The virtual space of the World Wide Web is a place of fierce competition, and your only chance to succeed is to put as much effort as humanly possible to make your own path and find the mojo that will differentiate your brand from your peers. Where this path ends up taking you, we can not know. The final destination is a matter of choice and strong will, but we do know the starting point. The journey starts at your brand’s home base – your website. In today’s article, our web design agency in Chicago uncovers ways to combine design and analytics to give your website the pole position when competing with the industry’s best. Once you add this trait to your brand’s persona, you will be using solid data to inform your website design and build.
The whats, whys, and hows of combining design and analytics
Before we explore the types of metrics you need to consider, let’s look into the three questions that can help you throughout the decision-making process:
- The What defines the issue: Answering this question can provide a ton of information that will help you make optimal decisions. So, before making any changes to the website, ask yourself:
- What do your users need?
- What is wrong with the website?
- What is right about the website?
- What can you do to make the website better?
- The Why proves why something is an issue: Determining what you need to do is one thing; knowing why you should do it is another. Making changes to a website requires resources. Whether you are working on a client’s website or your own, backing up your ideas with facts will fortify your decisions and create a sense of trust with your team. Ask yourself:
- Why is the community engagement on the website low?
- Why are users having trouble finding relevant content?
- Why do you need to improve cross-platform website browsing?
- The How determines the optimal way to fix an issue: Once you find out what you need to do and why you need to come up with the method to tend to the problem. Some of the questions you may ask yourself are:
- How can I increase visitors’ engagement?
- How can I create a design that works well on all platforms?
- How can I improve website navigation?
Which metrics should you consider?
Analytics are crucial for monitoring your website’s performance once it is deployed. Furthermore, setting up analytics at the initial website development stage can save you a lot of time and effort moving forward. That being said, let’s see which metrics you need to focus on right from the start. Our tool of choice for today will be Google Analytics.
By examining the Audience and Behavior data, you will get the best insight into whether your website’s performance is below average. The most prominent indicators of low performance include:
- Bounce rate
- Conversion rate
- Exit rate
- Lower engagement
Apart from these, many other metrics may signal that visitors are having a hard time interacting with your website content. We’ll first get familiar with the most valuable metrics throughout the lines that follow. Afterward, we’ll dive deeper into ways to combine design and analytics to enhance your website’s performance.
This metric specifies the portion of users that failed to engage with your website in any way once they opened it. That means that a user closed the browser, clicked on an outbound link, or stopped navigating your website in any other way.
A high bounce rate on a web page meant to entice users to take action, such as a landing page, is a strong indicator that not everything is the way it should be. You can easily investigate your bounce rates by opening Behavior and navigating to Landing Pages in Google Analytics.
The conversion rate is the main indicator of a website’s success. This metric shows the portion of website users that made a purchase or completed any other intended action. Conversion is often the primary purpose of websites and landing pages as it brings leads or direct revenue, in the case of eCommerce websites.
Technology Reports will display the most relevant data on conversion rates. Navigate from Audience to Technology and select Browser & OS. Below average conversion rate typically signifies issues with the web page.
The exit rate metric provides the number and percentage of your website users who left the website upon reaching the page. It is not unordinary to have web pages with high rates, especially if they point to an affiliate website. However, high exit rates may also indicate on-page issues, so this is definitely a feature that requires deeper investigation.
To find your pages’ exit rates in Google Analytics, open Behavior and navigate to Landing Pages.
This metric will help you determine how much visitors interact with your website. You can check the amount of time your visitors spend on your website as well as the number of actions they take, such as downloading files, watching videos, filling out forms, and so on.
The higher this metric is, the more visitors are attracted by the web page. The report also provides the average session duration. Since there is no quota to meet for a session duration to be considered good, we suggest you take your best-performing pages as a reference.
Page speed is extremely important for both engagement and SEO. If your website takes a long time to load, users will likely grow impatient and leave. Check out these stats:
- As page load time goes from 1 to 3 seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 32%
- As page load time goes from 1 to 5 seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 90%
- As page load time goes from 1 to 6 seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 106%
- As page load time goes from 1 to 10 seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 123%
As you can see, the bounce rate increases exponentially with every passing second. Optimizing for speed is a tried and true way to improve engagement metrics. You can check your page speed by going to Behavior and clicking on Site Speed.
Interpreting the data
As the introduction says, this article is about combining design and analytics to give your website an edge over your competition. However, we have only discussed analytics so far. Not a word about design. Don’t worry; we are getting to that. Ensuring that your website visitors can enjoy your design is vital. That’s why we’ll dedicate this portion of our article to determining how to provide that experience.
The analytics tell the story of your website’s performance. But, vague numbers won’t do us much good. We have to learn to interpret the data in order to determine which sections of our website need improvement and what to do to better them.
Uncovering browser and device compatibility issues
Cross-device and cross-browser compatibility need to be high on your priority list due to the sheer variety of web browsers, operating systems, and devices.
For demonstration purposes, let’s imagine that you have designed a website and deployed it. The next thing you’ll probably do is use your own computer to enter the website and check if everything is in order. So you open Chrome and navigate to your website. Once there, you click on a couple of images and open a few pages. By the looks of it, everything seems to be in perfect order. At the same time, one of your colleagues accesses the website via Safari on their MacBook and is faced with a completely different situation. Design elements are rendered all over the place, and the website is far from functional. Obviously, the site has cross-browser compatibility issues.
Indeed, HTML and CSS are standardized programming languages. But, each browser interprets and renders elements slightly differently, which can ultimately lead to huge divergence in the way content is displayed.
There are a few common sources of this problem. Cross-browser compatibility issues usually arise due to a specific code implementation or using features that one browser recognizes but the others don’t. For example, older versions of browsers often don’t recognize features added in later releases. That being said, this type of problem is most likely to perish once all of your users upgrade their browsers. A comparison option in Google Analytics allows you to check bounce rates between different browsers.
Another thing you can do to find the correlation between your current web design and analytics results is to see how users with different screen resolutions behave on each of your landing pages. All you need to do to create this report is to select Screen Resolution as a primary filter and Landing Page as secondary. Users with a particular screen resolution behaving differently than the average user are usually a signal that your website doesn’t display content correctly under those circumstances. That means you have to get back to the drawing board and employ a mobile-first web design. Using adaptive web design should do the trick.
How to use site speed reports
Site speed and SEO are tied together very closely. A shorter load time increases conversion and engagement; therefore, it is vital to do your best to reduce it to a minimum.
Nowadays, over 50% of global internet traffic is generated via mobile platforms, and this demographic is most affected by slow web pages. Not necessarily because they are more numerous, but due to the fact they mostly browse on the go and won’t wait forever for your website to load.
Google Analytics once again does a fantastic job in presenting how fast your page loads, both individually and compared to your other pages. You can quickly check which browsers have the slowest average load times by going over to a Page Timings report. This way, you’ll be able to identify pages that need design optimization.
Here are a few suggestions on how to increase your page speed:
- Use fewer images
- Lower image quality
- Reduce using Flash and other code-heavy additions to a minimum amount
The tool also gives you insight into how these problems affect your website visitors and what benefits you may expect by tending to them. This way you can make an informed judgment about which problems are worth your while. If an issue affects a negligible number of users, then trying to fix it may prove to be too much trouble in exchange for a meaningless improvement or revenue.
By clicking on the Open in Browser icon next to the abbreviated URL, you can immediately jump to the page in question and scan it for visible issues.
How to use session duration reports
While conversion and bounce rates communicate website performance in a straightforward fashion, session duration indirectly indicates a lack of user engagement.
Google Analytics displays the amount of time your visitors spend both on individual pages and the website as a whole. Although this metric has its flaws, it still outlines your users’ interest in certain pages. You can use the Tag Manager to measure only the active time on your website and scroll depth for more in-depth data.
You can access time spent on a page in the form of average session duration under Duration reports. Not all web pages are created equal since they have various purposes. That’s why you shouldn’t expect approximately the same amount of time spent on every page. However, if you see comparatively little time spent on pages meant to engage visitors in a meaningful way, you may have a problem.
Make sure to use secondary filters to check whether the issue is design-related. Look into browsers, devices, and other technical data about your users.
Longer session durations are good for pages with engagement purposes. But, if you find them on pages whose sole purpose is to click on the CTA button, then it is highly likely that your web design solutions confuse users, and they have a hard time identifying the call to action.
Think outside the box (tips for going a step beyond analytics)
In this section of our take on how to combine web design and analytics, we won’t strictly talk about performance tracking. However, these tips can inform your design decision-making process. Once you pair these ideas with data, you’ll have a much easier time designing with the end-user in mind.
- Set up surveys and polls to find out what needs to be improved: Although analytics provide valuable data on website performance and areas that need improvement, there is usually more than meets the eye. And, who can know better what your website needs than people who regularly interact with it?
By conducting a proper survey and asking the right questions, you’ll get a better idea of what bothers your visitors the most. In turn, this makes your job much easier as it allows you to primarily focus your attention on the most noticeable and experience-breaking issues.
- Conduct A/B tests: Not every issue has a single solution. Sooner or later, you are bound to encounter a problem that can be solved in multiple ways. In that case, the best way to make the right decision is to split-test various solutions and find out which works the best. That’s where tools like Google Optimize can help since they let you test the design, development, and copy efficiency.
With A/B tests (also known as split tests), you can compare different design versions and equally split traffic between them. Then, you can use exact data to determine which design solution works better and permanently implement it.
The order of priority
Once you gather all the data, it is essential to prioritize the issues you uncovered so you wouldn’t waste your energy on meaningless stuff while leaving major problems that break the user experience to linger. Here is the order of priority from highest to lowest:
- Major issues that prevent your audience from viewing the website content the way you anticipated.
- Problems that affect a relatively large portion of users.
- Issues on product pages.
- Issues that prevent your users from filling out forms or other types of conversions.
- Problems that have a relatively minor impact on the UX and session duration.
Though Google Analytics and other similar data-gathering software are usually thought of as purely quantitative sources of info, we hope that our article changed the way you look at these tools. The data they provide can be used as solid indicators of flaws in website design.
Metrics like bounce rates, session durations, and conversion rates tell the story of your website performance. By using Audience and Behavior reports along with secondary filtering options and the comparison feature, you can easily find out the areas where your website is underperforming. Then you can specify the devices, browsers, and operating systems affected by that underperformance and redesign your pages to provide your users with the most engaging experience.