Keith MacDonald 8:02 am on Feb 15, 2012 Reply
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In a previous blog post I took a look at the two most common uses of digital analytics:  product and marketing optimization.  These two are probably most accessible to business since they’re easy to tie back to “dollars in the door”.

Improvement in product performance means more revenue (or more cost savings, in the case of information-based products like customer self-service and FAQs), and more revenue means that digital analytics directly positively impacts the bottom line.  Improvement in marketing performance equally demonstrates a direct link between digital analytics and positive impact on the bottom line (higher marketing return on investment, lower cost per acquisition, etc.)

If that’s all you’re doing with digital analytics however, you’re missing out on a wealth of opportunity to improve overall user experience.  I accuse user experience optimization of being the most overlooked since it’s tricky to demonstrate a direct link between happier customers and positive impact on the bottom line (although the folks at ForeSee Results, iPerceptions, CrowdScience and other qualitative measurement developers present a compelling argument).

A key missed opportunity for applying digital analytics is building a business case for change to digital properties.  All too often companies forge ahead with big plans (e.g. a complete website redesign), often supported by large budgets, without using analytics to assess the value of what they’ve already got and focus their development dollars.

The result can be disastrous:  alienating more than half of a core audience, slashing revenues and creating a situation from which the company may never truly recover.

FastCompany Design posted a great assessment of how Google used qualitative research to plan an overhaul of their Android mobile platform and focus development goals (avoiding “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”).  Qualitative research becomes especially powerful when combined with quantitative research:  the “why” fills out the picture of the “what” and “how much” or “how often”.

In order to measure user experience with digital analytics, there are a number of areas of focus that, when combined together, begin to paint a picture of how happy users are with their experience:

  • Main navigation – see which menu items users are clicking on, which of those items result in user engagement (likely happy consumers) and which items result in users continuing to navigate around (likely people who are lost or confused) or leave entirely (likely unhappy consumers)
  • Content or product merchandising (the placement of content on a digital property) – see if users are consuming what you’re serving them, or if they’re passing it by in search of something else
  • Content organisation – do people understand how you’ve organised your products or content or do they not understand what a “household appliance” is when they’re looking for a tea kettle?
  • Internal site search– look for:
    • Which terms users are looking for (possibly indicating they can’t understand how your products are organized)
    • Terms that are searched for from a specific page (likely indicating they were expecting to find something on the page that’s not there)
    • Which terms return search results and which return no results (highlighting problems with content indexing and highlighting opportunities for products you should carry)
    • Which terms result in user engagement with the search results (happy consumers again) and which result in users continuing to search or leaving entirely (unhappy consumers)
  • Comparing user engagement, e.g. page views per visit or time spent per visit, between specific sections or individual pages (beware of jumping to conclusions about user intent  or goals with these comparisons)
  • User pathing – how users navigate through your digital property (revealing users who are frustrated and lost, or users who are happy and engaged with your product)
  • Process conversions – how many people make it through all the fields on a form?  How many make it through all steps of a process?
  • Goal completion rates – how many users are able to accomplish whatever goal they set out to achieve?
  • Response times and reloads – is your content loading quickly enough?  Do your forms submit quickly enough?  Do users know when something is loading or when the server has stopped responding?

These are just a few indicators, all measurable with traditional web analytics tools, that can highlight key touch points which have a big impact on user experience.

Most businesses with digital presence have figured out the need for web analytics and have a handle on the basics of product and marketing measurement.  Some have started optimization programs, but few have gotten as far as user experience measurement.  If you’re looking to improve return on your digital analytics investment, user experience measurement is a great place to start.