A Beginners Guide to Quantitative Analytics for UXers
Quantitative analytics are a useful tool for user experience designers. Metrics and numbers can make for compelling business cases, as well as being an input for setting goals and targets.
Qualitative research, such as usability testing and contextual inquiry, can provide insight into why and how users are doing things. Quantitative data gives us the what, in hard numbers and statistics. For optimal results, qualitative and quantitative analyses go hand in hand. Where possible, triangulating data sources and types will give the most robust understanding of a situation.
Quantitative web analytics can seem overwhelming, as the amount of data available through free tools such as Google Analytics is incredible. So what are some good places to start for a UXer looking to bring some data-flavour into their work?
Learn about your users
Analytics can be an excellent source for demographic information about your audience. Most analytics tools, including Google Analytics, can tell you where your users are coming from, geographically, and what language the user has set their browser to.
Other very useful data includes browser and operating system data. This data is a great input when making decisions about which technologies to support, and understanding the cost/benefit ratio of putting effort into compatibility and browser testing and support.
See the increase in mobile traffic for yourself and your stakeholders
It can seem moot to say that mobile traffic is increasing, but in some cases having numbers to back up the business case for moving toward responsive design is really helpful.
By comparing mobile traffic from one year to the next, analytics data can show you just how much these numbers are increasing. Google Analytics offers a “compare to” function in the date range setting that makes this type of discovery very quick and easy.
Setting a ‘compare to’ date range in Google Analytics
Search analytics gives insight into the types of terms that people are using to search on the site. Search Analytics for Your Site is an excellent resource on this topic. They can provide deep insight into the natural language of your users. This is an invaluable input into copywriting.
Search analytics can also be useful when defining IA and navigation structure. Knowing what users are looking for in their own words can inform a more user-friendly navigation. The results can be surprising! Bear in mind that this information does not tell you why someone is using a particular word or phrase, merely that they did.
A/B testing is a method of testing two different versions of a solution, and measuring which one achieves the desired goals best. An example would be testing the placement of the main CTA on a page. This type of testing is particularly popular when examining conversion rates. There are several different tools that can support this type of testing. The main points to note are that it is important to define the key metrics of success upfront, and to ensure that you run both versions simultaneously, by splitting traffic between the two options.
Quantitative metrics from web analytics tools will help to determine which version is the winner.
Key Analytics Terms
A session can be thought about as a visit to the site. Session definition is often time-based – after a period of inactivity the analytics tool will consider the session over. A session can consist of several interactions and page views.
Unique visitors refers to counting the number of distinct visitors to the site. For example, duplicate visits from the same IP address would only be counted once.
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of sessions with a single page view. As with all analytics, context is key – a high bounce rate could mean users found exactly what they needed on that one page, or it could be that there are problems on the page that cause users to disengage. Often, pages with high bounce rates are a good place to target for improved UX.
Exit rate is the percentage of page views on a certain page that were the last page of the session. Unlike the bounce rate, exit rates on a page can be part of a multi-page session.
Start Small, Learn More
There are many ways to learn from analytics and integrate them into your UX practice. It is best to pick one thing that feels manageable to start with, and apply it on a project. If you want to go deeper, there are many excellent online resources and courses. Google Analytics Academy is a great starting point for a deep dive. Happy data analyzing!