Let’s start understanding user data

Since UX has become a thing, user centric design is a trending concept. But still, the DATA layer is still mostly unknown or unclear to clients. Let’s dive into what information we can collect and how it empowers digital teams to build more efficient products.

1. And at the beginning there was google analytics…

Data collection from websites started with google analytics (you may also be familiar with phpMyVisites that my former business partner largely contributed to and that we used at Audacy until 2008).

Google analytics has evolved and is now collecting a lot more data today. It has become a must have solution for a first level analysis. You can easily analyse the following: how many users, how many visits, how many pages per visit, how long, where users come from, what are the pages they see, who are your users (location, language, age, sex, devices, etc), what moment (day, hour), what user paths are they going through (entrance page, path, exit page), and the “bounce rate” on any given page.

This first level of data allows you to get the big picture, to understand what are the key metrics that you have to look at depending on your business model, what are the pages that work, and the ones that clearly don’t. What sources of traffic are efficient and the ones that need more work to grab your targets attention.

These data are going to be here for the long run, you need to keep tracking them on a regular basis to see global trends, how does your work on your website improves or depreciate the general efficiency of your website as you optimize your content architecture, UX, UI, SEO, Campaigns, Social medias, etc.

2. Pushing Google analytics to its limits

To dive deeper into analytics, you have to start customizing its settings and implementing additional layers of data.

Google analytics is only a single product of google’s line targeted to website owners. With Google Ads, Webmaster tools and Tag management, you are able to push more and more data that fit your website structure in order to gather the right information your team needs to take decisions that will improve your website efficiency.

If you are familiar with e-commerce, then you must be familiar with baskets and orders. You can set up similar objectives and funnels in order to analyse if your users are following and completing the path you designed for them.

You are also able to track all the invisible actions that users do on your website: from the depth of scroll in pages to opening a gallery, viewing tabs, or any interaction with a hidden content (which has become so popular with responsive web design themes and frameworks).

You are able to create views that fit your needs and group users par language, country, devices, or any other classification that fit your user types. But also you can gather dashboards that gives you a clear view on the metrics that matters to your team.

3. Stepping aside from Data to focus on users

Data has its limits. As true as data can be, it can’t allow you to watch what a user is doing on your website. If you start asking yourself this question, it’s time to move away from analytics and go towards more UX driven solutions.

A good first step is to start using products that allow you to shadow real users in real life. HotJar is a good fit for that (or any of its competitors). It allows you to shadow users as they visit your site, understand the path they follow, discover design problems (developers will want to fix an issue that they have miss if you show them users confronted with that issue).

The data collected is unstructured so you will need time to manage it. Once you have a few hundreds of visits, you will be able to compare similar visitors path and have a better understanding on the real path followed by user on your key user flows. In addition it allows you to gather mouse tracking map on any given page, or to dive deeply into completion of funnels or forms (field by field).

You will make progress validating assumptions, fixing issues with quick wins, testing new solutions, but still feel uncertain on other issues. You might even feel overwhelmed with all this data. But remember that you are learning a lot on your users and on your product, and there is a lot more to learn with UX research methodologies to improve your digital product.