Designing Websites: Research Objectives are Similar to Print and Broadcast Communications

For the most part, marketing researchers have had little involvement in developing specifications for websites.  Typically, web involvement has been related to resolving the problems after a site goes on line rather than optimizing the content before designing, programming and launching a web presence.


To assist in optimizing website design and content, HCD Research has developed a methodology designed to:

  • Optimize positioning/segmentation strategies
  • Determine the optimal “look and feel” and message elements of their website
  • Obtain consumers’ perceptions and expectations related to branded communications
  • Develop a successful organic search engine marketing strategy (SEM)
  • Optimize and monitor the website’s in-market performance

Our proprietary methodology consists of a five-phased approach.


During phase one, we develop segmentation and positioning strategies, which includes identifying unique message components that are most relevant and compelling to the target market. We also leverage the long tail of search optimization to determine how marketers can own a new whitespace and provide relevant content through keywords and branded messages.


In phase two, we use our mobile eye-tracking system to optimize the layout of the website and ensure that the most important elements on the website are seen quickly and focused on for better retention. During this phase, we conduct in-depth interviews to determine if the site is meeting expectations with respect to usability and content.


As part of phase three, we conduct quantitative research to confirm:

  • the branding goals are being met
  • the content was clear and the information was easy to find
  • the site was easy to use and appropriate for the brand

We then ensure that the website is search engine friendly by extracting descriptors from the site to predict the probability of a successful organic search ranking.


Finally, respondents are asked to participate in an on-line exit survey to assess customer satisfaction, loyalty, overall perceptions and branding impact. 


After the website is launched, we use a single dashboard approach to collectively provide actionable insights for in-market performance and optimization.


As media spend migrates more and more to the web, researchers will be required to provide insight into the optimal design specifications using qualitative and quantitative tools, similar to techniques and tools they use for print and broadcast promotion.