For all the analysis that we do, for all the numbers and dashboards we look at, it's all ostensibly towards one purpose - improving website performance.
It's often easy to forget websites are here to fulfil business requirements, but easier still to forget website performance is often tied to your user's experience. The rules here are pretty simple; if your website gives visitors a hard time, then your visitor will return the favour in kind by leaving.
Thankfully, Google Analytics provides many tools to help you analyse your website's performance and start identifying user interface design problems that might be leading to poor user experiences.
Here are five ways you can use Google Analytics to measure and improve your site's UX.
1. Look at bounce rates, especially for key landing pages
Bounce rates are one of the most useful metrics when it comes to measuring the health of your page - a user 'bounces' if they come to the page and leave without doing a single thing. Pages with higher-than-average bounce rates often signal something wrong with the page.
Landing pages are pages people enter the site on, and therefore, are usually a visitor's first impression of your website. If you have a digital marketing spend, then landing pages have a cost of acquisition, making them your most important and expensive pages on your site.
It's important, then, to break down your bounce rates by landing pages, which you can easily do by going to left-hand navigation bar of Google Analytics, going to the Behaviour sub-category, then Site Content, and then Landing Pages. While individual pages will have varying bounce rates throughout your website depending on their function, if your landing pages have high bounce rates, then that indicates users are not connecting with your page and leaving straight away.
If you are finding your landing page experiences high bounce rates, don't panic! There are ways you can also narrow down the problem through analytics.
One of the go-to things to do is to look at your page speed. Users tend to expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less, so if your site is taking longer to load, visitors could be leaving before they even see the full page. Another thing to look at is to segment your audience by Source/Medium (which is available in your default system segments) and see if there is a particular channel (or channels) that are leading to higher average bounce rates. There could be one rogue channel that is pushing up the average bounce rate - if that's the case, then that might signal a mismatch between the messaging you're using on that channel, and the messaging on the landing page.
2. Check bounce and conversion performance by device/browser
Aggregate data is the devil - given enough data, compiling and averaging out large sample sizes can iron out even the most visible peaks and dips. That's why we should segment and cut up the data to show us the truth.
One such segment we should always be using is mobile vs tablet vs desktop performance. Given that over 50% of the world's internet traffic now goes through mobile devices, it's more crucial than ever to pay careful attention to how our websites perform on mobile devices.
Luckily, Google allows us to segment by mobile devices out of the box as 'Mobile Devices' is a system segment. Once we've segmented our data, we then need to look at how critical individual pages perform, how engaged our users are, and how well users convert compared to desktop performance. Doing so will allow us to spot problem pages that might only be an issue on mobile devices.
Another point of data that we often forget about is the performance by browser type. It's easy to assume everyone uses the same browsers like the one we do, but every time I'm in auditing an analytics account, I'm always surprised by the plethora of different browsers people use (anyone heard of SeaMonkey?). Therefore, it's important to check how your site performs on various browsers to make sure there are no anomalies you might never come across while browsing on your own.
3. Check user behaviours flows to look for lost users
Although it’s not the most easy report to understand, Behaviour Flow (Behaviour -> Behaviour Flow) is one way to check how users navigate through your site, and see where users most typically drop-off or get lost. You can always spot groups of lost users if users seem to be backtracking to pages a lot, or just not following the path you think they'd follow. For example, if you're an Electrician with a website for your business, you might expect users to go from your homepage to a page which lists out all your services. Then, they might check out a few of your services in-depth, before going to your contact form to submit a booking form. However, when you look at your Behaviour Flow and instead see your visitors going from the homepage to your 'About' page, and then back to your homepage and then maybe the 'Contact' page before abandoning the site, then there might be something going wrong with how you're guiding users throughout the website. While users never really behave how you expect them to behave, one reason users get lost simple - they're not like us. It's easy to forget most people won't be as familiar as you are when it comes to your own website and your company. Organising your information in a way that's intuitive and simple for your users, therefore, and making what users are looking for easy to find and new information easy to discover is a huge part of effective user interface design. So if you're seeing patterns of lost users, try to step into the shoes of a user and look at the problematic pages from an objective point of view. Ask yourself questions like, 'what would users be looking to achieve?' and 'what would stop them from achieving their goals?' - if you figure out your user's problems, you'll solve your own!
4. Check your site search data
This one is another one to do with information architecture - the art/science of organising and showing the right information to your users at the right time. If your website has site-search (and your analytics is picking search keywords up - Behaviour -> Site Search -> Search Terms), then it might be a good idea to look into what users are searching.
If many users are running searches for main pages or pieces of information, this indicates those pages are not easy enough to find and need to be more obviously placed. Just think, if some users are resorting to the on-site search engine to find critical bits of information, then think of how many users might be leaving the site because they don't know the page exists!
Another way to take action on-site search data is to find out what terms might be turning up with no results. If users are searching for topics that you don't have a page for, then it's a good idea to either create pages or write content around those terms, so users aren't going to blank pages when running a search.
5. Match engagement rates with page functions
Many companies look at engagement metrics like pages per session or average session length and think the more, the better - 'if people are spending lots of time on my website and looking at lots of pages, they must be more engaged, right?'. The truth is it's a little more nuanced than that. For example, if the average number of pages per session is high but the average session length is relatively low, then this means people might be getting lost and jumping from page to page, unable to find what they're looking for. A long average session length is good if you've got lots of blogs and content (and this is where users are spending their time). However, if you're trying to drive your users to take action on your website, and yet users are spending a long amount of time on each page. This could also mean it's not easy to do what they need to do, or the content on your page does not reassure them. Leading to users spending a lot of time contemplating, or merely scrolling up and down a lot, looking for more information. A key thing to remember is not making your users think - performing key actions on your website should be frictionless, so the longer it takes to perform specific actions, the more likely a user is to get frustrated. What you need to do here is marry the data with real-life observation and intuition. If you think your checkout process should only take a minute, yet users seem to be taking four or more minutes, that's not a good indication. On the other hand, if you're writing substantial blog posts that people are only spending 30 seconds on, that might mean your writing isn't resonating with users.
There are many ways to analyse your website’s ability to provide a good user experience with Google Analytics, which provides an all-important way to gather quantitative data in an area that’s packed with qualitative research methods. The key is to remember not just silo your data and look at that alone, and instead, combine with your observations, intuition and good old-fashioned user testing. Here at Data Runs Deep, before we deep dive into an analytics account, we always spend time thoroughly walking through the website and making sure to keep the site we’re working with close at hand so we can always confirm data points with what we see.