The technical side of building a website has mostly been taken care of by an influx of website builder tools. The builder tools allow designers to focus more on the creative side of the website. One of the technologies making waves in website design is personalization. It allows designers to be more creative with their designs while focusing on high-performing websites that also convert.
What is personalization
Personalization is the activity to make content and messaging more relevant based on the recipient’s background. Marketing and sales have popularized personalization because customers on the other end receive too much outreach and messages, leading to a need to improve messaging. Too many irrelevant messages have led customers to ignore the non-relevant messages altogether. It’s very similar to a common term used in marketing called banner blindness.
Personalized messages appear more relevant to the customer, leading to more conversations and finally revenue being generated. Personalization can be done in an email, on a website, or in any other medium. Of these different mediums, website personalization is the most relevant medium for website designers.
What is website personalization
Personalized websites are dynamic as opposed to traditional static websites. Dynamic websites are able to change their content based on a visitor’s context, preferences, and other data.
Dynamically personalized websites aim to show each visitor on a website the most relevant information in a way that is the most appealing to the visitor. More relevant information leads to higher conversions in most cases. So far, designers have mostly used website personalization to boost conversion rates on websites. However, it can also unlock new types of creativity for designers.
Designers who are looking for creative solutions to communicate different messages with design can now also embrace personalization as part of their toolkit. To understand how designers can fully utilize personalization, it’s important to know the difference between the old and new ways.
The old-school way to design websites
Goal and audience
The traditional way to design websites is to think about them as static assets. These static assets can and should only serve one purpose. It used to be important to decide early on in the design process whether a website was for e-commerce or a B2B audience. The purpose of a website wouldn’t change because the design would need to capture as wide an audience as possible. This led to mostly generic website experiences if the target audience was too large.
Content and elements on a website
The designer needed to lock in the content on a static website early because it was difficult to change it later on. This content would only serve one audience, usually the customers of a business. The designer would also have to decide the key website elements with a specific audience in mind. This is the reason why there are so many lead generation forms on a website.
The same goes for the styling of elements on a website. A designer would have to decide the style early on so that it would remain consistent throughout the website. This doesn’t account for different factors such as style preferences.
With static websites, it was necessary to serve all who could the audience definition of a business. Especially in B2B, most companies serve multiple industries. They also have multiple different personas taking part in the decision-making process when considering a product.
Factors.ai, an example of a static website with multiple target decision-makers
In today’s fast-paced environment, customers visit a website and leave as soon as they determine that the information you are presenting is not relevant to them. There is a large communication gap that personalization can help with.
How personalization changes website design
From one mass audience to microsegments
Designers used to design websites with a specific audience in mind. However, website personalization allows designers to get more granular and create websites that are meant for multiple different audiences in mind. The key to crafting good personalized experiences is to know how to segment your audience into smaller groups called microsegments.
Especially SaaS businesses today serve a multitude of different industries with multiple people involved in the decision-making process. How would a designer ever be able to create the best design for everyone while a key factor in good design is knowing your audience well?
Personalization allows designers to craft different experiences for everyone on a larger scale. Website visitors from different industries can see styling and imagery that appeals to them the best. Different decision-makers in a company can see the most compelling arguments based on their job role. The key is to understand what is the best experience for that person.
Website elements to suit the audience
Each element on the website can also be re-designed in the UI/UX design process to fit the customer’s needs better. A good design removes a lot of noise and creates a great experience if it only shows the relevant information.
To create good personalized experiences, it’s important to understand the customer segment and their behavior and mindset well. For example, it’s unlikely that a CEO of a large enterprise company takes the time to sign up for a free product. It’s more likely that they would like to talk directly with sales about how a product could help their business. In this case, a personalized experience could include hiding the “Sign up for free” button on a website. Also, replacing that with “Schedule a call with sales” or “Book a time with our CEO” would create a better experience.
While customers are usually the main focus of a business, there’s also a vast amount and opportunity lying in the non-customers of a business.
Not forgetting the non-customers
When designers only focus on the customer, other key stakeholders such as job applicants, investors, and media take a back seat. Designers usually hide relevant links to other stakeholders in the footer where it’s hard to discover them.
Personalization allows designers to also pay attention to the other stakeholders by identifying the non-customers and highlighting relevant content to them earlier on a page. Visitors coming from a university campus IP address would see relevant job openings. And investment firms would see a quarterly report immediately upon landing on a page.
Tone of voice
Usually, businesses decide their tone of voice early on in a branding process. However, what is the most effective tone of voice depends on the audience and recipient. A tone of voice should always be suitable for whoever is hearing it.
Website personalization allows designers to utilize different tones of voice depending on which channel the visitor is coming from. For example, a visitor from Reddit or Hacker News generally appreciates a more technical and straightforward tone. Meanwhile, a Linkedin visitor might appreciate a business-formal tone in the content.
With all its benefits, there are also tradeoffs that personalization can bring that designers have to pay attention to.
Challenges of personalization to brand design
The job of designers when designing a website is not only to communicate a message but to do so in a way that is aligned with the brand of a company. With personalization, that brand might be split into different brand experiences which might not be great for a coherent and singular brand long-term.
However, a study from Salesforce found that personalization is important in digital marketing since around 52% of consumers and 65% of B2B buyers are likely to switch brands if the company doesn’t personalize its communications to them. So it’s likely that it’s a necessity for business rather than something that can be avoided.
There’s also an opportunity to create new brand experiences that embrace personalization as a key part of the brand. That way revenue optimization and branding are not at odds with each other.
Key technological advancements around websites have enabled designers to craft new experiences that are more targeted to small customer groups as opposed to one large mass audience. Personalization enables designers to change the message, style, tone of voice, and other elements of a website to always be best suited to the recipient.
A tradeoff of personalization is a mixed brand experience for customers and other stakeholders so it’s important to also embrace personalization in the brand design going forward. It’s unlikely that businesses can ignore personalization since customers in both B2B and B2C are becoming to expect personalization as an everyday essential.