Before I actually begin, let’s answer a simple question first:
What is growth?
The truth is that “growth” can mean a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people. In our case (read - people building digital products), it means acquiring new users, getting them activated, and making sure they keep coming back, as result of which we end up making a lot of money (duh!)
Now that we have a basic understanding of growth, let’s take a look at a newly coined term that has taken the industry by storm - growth hacking. The term “growth hacker” was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010 in his blog post “Find a Growth Hacker for your startup.” Growth hacking is essentially a process that has been designed to acquire, engage and retain users at relatively lower costs than traditional marketing techniques. It focuses on the utilization of convincing copy, engaging design, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, viral strategies, content marketing, analytics, etc. to rapidly increase a product’s conversion rates.
As a designer who happens to be working with a growth team, my job is to come up with strategies and ideas which help users get hooked on and use our products, spread the word about us, then bring their friends on board as well. However, it doesn't end there. If the ideas that I come up with can be represented visually, I go ahead and develop visual mockups/creatives for them.
For example, when the monsoon season started, I came up with the idea that we should leverage weather conditions to increase the number of bookings on our Cabs app. So I designed a push notification that roughly conveyed the message, “Hey, don’t worry about the rain. We have a cab waiting for you.” This was rolled out to users that were in the areas which saw a lot rain on that particular day.
This doesn’t mean that every designer out there needs to be a hardcore growth hacker, but it’s important to understand how we can leverage what we design to grow our products (as in, getting more and more users onboard). To understand that, let’s dive into the basics of growth hacking first.
Let’s assume that we’re all pirates and say ‘AARRR’. Sounds weird, but that basically is your growth funnel. AARRR stands for Acquisition (getting users to sign up for your product), Activation (steps that users go through when they use your product for the first time), Retention (keeping users hooked on to your product), Revenue (money/ways in which your product can make money depending on your business model), Referral (users telling other people about your product).
Keeping AARRR in mind, there are a few questions that we as designers keep asking everyday when we design a product. For instance, when potential users get to know about your product, what makes them want to use your product? (That’s Referral & Acquisition). When new users start using your product, what gets them hooked on and makes sure that they keep coming back? (That pretty much covers Activation & Retention).
In a study conducted by Stanford, it was revealed that 75% of users make judgments about a company’s credibility based on the visual design of its website. What this means is that if we do our job properly, 75% of the potential users that visit our website will end up signing up for our product. That’s pretty amazing. I absolutely agree that it is content that drives traffic and all, but the first impression (which by the way is made in 1/20th of a second) is totally based on design.[Good twitter quote (change to "the first impression of a website is totally based on design")] A company that wonderfully makes use of these hacks to accelerate its growth is InVision (well there are lots, but let’s take InVision up as an example).
This is their first fold (I’m sure almost everybody is familiar with this). The design is clean and stunning, but take a look at the CTAs for a moment. The one in the top right hand corner says “Sign Up Free”, and the one in the center says “Get Started - Free Forever.” They have a free plan like many other products out there, but I’ve seen very few of them actually making use of it on the CTA - the word “free.” This makes the user think, “It’s free forever--maybe I could sign up and check it out.” It kind of acts as a catalyst.
Everybody loves it when things are available for free, right? InVision has cleverly managed to tap into the minds of people and hack their way into increasing the probability of acquiring a new user. They could have simply used a “Sign Up” button as well. What would have happened then? Well, I wouldn’t have known about their free plan until I actually saw their plans. In fact, many users wouldn’t have signed up. Now, since I know that InVision is showing me things that I need to know upfront, somewhere at the back of my mind, a feeling has developed, that tells me that these guys are going to make my life easier, and as a result I’m going to use their product over and over again. Conclusion - InVision has successfully managed to acquire and retain me as their user.
Now, if you scroll down below, this is what their sign-up form looks like:
The message on top creates a sense of trust among potential users - over 1 million designers have already signed up. It also uses the word ‘free’ again. This actually is a perfect example of how to use persuasive copy to increase your conversion rates.
Like I said, the message creates a sense of trust among potential users and sort of ‘forces’ them to go ahead and sign up. By the time I have scrolled down to this section of their landing page, I’m already convinced. This acts as an add-on. In fact, if we look at the page closely, we can actually break it down into sections where they have used pure marketing techniques and where they have used hacks. The techniques used in the section on top (i.e everything above the first fold) can be classified as growth hacking like I’ve already discussed. When you scroll down below, that is where the marketing techniques start. They’ve clearly defined their product features using text and visuals, followed by testimonials from biggies in the industry. These are principles of traditional marketing, straight from the book. The signup form has just three fields. It does not ask the user for useless information. (However, they could have just asked for the user’s email and password, and the name could have been asked later to speed up the registration process). Still, their signup form is way better than the signup forms lots of other products out there have. Statistically speaking, unless absolutely necessary, three fields in a sign-up/contact form get the highest number of conversions.
That’s because a lengthy sign up form is overwhelming for the user. If I were to fill in more than five fields to sign up for a product, I would have gone ahead and left without actually signing up. Instead if I see a sign up form that has two or three fields, I’d be like, “It’s just three steps. Won’t take me more than 10 seconds,” and I would sign up.
Don’t ask users about things like address or age or annual income on the first step of registration unless it’s absolutely necessary. The hack that can be used here is to ask for the most basic information on the first step of thee signing up process, and when the user is done with clicking the signup button and has landed on the next page show them a message saying something like, “Hey! Thanks for signing up. Just a few more steps until you get to use our amazing product.” Simple!
As designers, we do a lot of user research before designing, right? Let’s make it a habit to catch hold of data once the product has been rolled out. What this will do is give direct insights into customer/user behavior. Gaining insights into consumer behavior could result in discovering new growth opportunities.
For example, it would help us to identify the specific steps or stages in the product flow where most drop-offs occur. We can brainstorm and iterate over them and come up solutions to reduce the drop-offs. A small hack that could work when users are dropping off at a certain stage is, at the click of the “cancel” button, showing them a message that would say something like, “Hey! Don’t leave. These are the amazing things that you could have access to in case you sign up. Also, get a chance to win free goodies.” If people find the message and the design of your creative convincing enough, they would go back complete the registration process.
However, this does not mean that you have to log in to the analytics dashboard and analyze everything (you could, but you don’t have to). Still, it’s important to work closely with either data analysts or product managers to constantly keep reviewing the numbers, and turn your learnings into a hypothesis. The process can be something like this:
- learn from user research
- design based on those learnings
- validate them using data once the product has been rolled out.
Since I’ve already talked about sign-up forms and CTAs, let’s talk about how you could use analytics to design them better. Once the product has been rolled out, use analytics to track things like button clicks and conversion rates. If you don’t see any improvement there, then something’s wrong with your designs. Iterate over them - see which color on the CTA works or what message works or what placement of the CTA is better.
For example, if analytics suggest that your CTA (that leads to the signup form) in the top right hand corner is not getting enough clicks, pull it down to the center of the first fold, make it larger and give it a color that makes it stand out so that users can see it. Maybe you have a great product, but because your CTA is not visible or convincing enough, potential users are not getting converted. The idea is to create more than one solution for a problem and test them out. See which one works better. Following this process will increase the impact and effectiveness of your designs.
We need to remember that whatever we design should have a direct impact on growth. [Another good Twitter quote]Our designs need to attract users and make sure they get converted. Otherwise, there is no point in designing and building a product. Design of a product should be engaging and usable enough so that, it not only makes a potential user say “Wow,” but also allows them to get them onboard easily and encourages them to recommend the product to others.