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Demystifying Basic Data Driven User Experience Design

It seems like everyone around me is monitoring their daily steps. While I do use a heart rate monitor at the gym to help me get into my optimal cardio range, I’m not on the wearable tech bandwagon… yet! As a data nerd, I’m very excited to begin tracking my daily steps. All I’ll need to do is strap on the gear and keep an eye on the display. At first, I won’t know what a good daily target is for me, but over time, I’ll get a feel for what a reasonable goal is and what my challenges are. Then, I’ll be able to understand what actions I’ll need to take for the healthiest lifestyle possible.

Monitoring your website’s statistics and using this data as a tool to generate improvements is no different than tracking steps or calories for your health.

Even with this parallel, there is often resistance to investing the time to strategically collect website user data. We treat our website like a young child, re-assuring it (and ourselves) by saying, “Don’t worry about all the other websites out there, darling, if you feel that you are doing your personal best, I’m happy”. If your website exists to serve your organization, at some point, it needs to grow up and realize that it really does need a measurable GPA to get into a good college, get a good job… and provide a reasonable return on your investment.

“But I’m not sure how to quantify something as subjective – such as, how good a website is!”

Sure you do. You do it all the time.

How good is this recipe?  It has 409 five star reviews.
How good is this restaurant?  It has two and a half stars on Yelp.
How spicy is this Pad Thai?  It has one chili next to it (Which by the way, is still too spicy for my daughter because we’ve benchmarked this.)

My teen is so used to my data-driven approach, that when she asks, “How bad is this double chocolate donut for me?”, an answer like “pretty bad” just won’t cut it with her anymore. Real data about food and exercise is really starting to resonate with her. So what do I answer? “That donut has 14 grams of fat, 16 grams of sugar and nothing in the way of good nutrients. If you eat it, it will take 17 minutes of running to make up for those 270 empty calories”. That type of information is meaningful to her. She loves running. She eats the donut  🙂

A data-driven approach grants us the power to make informed decisions and make educated predictions for our future. For example, our practice of tracking weather patterns means that although we won’t know the exact temperature in Palm Springs next April, we can use data on what the temperature has historically been (low of 50, high of 80), to help make the decision of whether or not to vacation there.

“Digital Analytics is the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your business and the competition to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers and potential customers have which translates to your desired outcomes”
~ Avinash Kaushik (Author of Web Analytics 2.0 and Web Analytics)

Back to the context of user experience. If you have never ventured into the world of website analytics, it can be tempting not to bother with your website data, particularly if you are already tracking other business goals on your website. BUT, if you have some of that data, you’re already halfway there.

The goal of Data Driven User Experience Design is to connect business objectives with feature sets, UIs, and measurable outcomes. When we identify the profitable actions and trigger activities on the site, we find the data that can be the driver for a continual improvement process, which can bring greater and greater levels of return on investment.

At this point, you may be asking yourself….

  • What is a good goal?
  • Where do we start?
  • What kinds of things do we measure?
  • How do we know when we’re doing well?

Start strategic, but then get tactical. What are the goals of your business? How do you envision your website serving your business needs? What should visitors do when they arrive at your site? What kind of user behaviour would be profitable to you while satisfying their needs?

To design an optimal user experience based on user observation and behaviour patterns, start by thinking about the most important measurable action visitors can take on your site. They will be things like:

  • Download resource
  • Register for the site
  • Sign up for a service
  • Contact us
  • Get a quote
  • Request demo
  • Share content on social media
  • Comment on content
  • Purchase a product
  • Subscribe to updates

To measure data driven user experience quality, with the result of providing actionable data, we like to suggest beginning with a simple framework, like Google’s HEART metrics:

  1. Happiness – Perceived ease of use or satisfaction level
  2. Engagement – The amount of time people spend on the site, or amount of content viewed, shares
  3. Adoption – The number of newsletter signups, visits, purchases
  4. Retention – The number of active users and repeat visitors
  5. Task Success – Goals such as a destination URL or event (eg. downloaded a file)

You will then want to have someone set up goals tied to these in Google Analytics:

  • Destination URL (eg. thank-you.html)
  • Duration (eg. 5 minutes or more)
  • Pages/screens (eg. 3 pages)
  • Event  (eg. played a video)

Beginning to collect these kinds of metrics will provide some actionable data to help make decisions that are both data-driven and user-centered.  Over time, (at least four weeks of tracking) patterns will be begin to emerge that will be worth investigating in more detail.  There’s just one caveat: metrics only tell you what users did, they can’t explain why.  This means that once a pattern emerges it’s an opportunity to begin testing the ‘why’ hypotheses with real users (more on that topic soon!).

Contact us today to talk about the data driven user experience goals you have for your website.