Why Website Analytics Tell Half the Story

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A key advantage websites have over traditional media is the ability to track every click. Servers log every action to be later scrutinized. Yet how we interpret that data is important. It is very easy to assume we know what our users were doing. In this article I show why it is important to find out why visitors are making these decisions.

Analytical data only shows what happened. To make the best decisions for our website, we need to know why it happened. Below I discuss three common data points marketers rely on to make decisions.

Bounce Rate

A bounce is when someone visits a page, and quickly leaves. Most view this as a bad thing. You want people to click on to other pages besides that initial one. Hopefully you left them with no dead end pages. But one can argue that they found what they were looking for and left. A page that might have a high bounce rate is your "contact us" page. Landing pages may seem like a failure if you have a high bounce rate. Yet if it has critical information about an event, a visitor might be looking for that. I often register for an event, and have to return as it gets closer to remember the date, time, and location.

Time on Site

If you manage to get someone to click through to follow-on content, expect the time on site to increase. Many of us would consider this a good thing. You hope the user finds your content engaging. Yet they might be wandering your site, unable to find the answer they seek. The time on a page could be staring in frustration as they scan your content. An even worse situation is where you see use of the back button. Going back and forth on a site’s navigation is a clear sign of failed wayfinding. Yet it is still more time on your site.

Total Traffic

Surely one number I cannot argue with is website traffic. If that goes down, we are not doing our jobs well. Well we are wrong again. We now distribute our content over many platforms. Consider podcasts and other media we share with the world. People may only view our photos and video on social media. Plus, bots collect and use data elsewhere. Think about Google Maps, and business listings. There you can get an address, phone number, and business hours. This also includes zero UI interfaces. Customers learn about your church using applications like Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. So dropping website traffic may not mean you are not getting interest. There are now other ways to gather information about your church.

Action Item

Change the basis of why you make decisions. Analytics should be the catalyst to launch a usability study, not make a design change. Take your assumptions and construct a test around it. Conduct surveys, interviews, A/B tests, and/or usability tests. Try to record them for later analysis. Hopefully you will discover a new way to connect with your visitors. Make your changes and advance God’s kingdom one step further.

This article was inspired by the Nielsen Norman Group video "Turning Analytics Findings Into Usability Studies"

Photo courtesy of Pixbay

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.

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