It’s that time of year when everyone starts thinking about a makeover.  Wait! Put down the phone! No need to call your hairdresser. In this case, we’re talking about a website makeover.

Of course, you know it’s crucial to align your site’s functionality to your business needs. So, you identify internal stakeholders and frame out the site to align to business requirements. But what about your customers? Why and how should they be involved in the process? And what should you do with their input? Let’s start with the “why”.

WHY involve customers?

A user’s experience on your website has a direct impact on business outcomes. So you’d better make it good.

Today’s online customer expects you to meet them on their terms. When Genworth surveyed users before a recent makeover, user expectations of our website were crystal clear: Make it fast, efficient, easy, and provide a knowledgebase that’s customizable to user preferences.

Once you understand those basic user expectations, use them to inform a site design approach that delivers on those expectations. Our advice? Invest in technology to deliver speed and efficiency. Consider an assisted selling approach to deliver on product recommendations and reinforce your brand. Make your site self-serve ready by presenting users with status notifications and customized content. And personalize the whole experience through segment-level messaging and tight integration with customer profiles.

Why involve customers in your website makeover? Because a user-centric approach will ensure that your site meets the expectations that your customers set forth.

HOW do you involve customers?

First, invest in UX research to understand how users interact with your website. Web analytics on your existing site are a great place to start, but consider more. The best way to get users involved is to go right to the source.

We recommend that you meet with users one-on-one. Conduct online surveys. Focus groups. Gather both qualitative and quantitative data. And gather that data iteratively, from the beginning to the end of the makeover process. In fact, engaging customers in user testing at major project milestones may be the most important step you’ll take. Does the design and functionality of each module meet user expectation? If so, great. But if not, make improvements and re-test to ensure user expectations are met.

How do you involve customers in your website makeover? Involve them early. Involve them often and throughout the project. And involve them after your website launches. It’s that important.

What to do with all that customer input

Once you’ve collected data and conducted research, it’s time to analyze it and develop solutions.

First, consider the user data you’ve collected. Formulate user personas for the key user groups who visit your site. How does each persona compare in terms of their expectations of your website? Are there differences in their online experiences, their technological expertise, or social media savvy?  What outside factors influence the way each persona interacts with your website – or even your business? A deep dive into each persona may reveal striking differences between user groups.

Once you’ve identified key personas, you can begin to align web content and functionality to each persona. The expectations, goals, and experience of each user group will dictate a journey map through your website that is relevant to each user’s role. Formally map out user journeys through your site for each persona – adjust content and functionality to align to user expectations.

WHAT do you do with all that customer input? Analyze it, interpret it, and leverage it to design your website with your user in mind!

Our customers built our website

At Genworth Mortgage Insurance, we recently launched our own website makeover. By following all the steps above, our site was designed to make the traditionally complex process of quoting and ordering mortgage insurance (MI) easy and efficient.

User research helped us to identify what users loved and wanted to keep from our old website and revealed what new features and improvements they expected of our new one. And it helped us to validate our website design and functionality iteratively -- as it was being built.

Some notable new website features include:

  • A visual pipeline tracking system mimics what top online delivery services offer in tracking a package, which Genworth's research revealed is highly coveted by users.
  • Reduced data entry for fast, easy submissions of MI applications
  • The ability to upload multiple documents simultaneously with a drag and drop file feature
  • The ability to seamlessly activate or cancel a mortgage insurance commitment online
  • An enhanced Rate Express® interface for finding and comparing Genworth MI rates and loan parameters (LTV, down payment amounts, etc.)
  • Enhanced MI application search capabilities
  • The ability to send notes to an underwriter following a loan application
  • A streamlined reporting interface to more easily access data

In addition to these new functions, the user experience was also improved across the website through mobile-friendly/responsive design, enhanced site search capabilities, improved access to training offerings, preview capabilities for images and documentation, and step-by-step contextual help.

Visit us at new.mi.genworth.com to see a website built by customers and perhaps grab a couple of ideas to help make over your website.