Website analytics have been around since the early days of the web, and have grown into complex reporting tools. Analytics have mainly been used by marketing professionals and business units to understand how a particular website is performing. However, they can also be used to help understand your users and their activity on your website. You can learn who your audience is, what pages need to be improved, what content your users want and identify navigation problems. Which in turn can help you improve the overall user experience (UX).
We will be using Google Analytics in the examples, but the principles discussed here apply to any advanced analytics platform.
Who Are The Site Visitors?
Demographics and Location
Analytics can tell you the age, gender, language and location of your visitors. This information is helpful in a variety of situations. For example, if you are considering translating a site into multiple languages, seeing what language your current users speak can help prioritize which languages to translate to, or if the cost to translate is really necessary.
Gender and age can give you insight into the interests and behavior of your users that will affect the site design. For example, if your users are mostly 55+ the way you design and write content will be different than if the site is mostly 25 and younger.
Pages That Aren’t Working
Bounce and Exit Rates
A website or app is always a work in progress. It can always be improved and updated. So how can you identify and prioritize what pages to work on? One technique is to review the pages with the highest bounce rates and exit rates. Pages that have higher than average exit or bounce rates should be reviewed to see if improvements can be made to improve usability, design or content to improve the user experience. It’s also worth looking at the breakdown of exit/bounce rates on pages by device type. That way you can identify if the problem is on desktop, tablet, mobile or some combination of all three.
Another technique is to look at your conversion funnels and see where people are dropping off. For example, on an ecommerce site if people are dropping off during the payment screen, that is an indication that improvements could be made to that screen to increase conversions.
It’s important to note that bounce/exit rates and funnel drop off can tell you where the problem is, but not why it’s happening or how to fix it. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious once you look at it and an expert review of the page will reveal the issues at hand, but more often than not user testing is more likely to help you understand and quickly fix the real problem.
What Users Really Want
Looking at which pages get the most pageviews is analytics 101, but what about the content users want, but isn’t on the site yet? To really get a handle on what content users want to see take a look at the site search terms. What are users searching for? Do you have pages (or products) that cover all the top search terms? If not, you now have a list of in-demand topics that you can add to your site.
Navigation and Search Issues
User and Event Flows
When it comes to navigation, the “User Flow” and “Event Flow” diagrams in Google Analytics are the best way to understand how your visitors are navigating a website. These diagrams look confusing and a bit overwhelming, but can be very useful if you know what to look for. The best way to start is to have a page or section in mind that you want to understand. To get started:
1.Select the level of detail you want in the upper left corner. Tip: It’s best to start out with fewer connections
2.Find the page (or group of pages) of interest in the diagram
3.Control click (or right click) and select “Highlight traffic through here”
Evaluate the navigation flow and ask: Do the majority of users follow a specific path? Is there a hub and spoke pattern (also known as pogo sticking)? Is it taking too many pages to get to the content users want?
You can also try narrowing down your user group by using the drop down to the left of the flow. By selecting ‘Default Channel Grouping” you can narrow in on just users who came in through search, or direct traffic. There is also the option to only view mobile users.
Search Exits and Refinements
One way to evaluate if your site search is effective is to review the search terms with the exit rates and percent of refinements. If users are exiting from a search page or refining their searches chances are that they didn’t find what they were looking for in the search result.
Analytics can be used to see what percentage of your visitors are using a mobile device to view your website. If the percentage of mobile users is high you will want to consider prioritizing the mobile experience above the desktop experience (or visa versa) by following a mobile-first process. You might also want to consider developing a mobile app if your mobile traffic is high and common tasks would be easier in a native environment.