with. Maybe give us a little bit of the nuance on that.
Candice: It's all about being flexible. I think if we're looking at GDD compared to a traditional website design process, you typically follow a waterfall process with a traditional website build. What that means is you're doing things one step at a time, in logical order. You're delivering on a clear set of deliverables and scope, which in theory, that all sounds right. Do it in this order to get the best output. But that's not really how marketing works. That's not how our environment is. Your users are always changing. Your products and services are evolving. If your competitor does something you need to respond. So that's where GDD is a much better fit for this marketing landscape, because it has a process for how you handle change. And that's the agile part of it. It really just has a laser focus on goals also, which is all marketers are going to want to hear that.
How is Growth-Driven Design different from traditional website design?
Reid: Absolutely. They want to make sure this thing is going to work. Things externally are changing and this gives us a means by which to adapt to that. But from an internal perspective, operationally speaking, how is the GDD process different than that of a traditional website design? Maybe, Dennis, you can talk about that a little bit for us.
Dennis: Yes. Candice mentioned traditional websites, which can sometimes be a long drawn out, up-to-nine-month project. It can sometimes be a little scary to, I'll say, stakeholders because sometimes if you don't go through this iterative agile process that Candice was talking about, in nine months a lot of things can change. But with GDD, the expectation is that there is quicker time to market so that you can start testing and validating some of your assumptions quicker and then actually provide value that is tested or based on, I'll say, data analysis. So it's important that the website comes to market faster so that you start going through those continuous improvement cycles.
Reid: Sure. Well, that still is a process. So can you talk a little bit about the phases that we've got? And maybe, Candice, you can elaborate on that.
Candice: There's three main phases within GDD. There's a strategy phase, the launchpad phase and the continuous improvement phase. In the strategy phase, your goal is to understand your users as much as possible. Then in the launchpad phase, as Dennis was saying, you want to get to market quickly. The way you do that is through knowing what your goals are and then prioritizing the features, functionality and scope of that launchpad website to include the highest priority items. The launchpad website is not the end product. And that's very intentional. It is the starting point. Rather than waiting, as Dennis was saying, nine months having just spent some six figures and those entire nine months, you're not realizing any value at that point. Your users aren't realizing value. So with GDD, you want to get to market quickly, use analytics, use data, use user testing to get insights about your users and then iterate from there, make improvements. You constantly want to be improving.
Reid: I love that particular vernacular. I think people are more familiar with the MVP, a minimum viable product, which always sounded like such a negative. I think this launchpad idea, I think just sets the stage, I would imagine, for a more positive experience moving toward that continuous improvement. Conceptually, I think people get that. Is there a difference between launchpad and traditionally MVP?
Candice: Well, I think with the launchpad, and if you're using the GDD methodology, you're going into it knowing that there's going to be a continuous improvement phase. I think on website builds and designs, you often undertake that project. But at the end of it, it's a set-it-and-forget-it type situation, where you maybe don't touch the website for a year because you're so exhausted with this nine month project that you just went through. So I think that's the difference. As you mentioned, the language, it has more of a positive connotation. Nobody likes the word minimum. That doesn't feel good.
Reid: Barely viable. Like you said, it's setting an expectation for everybody. It feels like more of a starting point. I do think words matter. I think it's getting everyone around that idea that, "Hey, we're trying to get to a place where we get this thing to market and start to consume this information, this data and see, are we meeting the goals that we need to meet?" Now, getting into that, the team that's required. Maybe we can talk a little bit about the team that's required as we get to the launchpad. What does the team look like from launchpad and beyond? Dennis, why don't you talk a little bit about the team, maybe on the front end of that process of, what does that team look like? What do you need in order to do to get this GDD process going?
Dennis: I think some of the critical roles, as far as leadership goes, is having a good technical project manager, someone that's been heavily versed or knowledgeable in Agile projects. And then a good strategist, who is going to be a key decision maker on the project team. They should have experience in UX, conversion rate optimization, analytics and be able to use data to drive decisions. Then a couple more, as you get closer to the execution side, is a creative lead that leads the design and the look and the feel of the website. And then the tech lead, who oversees the technical aspects of GDD during each phase and helps empower the marketing team with the appropriate tools from a technology perspective.
Where did GDD come from?
Reid: Well, it's a big group. This is a big undertaking. I think sometimes people don't realize how critical the website is to the organization from not just for marketing, but for recruiting, a number of different resources, customer service. But really, I've always believed that, for lack of a better term, on the one side it's kind of Rome. All roads point to Rome in this case. It is such a critical component of it. You want to make sure you get it right. And getting it right means getting in the market and seeing how people react. Candice, I think people don't know about the GDD process, certainly if they haven't heard anything about it before, but where this all came from. We didn't just come up with this thing, just kind of get out in the market and find things that seem to work. Where did this come from?
Candice: It came from, Luke Summerfield. He's at HubSpot. Luke is an interesting guy. He, like us, came from a marketing and agency background and experienced the same pain points that we all did. After doing website after website, he started to notice patterns and themes and pain points and sought out to solve those and develop a methodology that worked better for marketing websites in a marketing and technology environment. He came up with GDD. I remember I was at the HubSpot conference and at that point I probably had about five websites under my belt and was noticing the same themes as well. So when he was going through his presentation, it just really resonated. I remember bringing it back to Red Door and being like, "This is the future and this is how"
Reid: This makes sense.
What role does project management play in GDD?
Reid: When you presented it to us, I felt very much the same way. I think the other big part that resonated with me, which is props to you, Candice, it's not one for finding it and things like that, but just how we're able to manage this. This is really how you leverage what is such a powerful, probably unsung hero in this whole equation, which is project manager. The only way to make anything work largely, is having good project management. But certainly, I'd say project management is a heavy hand in a process like this, because you're getting feedback and you're moving things in an agile way. Can you talk a little bit about the critical role of project management as it relates to anything, obviously, but then specifically to GDD?
Candice: With anything where you are trying to get to market quicker, that means you're moving quickly. There are a lot of things in motion at the same time. That is when project management is more critical than ever, because you need to be able to meet your timelines, meet the goals, keep everybody on the same page working towards that launch date. That is why the technical project management, and specifically technical, having that expertise that a project manager can speak the same language as the development team and they understand what each other are saying is really important to effective communication.
Reid: I think a lot of people don't see the value of that enough. They maybe see it as administrative. Or, like you said, maybe they don't have the technical expertise, but they seem to be able to keep things on task. That combination is something that, Dennis, I'm going to kick a question over to you, just the value from your standpoint, from leading technology, the value of great project management. What does that mean to you and your group?
Dennis: I definitely agree that project management is important. Several aspects of what we do when it comes to website development, everything from understanding the resources, the timing, obviously the budget associated with this, but they're also key in focusing on the right things. Then when it comes to the GDD, focusing is key because we want to make sure that we're working on the highest value, highest priority tasks to make sure that stakeholders are getting what they want and driving the website to the appropriate goals. So project management is key in making that happen.
Candice: I like to think that project management is less about what we're doing and more about how you feel on the other side of it. If you're a client, good project management means you feel at ease. You're not worrying about if your partner is going to do something correctly or do it on time, or if they're going to meet their commitments. I like to think of project management like that, because it is really hard. It's more than status stocks and timelines.
Dennis: I agree.
Reid: It is a challenge on the front end of those things. When you talk about the value of project management, everyone gets it conceptually and moves on. But people know what it feels like when a project is well-managed. That's what you're talking about. If our listeners take a moment and say, "I know times in which I had no idea what was going on. I had a big thing that had a lot of pressure on me. I wanted to make sure it worked out," I'm pretty sure they're going to start feeling anxious right now. You know exactly what project that was. Then other times when you did know what was going on and you felt comfortable and safe and that we're moving along. And even those times, it might not be going perfectly, but they know how things are going, how are you going to fix it, or whatever that may be.
What type of team members and tools are required with GDD?
Reid: In the case of GDD, we're also talking about prioritization. We're also talking about the things, saying, "Hey, we're going to do the thing that matters the most first and work our way down that list." And there's good communication as it relates to that as well. So shout out to great project managers everywhere, but to particularly those at Red Door who make this happen day in and day out. Because the other thing I wanted to note and move on to the next question of this is, so now our listeners say, "This sounds like a great thing I want to look into. I'm just going to call my local agency or somebody about like, 'Hey, I want some GDD.'" Not everyone does this. What does it take? What does the team and tools look like in order to offer GDD?
Candice: GDD is a fairly new methodology and approach to building websites. We're breaking a longstanding process of how things have been done. There are other agencies that operate in a GDD way, but for Red Door some of the things that we add to the mix with that is we have a suite of different enterprise tools that allow us to get those really rich data and insights to help drive that strategy. Our technical project managers have agile and PMP certifications. We do have all of those cross channel roles that really are required in order to build a high-performing marketing website, so SEO, data analytics, user experience strategists, creative directors, designers, technical architects, all of those things that help bring a quality product to market, and with GDD, quickly.
Can I apply the GDD process to a site that already exists?
Reid: Well, that's another thing I think tends to get overlooked too, the other cross-channel nature of this. I think a lot of times people think you got a little bit of design, a little bit of programming and built this thing. Now, a website, you need it to be found. You need it to be when you launch it, you don't lose all your rankings from the site that you had before and things like that. I think as we fold more into a platform that, like I said earlier, is Rome, you need to broaden out the skill sets that connect to that, which actually leads a little bit to the next thing is, what if I've already built a website? So, I just finished one. I'm listening to this now. I wish I would have thought of this earlier. Can I use the GDD process on a site that already exists?
Dennis: Sure. Yeah. I think as we mentioned, there's three phases to GDD with the strategy to the launchpad. But if you have an existing website, I think moving into the continuous improvement can be easily applied to an existing website if it's already been launched, because they'll always be that need for iterative improvements. If you do have that redesign already launched, one thing to understand is that when applying GDD, you are going to make better use of your investments. Because now as we've been talking about, you're working on the thing that's going to bring the highest value, the things that have the highest priority, that once again, drive the appropriate goals and improvements. I also like to think just from an organizational perspective, if you do apply GDD, it'll help structure the appropriate team to ensure that things are executing as they should be. So yes, it definitely can apply to an existing website or something that's already been deployed.
Candice: And the thing about it when you get into a GDD continuous improvement phase, where it is with an existing website, is the difference there is it's not just the development team. It's not about maintaining a website strictly from a development perspective. It's about a continuous improvement team that is conversion rate optimization. That is data analytics. That is SEO. That is content marketing. All of these people are part of this continuous improvement. So one, the team knows what your goals are. And I may be getting a little bit too into the weeds here, but I do want to talk about a really critical deliverable that is a differentiator for GDD, which is the goals forecast. This is not something that you often do in a traditional website is, before you start putting pen to paper saying, what are my website goals? I bet a lot of you listening right now don't even have goals as it relates to your website, whether that's bounce rates, whether that's month-over-month, year-over-year growth in particular, maybe sections of the site or KPIs or conversion types.
Candice: You actually define that in GDD. Then you do a data analysis to forecast what is some expected improvements that we can make in the continuous improvement phase? If you're starting with an existing website, which is totally doable with GDD, you're still defining those goals and then that team is working to achieve those goals.
Reid: I think that's what's interesting too, is actual goals, because some people go like, "Oh, I want more of something. I want more leads. I need to make a change." This is where we're talking about setting targets, moving toward some progress toward these things in really practical and specific ways. I think that's a challenge for a lot of people who say, "I want to know when I deploy a certain amount of money into this, what is my ROI?" or something like that. When we get into a practical application of all of this, you can start having that real definition. Now you can manage the engine. This is really fascinating, exciting stuff. Again, Candice, we were stoked, I know, when we first learned about this stuff. Now that we're applying it with our clients, it's been pretty profound to see the transformation.
Reid: I'm glad that we had this chance to share this with our audience. Thank you, Candice and Dennis, for joining us on this podcast. I do want to let our listeners know to learn more about GDD and enterprise website development, download our full GDD white paper, access our webinar on enterprise website management and a whole lot more. And as always, subscribe to The Marketing Remix and leave us a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks so much.