The 3 Stages of Growth-Driven Design

Ranya Barakat

March 29, 2017

Designers often leave something out of their value proposal:  understanding and measuring how a project will influence their client's business in quality and quantity. 

Customers had a hard time earning or getting the approval for their budget to pay for your web design proposal. They deserve to know their real return on investment (ROI) before deciding to work with you.

What is Growth-Driven Design?

In simple terms, Growth-Driven Design (or GDD) is a website development methodology that Integrates management control processes in web design, by applying lean methodologies and business management techniques." 

It may sound not very easy, but it is not!

Your project may be well structured, and your client may love it. But, how often does it go over budget or past its deadline?

In the end, the project had no real impact on your client's business and was finally abandoned because the customer didn't have the time, resources, or money to continue investing in it.

Two years later, the customer hires another agency to redesign their current site, repeating their vicious cycle over and over.

Now then, think about your previous web design projects.

  • Were they launched on time?
  • Did they keep their scope?
  • Were they according to budget?

When you launch a new website, your team makes thousands of small decisions that you thought may work for the buyer persona. However, they are all based on your assumptions and the specific demands of your customer, with the notion: "this could work." 

“A web site is also our client’s number one salesperson, working round the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nurturing people throughout the sales process.”
- Luke Summerfield, Growth-Driven Design Evangelist 

In today's world, web designers must learn about the business's process and how our decisions will impact our customer's companies. 

We are not there to do cute and beautiful things. We are there to make functional decisions with a real impact on their businesses.

To achieve this, we must work with all departments of an organization . We must understand what they are doing and what they have learned to integrate that information into our web design project.


Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to keep growing your web marketing agency?

  • Why does every project end up delivered out of deadline or off-budget?
  • Why don't you have the tools to explain to your client the decisions you made?

Business processes, the market, and the user have changed. But design methods have not. So today, agencies must face new challenges if they want to survive.

Where's the user?

You spent so much making sure that your client looked good that you forgot mostly everyone!:

  • The user.
  • The marketing process.
  • Their actual products.
  • Their sales department.

Based on what they assumed, you followed your customer's demands step by step based on what they assumed were their users' and brand perception. 

At the end, you created a beautiful postcard that does not generate traffic or conversion. And. worst of all, the client does not have the slightest interest in investing in it.

That is why Growth-Driven Design changes the game's rules so that your customer wins at the end. 

GDD changes the legacy design model, which is stopping design agencies from growing.

“If we look at the traditional web design process, it is a designer-driven process. The designer dictates the action by talking to our clients and our team, looking at industry best practices, and looking at what's worked in the past.

What are the best standards?  Before, they made a series of different decisions about what they thought would perform well. Then, they wrapped it up into a website and launched it. It was a designer deciding what to build.”

- Luke Summerfield, Growth-Driven Design Evangelist

GDD It is a smarter approach to web design, reducing the messes of the traditional model. Not only does it optimize  the process. Since it works on a retainer model, it comprises your client's business departments, such as sales, products, and marketing. In the end, they all actively participate in the continuous improvement process of their corporate website.

How does Growth-Driven Design work?

GDD uses tools to measure each stage of the development process, with clear goals and a long-term vision.

It begins with one basic notion: there's no perfect website. It must:

  • Become an asset in permanent transformation.
  • Adapt to its user.
  • Understand and integrate all areas of a company to deliver an appropriate message at the right time.

That is the reason this is no longer about making "nice" but "functional" decisions that have a real impact on your client's business.

Let's take a quick look at the core components of a GDD strategy and its stages.


Before considering an idea or design, we must understand our user:

  • How do they fit on our website?
  • What are their concerns, challenges, and goals?

We will build Buyer Personas. Then, our team will work on the assumptions and processes to validate them.

  • You will sit with your client and create a bucket list of 75 to 200 ideas to improve the website and turn it into an element that adds value to the business and the buyer persona.
  • Then you will work with a  20/80 method.
  • You will focus on that 20% of ideas that, in the end, have an 80% impact on your client's business.
  • You'll divide that 20%: on the one hand, ideas that the website must have; on the other hand, those ideas that would be "attractive" to have. Then, we will score their impact from 1 to 10.
  • It's important to make an audit of your client's current website to see if you need to redesign everything or continue working with some features.
  • Remember that it is important to be aware of your client's budget!. Help them grow their businesses and build trust.


The idea is to launch a website quickly, so you can begin collecting hard data. Then, try to create a balance between quality and customer satisfaction. 

Do not waste time on projects that will last 3 or 5 months. Anything you may have found in the strategy stage will no longer be valid after three months. So you need to get out of that bubble quickly!

Try not to exceed 45 days on the website development (of course, this depends on the size of the site) to build a launch site with all the necessary components to collect information.

Remember: there's no perfect website. You must explain to your client that it is better to work in continuous improvement process, than trying to deliver an end product that will be abandoned later.

Don't mistake, and a launch-pad website is not a low-quality site. On the contrary, its foundation will be stronger, and it will perform better.


Here we focus on analyzing and improving the website. Each month, we will work on the best strategy to move the metrics and indicators to reach our client's goals. That way, we will learn where to focus efforts to have the biggest impact on the business, like:

  • An improved user experience (UX).
  • An improved conversion rate.
  • Sales process optimization .
  • An improved user interface improvements.

To achieve this, we will work with "The website hierarchy." That is a roadmap for building a site with the best possible performance regarding:

  • Audience: the flow of organic visitors.
  • Value: that our visitors find in our content.
  • Usability: this addresses friction points, such as how users interact, how intuitive it is, and how much time users take to complete a task. 
  • Conversion rate optimization  looks at the entire conversion funnel to find new ways to reduce friction between the user and the content offer.
  • Stickiness: whether or not the user returns regularly.
  • Personalization: to adapt the user experience based on location, Buyer persona, interests, groups, etc.
  • Assets: These are the contents that add value to your customer's business, such as blogs, social media, content offers, services, etc. Improving assets involves building new offers value to our client's marketing and sales department and, ultimately, the buyer persona. 
  • Promoters: tools to make users tell their friends about the website, blogs, and offers.

The continuous improvement stage is part of a retainer. During a 12 month period, designers will work weekly to improve their customer's websites. It is important to have realistic goals and clear expectations suited to their business and industry.

Remember, every decision you make should be based on metrics and not what you think will benefit the user.  The only person who can give us the information to implement each stage and meet our goals is the customer. 


Once we get enough hard data, we can begin creating hypotheses with our team. 

Like in the strategy stage, we will work in a  20/80 ratio to separate ideas in terms of impact and effort. 

Imagine you have an idea worth a score of 6 on the table, and it would cost only 4 days of development. Now imagine an idea worth 9 points that would take you 1 month to develop.

Which one do you implement first?

We will look for the right tools to test, measure, and validate these ideas.

Do not be afraid to fail in the process. Clients usually want designers to get results on the first try. Instead, educate your customer and show him the value of studying your user, validating ideas, and trying new things. It is the only way to understand the value of your product for the end-user.

GDD is a great differentiator as a service: it offers less risk, it is timely and provides an on-budget delivery. On the other hand, decisions based on real data and, most importantly, it helps you build long-term relationships.

If you wish to learn more,  visit You can find resources and tools to start working and get certified in Growth-Driven Design.

Do you have further questions about Growth-Driven Design? Send share your comments below. 

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Ranya Barakat

Ranya is a serial entrepreneur with over 8 years of experience working on the HubSpot CRM. She loves pushing her sleeves up , and getting s*** done. When she is not running her HubSpot partner agency, you can find her upside down on her yoga mat.

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