In my last blog, Google Analytics: Leveraging user data for insight and persuasion, I discussed how Google Analytics could inform organisational decision making beyond digital projects. In this article, I delve into the specifics of the metrics and key reports we typically look at when performing an audit of a website or app.
For context, our UX Research team will use several methods to gather information about the performance of a website or other digital product, these might include:
- live observation of user interaction
- heat maps
- user surveys
- focus groups.
However, analytics data is the solid foundation of a typical UX audit. With analytics data, observational bias is removed and the technical capabilities and technological capacity of individual users are averaged out to paint an unbiased data set. This is both the start point and a frequent touchstone of our research work.
Google Analytics is the world’s most popular analytics package, not just for the fact that it is free or exceptionally easy to install. The system is designed to provide solid and reliable statistical analysis for non–technical users (although users with a technical background might be able to extract deeper level insights).
The array of pre–built reports and metrics from Google Analytics provide a solid base for meaningful conversations around how your organisation’s website is performing and thus inform suggestions and hypotheses for improvement that will impact the commerciality of a business.
Here is a summary of some of the most common and beneficial metrics we need to become familiar with and can utilise as part of our overall approach.
1. Bounce rate
A site’s bounce rate reflects the rate of users who come to your site but exit without interacting with it. The ‘Landing Page’ report is a particularly useful place to view bounce rate metrics as it tells you what pages your users start their journey on. It can also show how the bounce rate on these pages stacks up against the site average bounce rate.
A high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing – if your site aims to provide content to the user, like a blog or news article, then a high bounce rate is fairly standard. However, if your website features a homepage, and this homepage acts as an essential gateway to the rest of your site, then a lower bounce rate is preferable.
Image: Where to find the landing pages report – image retrieved from Google Analytics dashboard.
2. Device breakdown
Several years ago, the term “mobile–first” became popular with web designers. Here at Fathom, like many other UX teams, we prefer ‘user first’. Before a UX designer begins any design or creative work on a digital interface they need to understand their user and the context of that user’s journey. Much can be seen from how different users experience your site on different devices.
The ‘device report’ within Google Analytics can steer designers in the right direction of how they should be designing these interfaces.
This report can also be very helpful for UX researchers. If the report shows that the majority of users are accessing a site on a mobile device, then any usability studies done on the interface needs to reflect this.
3. Navigation summary
Within the ‘All Pages’ report, the ‘Navigation Summary’ provides us with insight into users journey within the site. The report provides the percentage of Entrances and Exits on the page and shows the user’s previous and next page paths.
This insight is invaluable to understand how users are interacting with the content on top trafficked pages, meaning we can make more informed decisions around content placement on these pages.
Image: Where to find the ‘all page > navigation summary report’ – retrieved from Google Analytics dashboard.
4. Event tracking
Event tracking lets you monitor any form of user engagement that doesn’t trigger a new page to load. This does require some additional implementation (but can be facilitated via another Google Marketing tool called, ‘Google Tag Manager’ if this is set up in advance).
Event tracking allows UX designers to see how much users are engaging with content onsite. We typically recommend clients focus their event tracking on micro–conversions within the site.
This may be things like:
- downloading a PDF
- watching an embedded video
- how far down a page the user scrolls
- clicking on a key call to action/ button on a landing page
- interacting with filters within a search function
For macro conversions like lead generation via a contact form, we recommend setting up Google Analytics goals (see below).
5. Goal conversions
This metric allows you to track specific user interactions on your site. These user interactions can include form submissions and the collection of leads. When a visitor to your site performs the specific action that you’ve defined as a goal, Analytics records that as a conversion. There are four goal types in Google Analytics. They are:
- Destination: You can choose this goal type if you want to treat a pageview or screen view as a conversion.
- Duration: You can measure user engagement by treating time spent on a page as a conversion.
- Pages/Screens per session: This is another way to measure user engagement. You can measure the number of page views per session as a conversion.
- Event: You can treat user interaction like button click, video play, form submission, eBook download as a conversion.
As there is a limit of 20 goals per view, we would recommend only setting up macro goals.
Google Analytics is often used at the beginning of the UX process. Reports like the ‘Top Landing Page’ report and ‘Behaviour Flow’ report can show designers and researchers where key problem areas are on the site.
We always recommend that clients use these metrics to give focus to more detailed phases of UX research such as user interviews or usability studies.
If site owners are aware of key drop off points on the site, then their focus should be on those sections of the site, not the pages which Google Analytics has shown to have high user engagement.
When designing accessible and intuitive interfaces, guesswork and subjective opinions are not enough. Whilst Google Analytics data can give organisations valuable and more importantly actionable insights, at Fathom we see it as the starting point to developing and creating a great user experience for our users. Google Analytics can tell us what is wrong with a website or app but not necessarily why it is wrong.
If you are interested in learning more about how UX research can benefit your organisation, get in touch with our analytics team.
Cover image: Lukas Blazek (image owner) ‘Turned on black and grey laptop.’ Retrieved from Unsplash.