Homepage Redesign for Startups: The Steps We Took Before Handing Off to Design
Product Series Introduction
We are excited to announce a new blog series focused on the product side of things here at SeatGeek. Of course we will still be bringing you all the fan sentiment and ticket data posts “in gory detail,” as one of our readers has described it, but these product posts will hopefully be an interesting look at how we think about improving our web app. We’d like to explore the decisions we have made, why we made them, and the lessons we have learned as we continually test and iterate on our product. We’d love feedback, questions and suggestions (in fact, generating suggestions is a primary motivation for this post).
Homepage Redesign for Startups
Over the last week we have been going through the conceptualization, research, wireframing and design phase of what will be a full homepage redesign. I wanted to share our thought process and overall strategy.
The new strategy began with the user in mind: 1) What is the user intent of traffic to SeatGeek.com? 2) How can we best satisfy that intent? After going through the process of answering those questions, we realized there were 3 key steps for redesigning our homepage, before even handing off a wireframe to a designer (obviously these change as companies scale and have full usability/content/creative teams in-house, so please share how your experiences differ).
1. Establish Why A Change Should be Made
Homepage redesigns in particular seem to be something that companies seek out without data to justify the change. In what I like to call “The Company Website Effect” (solely because I like to coin phrases ), employees are exposed to their own company’s website far more often than the average user and, therefore, tend to get bored with it. Being bored is not a good stand-alone justification for a homepage redesign–naturally this changes if your own boredom corresponds with user disengagement and a decrease in conversions. At SeatGeek, we are probably a little sick of our homepage, but we ultimately decided to make a change because of homepage bounce rates, conversion funnel analysis and other opportunities we noticed while digging through our Google Analytics and conducting market research.
Our current homepage is likely too informational. We created this version closer to launch, when traffic was much lower and one of our key goals was to educate the user on our new approach to buying tickets on the secondary market via aggregation and price forecasts. As awareness of SeatGeek has expanded, we suspect that not as much real estate needs to be devoted to educating consumers about SeatGeek, and that it will be in fact beneficial for the user if we surface more navigation tools and local events. Here is a quick look at some of the criticism we had for our homepage above-the-fold:
A) 80% of the screen real estate is devoted to explaining what we do (it may be complicated behind-the-scenes, but for the consumer it is not a difficult process)
B) Although we recently made a quick fix here, as recent as last month, there was no site navigation on the homepage other than the search box (there was no way for users to know exactly what sports and bands we offered ticket price forecasts for)
C) The search box has soft colors that do not draw the eye, it is small and it is located in the upper right of the page
D) Our logo and header area occupy a large portion of the top of the page – this might make sense for a brand-heavy company, but not for a growing startup
We will go into more detail on our next post, but for this post we just wanted to give a brief look into our thought process behind our decision to redesign.
2. Comparable Company Research / Homepage Element Analysis
Although you don’t want to copy what’s out there, it would be arrogant to assume that you are going to out-perform the major players by purely starting from scratch. So I recommend performing due diligence on competitors’ websites, as well as non-competitors that have similar site goals (fortunately for our business, this included well established major players in the e-commerce space who have spent millions optimizing their UI/UX). Our step-by-step process for analyzing competitor homepages, as well as sample output is below:
- Go to comparable companies’ websites and play around with the functionality and homepage navigation
- Screenshot each homepage and import into a PPT doc (or whatever you are most comfortable with)
- Make note of all the page elements via text-box overlays on the screenshots including which components exist ‘above-the-fold’ (i.e. what a user can see without scrolling down)
- Flip through your document and start to bucket the components into high-level elements (for us this included ‘Marquee’, ‘Horizontal Navigation, Vertical Navigation, Search Box Format, etc.)
- Document your results in a spreadsheet for easy reference and comparison (here is the Homepage Research Template that I used)
3. Set Goals / Measurements / Execution Plan
This is a critical step, but also a step that I think has been drilled into all marketers and product people, so I won’t go into the gory detail. Rather, I have listed a few of our internal goals on this project as well as the general metrics we will be measuring the success of the redesign with:
- Improve the homepage user experience, which is measured by a decrease in homepage bounce rate (currently 16% higher than overall site bounce rate). Reach this goal with more/better site navigation, better geo-location, relevant merchandising space, a call-to-action/informational marquee space, etc.
- Improve the users ability to navigate the site and find the tickets they are looking for, which is measured by an increase in conversion rates along the conversion funnel, specifically on direct traffic to the homepage (currently 17% below the site average for final conversion). Reach this goal with a larger and more attention-grabbing search box, a horizontal navigation bar, categorized buckets of links in the body of the page, etc.
- Improve the page authority of our second and third level pages, which is measured by increased SEO traffic to these pages and resulting conversions (at the time of the initial research, we were seeing minimal SEO traffic to our interior pages, which had very low page rank/authority). Reach this goal via improved internal link structure (all pages within 2-3 clicks), as well as incremental SEO improvements as a planned by-product of the usability changes.
What’s great about the approach above is that you end up with a very organized set of on-page components to include in your wireframe and a pre-defined test and measurement plan. This makes it easier to complete the wireframe and hand off to a designer, because the designer can then be more creative and experimental with the overall design, while staying true to the overall components needed.
This upfront work is just the beginning, after handing off to a designer we we still have to come to a consensus on mockups, launch, test and optimize. These are topics we will touch on in the coming weeks. Look for our new homepage soon and a post on our decision flow as we worked out which components we wanted on our new homepage and ultimately the final design that would hit production.
Do you think we took the right approach? What would you do differently? Do you think the drastic difference in bounce/conversion rates from direct homepage traffic we are seeing is standard because users are starting in the earliest part of the conversion funnel? Please share your thoughts below.