Three design decisions that set the stage for analytics and optimization


When people talk about web design, they usually mean visual design–what does the site, app, or email look like? Is there movement to it or is it static? Does the imagery compel people to stick around? Those are important questions, but there’s a layer of design that’s less obvious but perhaps even more important, and it starts long before anyone is thinking about colors, fonts, and images.

Foundational design, which for most marketing platforms means thinking about design components on a page, sets the stage for human-centered personalization, data measurement and analysis of key results, and insights to help improve your digital properties. Foundational design is crucial if you plan to use some of the more advanced features of a marketing platform. If you don’t lay the foundation for analytics early on, you won’t be able to measure anything meaningful for a year.

So what does it mean to think about design in terms of components, and laying a foundation? Consider the following three areas:

Visual design

Imagery does play into this, but not from an aesthetic perspective (yet). In the early stages of setting up web pages or email, think about visual design in terms of specifications. Consistent aspect ratios and modular image and copy placement, for example, enable A/B testing and personalization down the road. Plan to design for “technical wealth”–in other words, build with your ideal future website in mind. So even if you’re not ready to pull the trigger on testing or customization now, design your site to accommodate those initiatives in the future.

Personas and taxonomy

It’s called “customer experience” for a reason. Plan your tag taxonomy with human attributes in mind. Different audiences will search for different information, and taxonomy not only helps them wayfind on your site but also eventually creates the ability to predict and measure the interactions of particular personas with specific assets on certain pages.

For example, one of our clients is a best-in-class hotel/casino in Las Vegas, and we’re working to integrate email marketing with their Adobe AEM platform to create personalized touchpoints. A major foundational piece of the engagement has been developing personas that are validated by actual guest data from the hotel’s membership loyalty program. Based on their current open rates, we’ve quantified what low, average, and high engagement means for different channels. Now, we can start varying the degree to which we personalize content for each customer and then measure the impact on those customized interactions.

Design for the purchase cycle

“Responsive design” doesn’t just mean design that adapts to different device specs. It also means design that responds to customers’ context within the purchase cycle.

For our hotel client, we’ve organized email campaigns in the context of the hotel stay journey. What information would each type of guest want?

  • A prospective customer currently browsing options
  • Someone who has just booked their stay experiencing a surge of relief and excitement
  • Someone who is a week out from their stay, starting to consider the details of the journey
  • A guest who is arriving that day who may be both stressed about logistics and excitedly anticipating their stay
  • A guest in the midst of their stay but still has a day or two left to make the most of the property
  • A recently-departed customer reflecting on their hotel experience

Different content, imagery, and triggers are appropriate for different points within this cycle. For our Las Vegas hotel client, email campaigns feature venue images based on what a guest likes to do. Their arrival email might feature their favorite on-site restaurant with a link to reserve a table, a special offer from the spa with a link to book a treatment, and an event that might interest them. These digital interactions cut through the noise of Vegas and prime guests to customize their stay right from the start, marrying a luxurious customer experience with a tangible uptick in on-property dollars for the hotel.

Customers increasingly expect customized communication as part of a personalized experience. The best way to manage both is to design for data-driven interactions long before you send a single email or push a page live.

Need help personalizing your customer experience? Contact us.

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