In our blog post about web analytics in an organisation, we’ve already mentioned that website analysis should include insights on both the usability of the site itself (Web Usability) and user behaviour (User Experience) to catch, acquire and retain potential customer’s attention easily. It is the complementarity of these actions that provides the greatest value in the process of increasing customers’ Lifetime Value.
If we want to find answers to why something is happening, we should make sure we have the access to data describing the factual state. Web Analytics is a source of information about:
- number of page views,
- types of devices used by users,
- time spent on the website,
- bounce rate,
- user segments.
This information is provided in the form of reports, based on which in-depth (qualitative) research is carried out. The obtained data is an important starting point for optimisation measures taken by UX Designers.
Performing UX research and analysing the metrics that document what is happening on our website allows us to find out the reasons for this and address the main user issues, such as:
- developing an interface that makes it easier for users to convert,
- making the website more intuitive and user-friendly,
- removing obstacles that prevent users from getting what they are coming or looking for on the website.
The synergy of Web Analytics actions
Combining the answers to the questions “what is happening on the website” and “ why is it happening” gives us a full understanding of the situation. It also allows us to carry out a solid analysis and draw conclusions based on quantitative and qualitative data. The form also matters – statistics or reports reach the audience faster than extensive qualitative descriptions. Collaboration between UX specialists and web analysts allows seeing the website from multiple perspectives, primarily from the user as well as the organisation itself.
What is Web Usability (WU)?
Web Usability work is mainly geared towards increasing conversion rate and starts before the website is even launched. For existing websites, Web Usability is a part of the website’s optimisation cycle. Optimisation however has a direct impact on the time spent on the website, the number of opened pages, or the bounce rate. It also enables to achieve the goal by drawing attention to increasing the usability of particular elements of the website, which is reflected in the form of e.g.:
- intuitive navigation,
- correct transitions between the sub-pages,
- efficiency and relevance of internal search engine results,
- clarity and usability of the content,
- intuitive shopping process,
- usefulness of the FAQ section,
- easiness of making contact with the company,
- proper functioning of forms and widgets (such as chat with a consultant).
Failing to ensure the usability of a website causes much frustration for users, who tend to leave, thus interrupting the conversion process and never returning to complete it.
What is User Experience (UX)?
UX is all about maximising a positive user experience. It relates to giving a descriptive collection of user experiences when using a website, either during casual browsing or taking specific actions on the site. Focusing on the user’s experience is particularly important in e-commerce, where the level of potential customer satisfaction often determines whether they will purchase a product or use our services. Therefore UX research sets the direction of service development. Suggestions for improving places where users struggle to take action, obtained thanks to them, influence the optimisation of the conversion rate. These relate to e.g.:
- inactive CTA buttons or form fields,
- forms that are too long,
- inability to move to the next step in the purchase path,
- incomplete information about products or services,
- 404 errors and incorrect redirects,
- menus that are too small or too large,
- overlapping elements,
- layouts not being mobile-friendly.
Tools for collecting usability data
Web analytics is carried out using data collection tools, but also various types of usability tests on the website. To analyse it in terms of UX and WU following tools directly linked to the website are used:
- Google Analytics,
- Google Tag Manager,
- Google Optimize.
There are also some external tools, such as:
- Page Speed Insights,
- WebPage Test.
The final selection between these tools depends, among other things, on the design requirements, the type of the website, or how long it takes to make certain actions there. A different approach is necessary for an existing website and another for one that is just being designed.
Data collection process in usability analysis
Since website usability and UX are two sides of the same coin, they are examined through one consistent process, which consists of the following steps.
1. Detailed expert analysis
The basic form of usability evaluation is a heuristic analysis centered around officially available sets of rules for building websites. Such analysis aims to answer these questions:
- Has the website been done correctly?
- Are there any common errors on the website?
- Does the website architecture lead to conversion?
The second step of expert analysis is to go through specific scenarios of paths taken by users. This so-called cognitive analysis allows us to answer two questions:
- What actions do users take on the site?
- Where do they encounter difficulties or errors?
2. Analysis through Google Analytics
If we intend to make optimisation changes to an already existing website, one of the best tools to use when analysing website usability is Google Analytics. By linking the website to the analytical tool, we get access to information at the level of:
- individual pages (e.g. number of impressions and bounces, length of sessions or actions taken);
- users (gender, age, location, or interests);
- technical issues such as browser, operating system, and internet service provider.
Google Analytics allows you to set up events and conversions yourself and provides information on whether and how often an event is performed. When it comes to the UX approach, Google Analytics has another important function – it enables content grouping and user segmentation, which is very helpful for building personas. Custom configuration includes:
- custom dimensions,
- custom metrics,
- measuring interactions with videos, buttons, sliders,
- micro conversion tracking.
3. Analysis of customer actions on the website
Web Usability research can be expanded to include an analysis of user behaviour if a site already exists and generates traffic. For instance, Heat Maps are used for this, in which we can carry out:
- Eye Tracking – namely an analysis of eyeball movement, which makes it possible to investigate unconscious user behaviour that could not be taken into account at the design stage,
- Click Tracking – analysing mouse clicks on specific page elements,
- Scroll Tracking – analysing sub-page scrolling,
- Attention Tracking – analysing elements that attract attention, not necessarily clickable.
All of the above create Heat Map patterns, that is places on the website where the user’s attention is the greatest.
4. Comparative analysis using A/B tests
A/B tests by definition have a very small margin of error. The presentation of changed elements is tested on specific audience groups and the comparison of statistics takes place under almost laboratory conditions. At the level of design analysis, we can examine:
- the appearance or order of categories in the menu,
- the different layout of content on a given sub-page,
- changes to the location of CTA buttons,
- different template design.
A/B tests can also be successfully used to compare several alternative user paths and examine the level of engagement or conversion of each audience group.
Evaluation of the effects of usability analysis
Before starting any optimisation work, it is necessary to determine which metrics are to be affected by these changes and how we will monitor the effects. Quantitative data can show the true level of impact of the alterations – however, these are often made intuitively and no one measures the effects, as the results may turn out to be less spectacular than assumed. To ensure that the quantitative evaluation of the effects of UX and WU work does not cause headaches, the right environment must be provided. The crucial thing is the right attitude toward analytical thinking, experimentation, and learning from it of both the entire team and organisation.
Web Analytics in the context of usability testing is a process composed of 4 stages:
- problem identification – collecting data and locating key sub-pages that generate difficulty or error on the website,
- analysis – working through opportunities to make improvements on specific sub-pages or functionalities,
- solution – identifying and correcting weaknesses in the design,
- evaluation of the results – collecting feedback and comparing the achieved effects with the initial assumptions.
Basing one’s decisions on intuition carries a considerable risk not only of failure but above all of creating misunderstandings. It follows that relying solely on one’s convictions is not an optimal solution. Using different, complementary research methods adds great value and gives a far more accurate view of the situation. So instead of saying: “let’s not do it, because I don’t feel it”, say: “our team analysed it and the data did not confirm it”.
Backing up with quantitative data from Web Analytics during usability analysis is crucial in determining the direction of the site. It is also crucial in terms of building relationships and creating a good atmosphere within the research team. The data confirms the seriousness of the perceived problems and reinforces the team’s belief that they are working on meaningful improvements, which in turn is an important part of building relationships and a sense of belonging within the organisation.