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Google Analytics reports UX specialists should pay attention to

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Contrary to popular belief, Google Analytics doesn’t just provide information about website traffic, it also provides useful data to UX strategists, helping them set goals, and create strategies and concepts for a sound web design.

Of the 95 reports Google Analytics provides, a few offer incredible useful information ranging from how visitors interact with your website, where visitors came from, to the best channels to use for your goals. Ironically, Google Analytics suffers from a lack of web usability—it can be confusing to navigate your way through the service. Worse, finding which report can help you with your usability goals can be a nightmare.

Usability experts the Nielsen/Norman Group compiled a list of the Analytics reports you can turn to for UX applications.

Mobile Access Growth

This information is key when trying to figure out whether or not your site should also be friendly to mobile devices. How much should you invest in an adaptive web design? What kind of priority level should your mobile initiatives receive?

To compare the quantity of mobile traffic between two similar periods, say February 2014 against 2013, turn to Google Analytics’ date comparison feature, and combine it with some easy calculations offline.

Report: Audience Overview

  1. Go to Audience > Mobile > Overview
  2. Choose a date range, then add  comparison date range
  3. This report’s % Change line represents the change in percentage of absolute mobile visits for the specified date ranges. This is not the information you’re looking for, so ignore this
  4. To find the growth rate in percentage of mobile visits, perform a simple calculation by taking the number of mobile visits, dividing it with the number of total visits, finally calculating the rate of change.

Social Network Impact

Google Analytics also provides a useful report if you want to find out just how much your social network activities impact your goals, particularly when it comes to your content strategies (e.g. what content is shared most often and where it’s shared).

Report: Network Referral

  1. Go to Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals
  2. The report gives a detailed view on referral traffic coming from social networks. You can even click on the indicated networks to see which specific content people are sharing on that social channel.

Conversions

This report offers granular information on the way certain channels add to acquisition, how users originating from these channels act on your site, as well as how these channels contributed towards reaching your goals defined on Google Analytics.

Report: Goals Overview
1) Go to Conversions > Goals > Overview
2) Choose Source/Medium
3) Click on ‘View full report’

4) Upon reaching the full report screen, choose your ‘Source’ and then choose the goals you want to filter.

Number of Visits Prior to Conversion

When assessing and conceptualizing website usability, many UX teams like to build customer-journey maps designed for their target personas. These maps indicate interactions prospects are most likely to take before a conversion (before they become a customer).

Report: Path Length

  1. Conversions > Multi-channel funnels > Path length.
  2. Choose your desired goals to filter

The Path Length report provides a good idea on the number of visits to your websites before users convert or move on to other desirable actions (which you will define in your Analytics account).

Knowing the right reports to base your UX decisions of is the first step towards improving the usability of your website. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, so it is very important to know how to wield it.

Clearing Misconceptions on Usability vs. the Cool Design Factor

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Design or Usability

A mistake web designers often make concerning web design is choosing cool design over usability, all because opponents of site usability ruled that a complex web design was always better than a simple one. Needless to say, hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to waste on websites with flashy designs but poor user interfaces and navigation features.

There is however, a positive aspect to this downturn. Cool design has now taken the backseat, with both large and small companies now recognizing the importance of usability. Glitzy design has lost favour with companies, but that doesn’t mean usability opponents have quit fighting for what they think is right.

Still, much more work needs to be done as companies must now understand how to design a usable website without committing key errors—and there have been many as of late. For instance, companies often make use of focus groups, which receive pictures of prospective design samples with members made to choose which one they prefer. This is a huge mistake, since they’re only seeing designs at face value and not actually using them.

Instead, the focus for companies should lie in observing how well designs work when users are performing tasks with the UI, and not necessarily what users have to say about the design. Likewise, companies must not trust what users say they will do in the future based on a website design’s looks. For instance, if users say they are likely to patronize websites with Flash-based graphics, you should only take this at face value—it simply means that Flash is cool for now.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that preference on a website design should no longer be taken into account. In fact, Enform believes that it pays to listen to what users have to say, after they have extensively used a design. Users may not know it right away, but if they have an easy time using and navigating through the site, the more they will like the overall design in use.

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