When we start a website redesign, one of the first things we do is ask clients for access to their analytics. Even with a small budget where user testing or user interviews are not feasible, just looking at analytics can provide the information needed to inform important decisions and improve the user experience of a new or existing website. Here are a few of the website analytics metrics that we consider relevant for a redesign as well as site maintenance. Before you start, make sure to think of your business cycles and look at the data for the relevant timeframe.
Behavior > site content > all pages
It may seem obvious, but this metric is incredibly helpful. Take a look at the most visited pages on your site. Usually, your Homepage and About page will rank at the top, but we often find some very surprising, deeper pages in the list. This tellsyou a lot about your users and the type of information they are looking for.
Use this information to critically look at those top-performing pages. What information do you share? Can the user understand what you do? Is there a clear goal or next step on each of these pages? For any page that is surprising to you, try to dig deeper and look at the other metrics for that page, to learn more.
2. Bounce Rate & Exit rate
While these two metrics may sound like the same thing, there is a subtle, but important difference: Bounce Rate refers to the percent of users who visit and leave from the same page. Exit Rate means that users have been to other pages before, but this is the last page they visit before leaving. The latter is not necessarily bad: it could mean they have found the information they are looking for and can now move on. For example: on blog pages, people often see an 80% bounce rate. This is really consistent with the user goal: to find specific information and move on to the next task. However, if you are an e-commerce site, and the product detail page is where you see your users leave, this tells you that your product page does not have what they are looking for, or that it is unclear in some way.
3. time on page
How much time do users spend on your top visited pages? If you have a long About page, but users only spend an average of 30 seconds and then exit, you may not have the information they are looking for. Or, if certain blog posts have an average time on page of 2 minutes, then you have a topic that users are interested in. How else can you use this information for other pages? Is there a clear next step for these engaged users, to further explore your company and potentially convert?
Combine this data with the results from #1 and #2, and you will start seeing a very clear picture of what is happening on your pages.
secondary dimension > source
Once you know your most visited pages, dig a little deeper. Where are these users coming from? Are they typing in your url (direct), or are they coming through Google search? If it is the former, and you need to increase your page visits, try to invest some extra time in SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Do other websites link to your site as a reference? Other sites connecting to you can improve rankings. You may want to investigate similar sites and see whether they would be willing link to your site, and return the favor, if it is relevant.
Audience > technology
Are your visitors using mobile or desktop most often? What browsers are they using? These website analytics metrics will help you optimize your site experience. Users behave differently on different devices. Mobile is typically used to get a quick overview, or to find contact information. Are your most visited pages mobile optimized or do you have large images or video in the way, loading slowly? On desktop, the experience can be a little more elaborate, adding a bit more design flavor and multiple ways to access content, because there is simply more space.
6. new users vs return visits
audience > behavior > new vs returning
The majority of websites have a large percentage of first-time visitors and only a small percentage of repeat visitors. So don’t feel bad if your distribution looks something like 85% vs 15%; you are in good company. Use this information when you structure your content and navigation: most of your visitors have never been to your website, so make sure you introduce yourself quickly and lead the user towards the next step.
Adding heatmaps to strategic pages can give us very exciting information. A heatmap shows user activity on all areas of a page, telling you where users are most active. This may show the top navigation, but often can be surprising, for example, show users attempting to click on elements that are not actually clickable. Heatmaps also show you data about how far down a page your users scroll. This can be incredibly relevant when wireframing new page layouts including site or page hierarchy and functionality.
The tools we use most often use CrazyEgg and Hotjar. Both are easily implemented on a website and data gathered within a day. They both give you very useful metrics for your website redesign. Both have additional tools that can be helpful in gathering data, such as polls, A/B testing, recordings and more.
When you consider all of these metrics before your website redesign, you see a more complete picture of your users, their behavior, and needs. Learn how and why users use your website, see what is important for them. This data and insight helps you make informed decisions for both new and existing websites.