January 7, 2021
When your marketing website isn't performing well, it might feel like the best thing to do is to make it more beautiful, or do a complete redesign from the ground up. But the process of going through a redesign is time-consuming, a money drain, and if not based on data, an uninformed step forward.
If your goal is to improve your website for more sign-ups or sales, then it's much easier to make small, iterative changes based on evidence about how your customers are using your website.
But if you don't know the analytics behind your website, then you won’t know if your website is performing well, and therefore won't know how to improve it.
It's much better to update your website based on analytical facts rather than just a “gut feeling”.
Making decisions on when and how to improve your website can sometimes be an impulsive reaction to what the competition is doing, or having sparked a great new idea you had in the shower; but it shouldn't be this way. All your decisions need to be informed by data, otherwise you’ll find yourself running around frantically changing button colours and homepage copy with it having no effect on how effective your website is.
Once you understand your data, you'll know you are making informed decisions about improving your website and not just adding an image slider to your homepage because you saw a competitor recently added one.
So if it's all about data, let's figure out how to collect this data.
There are a variety of different tools that you can add to your website to start collecting analytics and understanding how your customers are using your website. Different types of tools help in different ways, and some tools are only helpful once you're getting a certain amount of traffic.
Here are the different tools you can use to collect website data:
If this list sounds daunting, just know that you shouldn't implement all of these and most are free or extremely affordable. If you've never worked with any data-collecting tools, I would start at the top and move down once you realise you need more specific data.
Let me explain each of these options now.
The most common form of website data collection is using analytics software, and the one most commonly used is Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a valuable tool that you can add to your website, and better yet, it’s completely free.
Within a few days of using analytics, you will begin to collect and see valuable data about your visitors such as their geographic location, what browser they use, how long they stay on your website, what page is most viewed, and so on.
By using this information you can start to better understand the kind of customer who is coming to your site, where they are coming from, and what you should be focusing on when improving your site.
As you can see above, in the last month most of my visitors viewed my website on desktop, not mobile or tablet. This indicates to me that I should be prioritising the design more for bigger screens, and I can worry less about mobile users.
This insight alone will save me tons of hours of tinkering away and improving how my website looks on smaller devices when I don’t need to.
Though you can venture into using other analytics tools such as Fathom, I would recommend starting with Google Analytics and only shop around when you get to a point where you are relying heavily on leveraging analytics.
The most badass looking kind of data you can collect on your website is heatmaps. Aside from looking badass, it's also a great way to understand what your users are thinking and clicking on once they are using your website. This is important as it helps highlight what your users are focusing on the most on your website.
There are different types of heatmaps that you can set-up:
This is a great way to collect a lot of actionable data on your website in a small snapshot. It also makes it easy to see how well your conversion funnel is working, and how you might be able to tweak your website to optimise for more conversions.
The software that I would recommend to use for this is Hotjar, as it's simple to set up, free for a basic account, and easy to jump back in and understand once you've collected enough data.
By using Hotjar, you can also see the user recordings that show you individual sessions of customers using your website.
This is a great way to understand how individual customers are moving around your website, what sections they are reading more than others, and at what point they give up and leave.
You can watch recordings based on device type, browser, location, how long their session was, how many actions they took, and more.
Though this takes a little more of a time investment to go through, it helps show you what a single journey looks like as a visitor goes through your website to try and find the information they are looking for. It also uncovers any small bugs you might have missed by not testing with alternate browsers or devices.
Similar to user recordings, user testing shows you individual journeys of customers using your website; but with the added benefit of being able to ask them questions, do tasks, and hear what they are thinking as they explore your website.
Compared to user recording, user testing gives you much more usable information and insights on what your customers are actually thinking and feeling.
With usertesting.com you can choose the exact profile of who you want to test your website, including choosing their location, device type, gender, age, industry, and so on. This means you can get hyper specific and pick a tester who would ideally reflect your exact, ideal customer.
Though this is a paid service, it’s more than worth it to fork out some cash and learn more about how your ideal customers are using your website.
One of the best ways to improve your website with actual data is to use A/B testing. This is when you test two different design options to see which one performs better.
The issue with this kind of testing is that you need a high volume of website visitors to get it to work well. When you don't get much traffic, it can be more of a gamble to conclude that one design is working better than the other.
With A/B testing, the more users you have visiting your website, the more you can be sure which design option performs better.
I use Optimizely to do A/B test experiments that help me improve my website. After putting the code snippet in on my site, all I have to do is pick a page, review what I want to change for the different tests, and decide on a task or goal that a user would do for it to be successful, such as clicking on a download button.
Complete website redesigns are sometimes necessary, but you're much more likely to get better value from improving your website based off of data, and not just a “gut feeling”. This will save the large financial and time investments that you would have to make if you decided to redesign your website.
Using this information, you can begin to strategise the best way to make changes based on real data instead of blindly guessing what redesign would help. Using these tools, you can start to make massive improvements without having to go through the long process of finding the right person who is going to redesign it for you.
A step-by-step process to set up and use the data from heatmaps across your website.
How to know which problem you need to solve with your website.
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