Ever wonder why your site has a lot of visitors, but not enough transactions, purchases or inquiries? In this post we will look at both marketing and UX metrics at a slightly different angle.

The post will be particularly interesting for those of you who want to grow your online revenue and not concentrate on just generating a lot of traffic! Conversion is the key. Don`t get me wrong, traffic is always a good thing, but traffic alone can only get you so far.

User Experience Has a HUGE Role to Play

In his ever-so-popular book Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug provides a simple definition for usability: “It really just means making sure that something works well: that a person of average ability and experience can use the thing—whether it’s a website, a toaster, or a revolving door—for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated.”

In the end, all different usability definitions tend to come down to some fairly common themes:

  • somewhere is a user,
  • that user is doing something, and
  • that user is doing something with a product or a system.

Usability itself is just one block of a large UX iceberg, as seen below, and a part of the overall user experience of products, either physical (watches) or online (websites)

UX iceberg

UX iceberg

UX metrics can be a powerful tool for evaluating the performance of virtually any type of product and is best used when combined with marketing metrics. Sound simple enough? Well, in the end it really is simple. You just need to be on the lookout for the right signs and measure the right metrics. Before diving straight into the list, let’s take a quick look into some mistakes people usually make. (You don’t want to be guilty of these)

Typical Mistakes When Collecting Metrics

  • Too Much Data

Marketing managers tend to obsess over figures, but are often not putting second thought into their numbers. Ask yourself if you really know the value of a single visit on your website. Can you put a number on a single visit even if people don`t buy anything?

  • Lack of Reliable Data

You should never obsess over numbers; instead you should look at the big picture and how the whole system (website itself, customer support, sales, management etc.) works.  Bad marketing data was thoroughly examined by Marketing Experiments in 2012, and the current situation has not improved much.

In the study they came to the conclusion that:

  • Just because tests may look conclusive doesn’t mean they are conclusive.
  • There are at least 3 validity threats beyond sample size that you need to consider when testing—history effect, instrumentation effect, and selection effect

Lack of Context in the Metrics

Unless you run a content-heavy site then, the number of monthly visitors is not giving you any real insight. Dig deeper and try to find out how people are really interacting with your site. Are they leaving comments, clicking on items and thinking about what’s in their cart, or something completely different? Do user tests in order to find out how they think.

Marketing Metrics vs. User Experience Metrics

During the recent years at Trinidad Consulting we have noticed that a lot of businesses are guilty of putting UX metrics together in the same pot with online marketing metrics. While some of them may overlap, many are in fact very different, and some are essentially the same but carry different meanings.

Don´t get me wrong, there is nothing bad with marketing metrics. Both metrics are ways you can measure the success of your business, either directly or indirectly. When it comes to measuring user experience however, traditional metrics are flipped on their heads; and instead of page views, bounce rates, and various other indicators; we will be looking at external and internal metrics in the form of ratios.

In the end, tweaking the usability and user experience portion of the website will have direct consequences to other areas of your business as well.

External Metrics

#1 Customer Support Performance

Why is it that as marketing managers we tend to look at just our figures, but neglect other key areas such as customer support performance? This metric is fairly easy to measure, but it does require good communication between the different departments.

If you are making some radical changes to your website, service, or product it is natural to experience a short phone support peak in the first 2 weeks, but based on our experience, after the 2 weeks have passed, you should start seeing a slow but steady decrease in incoming calls and emails.

Illusration about a customer support person getting complaints by the phone

Customer support is often under direct fire, hear them out – illustration drawn by Trinidad Consulting´s UX designer Norman Niklus

Tip: Make sure to check in with your support staff from to time to see if their workload has either decreased or increased and identify the current main issues.

#2 Online vs. Office Visits

The aim of your website is to decrease the workload of other communication channels you may be using. For a store who mostly sells their goods online it can be very frustrating to deal with complaints and questions in an office environment, i.e. it`s often easier to solve problems online and not come face to face with complaining customers.

This means your website must be designed in a way which allows people to find their answers as swiftly as possible. If it`s not possible to find an answer to the question quickly enough then chances are your support staff will be under fire!

Internal metrics

#3 Form Usage

Good forms are the number one indicator of good information architecture. In the perfect world they are simple, easy to understand and user friendly, requiring only the essentials. Conversion expert Tim Ash recommends keeping forms to only the essentials.

Some examples of bad forms can be seen on baddonationforms.tumblr.com and badforms.com.

Bad forms are conversion killers

Bad forms are conversion killers

Tip: If you have the chance to use auto-fill settings in your system then go for it!

In fact, you can easily measure the time your visitors spend filling forms out or dropping the process. The shorter the form, the better the conversion! You can also measure the success rate based on how many times your customers got error messages upon pressing the submit button. A/B and multivariate testing can help you find the right solution here.

#4 How is the Back Button Used (Rapid or Seldom)

Do you know how much the “back” button is being used and when? Turn to Google Analytics/Visual Website Optimizer to see how people are browsing your site. If your clients are pressing it multiple times at places where it doesn`t make sense then chances are the architecture of your website is broken, i.e. visitors are not encouraged to move forward or they can`t, something in the site architecture is blocking them.

Of course, usage of the back button is perfectly normal in most cases, but if analytics show you heavy usage along with no transactions made then you need to look more into it. If the usage of the back button is very high then you should verify your findings with some user tests to see if you are faced with a real problem or you are experiencing ordinary behavior. Quite often there are surprises.

The same applies to using the search bar on the website after fiddling around in the menu and also when visitors are using Google to search for articles/products while they are already on your website.

#5 See How Pagination and Page Search are Used

In the pursuit of page views, website owners have developed a nasty habit of writing long, paginated posts and slicing content into chunks, often frustrating the hell out of their visitors—especially if they are viewing  the site on a mobile device. Our experiments have shown that this will result in a quick decline of interest after reading the first page, but things tend to change when you start using infinite scroll instead.

Turn to your website analytics to see if your customers have left elsewhere after clicking on the first and second pages of the article. Pagination usage shows you how relevant the search results are for your visitors.

From a usability standpoint there is no point in having slideshows on a page when the content can be scrollable instead. Mashable and AskMen.com have both been guilty of splitting content across multiple pages, but Mashable has also given the reader the option of having a full list view as seen below.

Screenshot of a magazine article

Always include a show as list option on your websites

In the end, scrolling a few times is easy, but if you want to have a quick overview then a list is more appropriate. If you insist on a slideshow then make sure to give the users an option to scroll down and see the whole content at once.  There has also been a lot of chatter about pagination on Smashing Magazine.

#6 Navigation vs. Search 

Turn to your analytics to see how your customers move around the site.  Try to see if they are using links for navigation or if they are opting for site search instead. Navigation vs. search ratio shows you which pages are perceived to be friendly by the visitors.

#7 Visitors Who Made the Purchase vs. Visitors Who Quit the Process

One of the key indicators on whether the changes have had any effect is the number of purchases completed, compared with people who chose to leave their credit cards in their wallets.  This is conversion rating at its finest.

#8 Random Visitors vs. Visitors Who Bought Something

The number of visitors will not tell you anything unless you are willing to dive further into the details, which in this context would be the average cost per visitor. Keep in mind that this is no longer a UX metric, but you can use it to directly measure your overall business performance.

The fact is unless you are focused on content marketing and advertising, you should be looking at the sheer number of sales generated, because in the end, that`s the only metric that matters.

Conclusion

Hopefully this post has given you some essential information about UX specific metrics. If you want to be better than your competitors, you always have to be one step ahead of the curve. Study the latest UX metrics and you will get there. If you read this article then you are already ahead of the curve since most marketing managers even today ignore UX (thinking it is something IT guys do) and have not yet realized its potential.

Remember

  • Don`t get stuck in online marketing limbo (conversions alone are not the whole picture)
  • Test, test, test (A/B, multivariate and especially user tests)
  • Don`t think that UX is something that you only do once (it is a constant process of improvement)
  • Measure less at once  (stick with the top 5)
  • Prefer ratios over single metrics
  • Concentrate on the big picture, not just online sales or visits, but also back office performance
  • Speak with other managers in the company and agree together on your main metrics. Doing so will  give you metrics that really matter.

I also recommend the book Cost-Justifying Usability by Randolph G. Bias and Deborah J. Mayhew. I contains more insights and metrics to implement. Although written for UX designers, with the aim of helping make selling UX design easier, the authors dissect several types of companies and recommend metrics for each and every one of them. It also has loads of case studies to learn from. Go get it!

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