The amount of data that gets collected in today’s world is unfathomable. If there’s a way to track something, chances are it’s being tracked. From the places we go, to the things we eat, information is collected, stored and analyzed to find ways to improve things.
Take, for example, Google Maps. I was amazed (in retrospect it seems almost expected at this point) to find that I could view my “Timeline” of places I’ve been, how long I had been there, and what mode of transportation I used to get there — all over the course of the last 3 years. Almost as if I had a tracking device in my pocket the whole time (go figure).
Now — you may be asking — what does this have to do with web design and UX? While we may not be able to compete with the likes of Google when it comes to collecting data, there is still a TON of valuable information we can collect on how users are interacting with a website that will help us make better, more usable experiences.
From Website Inception
The most difficult times to implement data-driven design and UX is when there is no explicit data to look at. This could be in the case that a product or website is entirely new — we simply don’t have the data because there isn’t anything to track yet. Similarly, a product may have users but no tools have been implemented to gather metrics on how they are interacting with it.
In both cases, it is important to look at data from similar websites. Identify what market your new or redesigned website lives in. Metrics from similar websites can be examined to help inform the structure, functionality, design and UX of your new website. Figuring out the “how” and the “why” behind other battle-tested products is key. It’s important to understand why something works, where it fails, and what you can do to make sure the new product you are creating solves the issue.
These same principles are best applied to live products that are actively be used by your customers. With actual data from a live product you are able to make the most informed decisions on what pages should look like and how they should be structured. To track users’ interactions with your website and not continuously make iterations based on those insights is a huge missed opportunity. Luckily, there are tools that will not only help you gather information, but also help you identify the most opportune places to make improvements:
Mixpanel: Provides product analytics to help understand users’ journeys through your site.
Hotjar: Provides data on how users are interacting with your pages to find opportunities for improvement.
Inspectlet: Creates user interaction videos to track where and when a user converts or drops off.
These, along with many others, provide valuable data on how to improve anything from the look and feel of a page, to how it is structured.
Turning Data into Better UX & Design
Consider a service registration form that isn’t performing as well as was projected. From looking at the data you can see not only how many sessions with a particular form were initiated, but also what percentage of users dropped off at each step of the form. Take that a step further and you can view heatmaps and video recordings of how the user made their way through the form.
Knowing where users engaged with the form and where they dropped off can help us make informed decisions on how to improve the user experience. Perhaps splitting the form into numbered steps will increase conversion by reducing a user’s uncertainty on progress through the form.
Similarly, you could preface the form with an intro explaining how long the form should take the user to fill out. With the tools mentioned above both approaches could be explored with an A/B test to see how users react to both scenarios.
In a world where the benefits of great UX & Design become more and more valuable everyday, don’t do it alone — use everything you can to your advantage to give your users the products that will keep them coming back again and again.
Image Credit: Map data ©2017 Google, INEGI