Introducing Strategic Web Design

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Image source: may have heard me mention “Strategic Web Design” recently..

And you’ve probably wondered what I’m talking about.

I guess it’s like my grand unifying theory… something that brings together everything I’ve been doing in SEO, in conversion, usability, persuasion, and graphic design.

Let me try to sum it up for you in a few sentences.

First, here’s what’s wrong with web design today…

Clients pay designers a big chunk of money for something they have no idea will work.

Put another way, it’s gambling!

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half!”
~ John Wanamaker

Now, I don’t believe in gambling.

I do believe in marketing, though.

And, what’s more, I believe that every dollar spent on marketing should generate more money for the client.

If you agree with me, read on…

That principle is really at the core of Strategic Web Design.

Instead of paying a big wedge of cash up-front, for someone’s “first best guess”, SWD says we should invest as little as possible in order to test a theory.

Instead, we want to develop rapidly, and make decisions quickly, based on facts, not opinion. Plus, every step should minimise risk and maximise return
on investment.

Here’s how it works…

Phase 1: Research

A Strategic web designer will spend much more time on research, interviewing the client, checking out the competition, defining the propositions, and estimating the size and composition of the market.

So, before we even fire up the FTP client, we have a really good idea of whether there’s likely to be a profitable market niche there, and how to reach them.

(Hint: a new website isn’t always the best way… But we’re interested in marketing, so we’re open to any channel, including Facebook, Etsy, LinkedIn, etc.)

Phase 2: Test Site

In the second phase, they’ll rapidly launch a thin website.

This won’t be over-designed, but based on the simplest appropriate theme.

The purpose of this website is to test the market, to answer questions like…

  • How much traffic can we get, how easily?
  • Is the market interested in our offerings?

We’re looking for actual, real-world data here… So that we can make good decisions.

Instead of spending days on graphics and production, SWD says, design the content! (If you’ve read Save the Pixel, you’ll recognise that phrase)

That means the propositions, the guarantee, the irresistible offer, the human story…

The second phase is complete when we have an initial round of stats on traffic, click-through rates, conversion rates, average sale value, etc.

Put those numbers together, and you’ll have a picture of how viable the market really is.

Then you should know how much every 1% of growth is worth — REAL ROI!

So you can decide whether to continue to invest in this opportunity, and how much.

The best bit is, you’ve got to this point with minimal investment.

Phase 3: Kaizen!

Can you guess what we do next? After we realise we have a viable opportunity?

We optimise. We build, step by step, inch by inch, day by day…

We add content that will bring more visitors into your sales funnel.

We test different appeals, headlines, angles, positions, imagery, messaging…

And – finally – we’ll test graphic design features. (The fact is, graphic design factors tend to be very minor… Content is far, far more significant. So why the hell do we spend so much on what doesn’t matter?!)

Repeat month by month.

Increase the traffic. Increase the conversion rates.

Spot the holes, and fix them.

Report to the client. Discuss what to do next.

Experiment. Have fun. Learn.

And – if you’re a STRATEGIC web designer – get paid every month…

And sleep well at night, knowing that your clients are making more money,
because of you.

What do you think? Comments below please…

About the author

Ben Hunt

Ben has over 20 years' experience in web design and marketing, and is one of the most influential figures on the subject of effective web design. He has written a bunch of books and spoken at multiple conferences internationally. In 2015, Ben created Open-Source Marketing, which promises to turn the practice of marketing upside down.. Find out more at

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