As designers, we often pay a great deal of attention to the aesthetics of a website, but how often do we actually measure the website’s form and function? In my opinion, the form and function of a website should be equally important. It’s fairly easy to design a website and make it appealing, but being able to monitor a site and resolve problems is a significant factor in helping to attract, engage and cause visitors to take action. After all, that’s the end goal of a client’s website, isn’t it?
Google Analytics (GA) is an invaluable resource for more effectively understanding your target audience and your website’s overall performance. It looks overwhelming at first, but if you are new to this, as I am, then I invite you to embark on this journey with me to conquer GA one piece at a time.
In this blog post, we will be learning/reviewing the basics: 5 components I look at when initially observing the analytics of sites.
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Content >Overview> Site Content > All Pages
When someone lands on your page, your website has virtually seconds to make a first impression. If your website is appealing and easy to use, visitors will likely stay. If your website bores them or looks complicated, visitors may never return.
Bounce rate in GA is an important meter to gauge a visitor’s engagement on your website. A high bounce rate could mean that the design is failing to effectively interact with visitors if they leave the site shortly after reaching it. You should regularly inspect the bounce rate of your important pages to find out which elements need to be changed. You can also monitor changes to determine if bounce rate is decreasing or increasing over a period of time.
NOTE: A high bounce rate can also mean that visitors are getting what they need on the first page they land on. For example, if 100 visitors search for a product, land on an eCommerce page that sells that product, and 25 of them buy the product (while 75 left), that would be a pretty good outcome despite the high bounce rate. Take this into consideration when examining bounce rates.
Content >Overview> Site Content > Landing pages
Before learning how to properly use Google Analytics, I always thought the homepage was the only passageway into a site. I would spend hours trying to perfect every call to action and trying to make every button look “clickable” and “shiny”.
If you are like me, STOP!
Many designers assume that the homepage is the main page that visitors will land on; however, that’s not always the case. Different Google search results will take users to different pages of a site. In “landing pages” in GA, you can see which pages are higher priorities by comparing the volume of visits, time on the site and bounce rate. This way, you can spend more time trying to funnel traffic back to the main/significant pages or you can try to improve your less significant pages with a better user interface.
Content > Overview > Site Speed
Monitoring the speed of your site is crucial. Nobody likes waiting for a site that takes forever to load. By increasing your site’s speed, you can be sure that people are more likely to return to your website. Use this link to test the speed of your site!
Some of the actions I usually take if a site is really slow are:
- Compress images sizes
- Use less graphic elements
- Minimize the number of effects on one page
Audience > Mobile
The overview in the “mobile” tab lets you see if your visitors are visiting your site from a desktop computer or a mobile device. Understanding the mobile traffic on your site can give you an indication of whether you need to build a better desktop or mobile website. As you know, sometimes a desktop-friendly site simply doesn’t fit well onto a phone. An extremely frustrating property for visitors is having a button that is too small for their finger! Luckily, that’s not an issue with Top Draw designed websites…all of the sites we build are responsive!
Content > Site Search
“Internal” site search determines the search terms your visitors use and how those individuals engage with your site as a result of their search. Knowing what your visitors are searching allows you to better understand their needs. If your visitors have to use your search bar often, the subject/product/service they are looking for may be difficult to find. If many users are searching the same keyword or subject, you may want to consider placing that item in your main navigation.
These are the five main components I focus on when I look at the analytics of sites. Analyzing data is not something we as designers do very often, but if you can jump out of your comfort zone and look beyond the interesting colors and fonts, your designs will not only have form, they will also have function! I wish you the best of luck!