I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Every UX specialist out there, no matter what your area of expertise is or what UX skills you are learning, needs to be comfortable using and finding actionable insights in web analytics. With Google Analytics being one of the best free and most used web analytics tool on the market I’ll focus on it.
As a UX specialist you already have an existing passion for qualitative data, you’ve got to. If your work has ever taken you into the realm of user feedback survey analysis then I am quite sure you know what quantitative data is too. Where qualitative data usually forces you to sift through tonnes of open-ended questions (textual analysis), quantitative data is all about number.
Tracking quantitative data is easy. In user feedback surveys, users respond to questions using a pre-determined set of answers. These answers can later be tallied into totals, means, medians, and even used as segments. Easy as pie. Setup up the user feedback survey, get response, slice and dice, and as the British say ‘Bob’s your uncle‘.
Tracking visitors and finding insights
Web analytics is pretty much the same. Setup the tracking on your website, visitors come and interact, and you get buckets of data. Again, you will have totals, means, medians, and even use the data to setup visitor segments based on data such as referrer, number of pages viewed per visit, bounce rates, content viewed and so on.
The beauty about web analytics is that it will tell you what is going on. It will answers questions like ‘What are your visitors doing on your website?’. When you start to analyse web analytics data, see visitors flows on your website you start to get an idea how visitors consume your content.
Web Analytics and Ecommerce
In ecommerce web analytics become even more crucial. In ecommerce we usually rely on making money from our content, be it services or actual products. In an ecommerce we want users to follow a specific flow that will end up in them purchasing something from you. This flow is often referred to as the Red Route.
When you start to use web analytics data to investigate the effectiveness of a flow you will often find that people abandon flows. In a 4 step checkout process, for instance, if 100 visitors start the process the chances are infinitely small that all 100 will reach the end of the process. Web analytics will tell you this.
Ecommerce, where it all goes wrong
You might laugh about the video, but situations like these happen all the time online. One of the more common problems areas is the checkout process. Using web analytics to track visitor behavior by tracking their movements, errors they run into, micro and macro conversions they complete will make you a hero at the office!
It is these types of insights that will help you find areas on the website to focus on with you optimisation work, be it for conversion or user experience. Bottom line is, use web analytics to inform you, warn you, tell you what visitors do when you are not actively researching or testing.
Where to get started?
Alright, was my pitch good enough to get you interested to at least learn a little more about web analytics? If so, then here are some interesting online courses for you to consider.
1. Google Analytics Academy [FREE]
Google Analytics has their very own online course. In the courses, created by Justin Cutroni, you will learn about understanding Google Analytics data, and how to collect actionable insights from it. The course is completely free of charge and consists of 6 units of training including a final assessments, and 2 video events.
2. Getting Started with Google Analytics by Eugene Opera [FREE]
Eugene Opera has two courses over at Udemy that discuss Google Analytics. The first course ‘Getting Started with Google Analytics’ is free of charge and covers… you guessed it, the basics of Google Analytics. Although the instructor holds less authority than Google’s own Justin Cutroni, the Udemy courses do allow you to download them and view them while offline, like during your commute to work.
3. Lean Analytics Workshop by Ben Yoskovitz and Alistair Croll [FREE]
‘Lean’ seems to be what everybody is talking about (and eating) these days. To accompany their 2013 published book Lean Analytics authors and online experts Ben Yoskovitz and Alistair Croll have released a free Udemy course detailing many of the topics discussed in their book. From Good Metrics vs Bad Metrics to the One Metric That Matters. It discusses their Lean Analytics Framework and Lean Analytics Framework too.
4. Google Analytics Mastery Course by George Gill [$297]
Alright, it should be said that George Gill has made excellent work of his course Google Analytics Mastery Course over at Udemy. With a price tag of $297 it can come across as a bit expensive but George does dive into the practical side of Google Analytics use including some examples of how to perform analysis on the web analytics data.
5. Web Analytics Blueprint by Eugene Opera
In Eugene Opera’s second course he dives a little deeper into the subject matter too, with more practical examples. Not all of the course material is video based, more audio than video, so the course is a little less expensive than the Mastery Course.
Don’t like online courses? Try these excellent books
Now, before I end my blog post, I want to say that I fully understand if self-paced online courses like those offered at Udemy might not be for everyone. Just for that reason I want to close by sharing with you three great books that I recommend you buy in case you want to learn more about Google Analytics and how it can help you become a more effective user experience specialist.
- Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik
- Practical Web Analytics for the User Experience by Michael Beasley
- Lean Analytics by Ben Yoskovitz and Alistair Croll
These three books are filled with practical examples of how to understand the data, tips on how take action on the insights, and will help you fully harness the power of web analytics in your skill-portfolio.
Have fun with the data!