October 30, 2014

Peering into the Page – Fine-Grain Tracking of User Behavior With Analytics

The purpose of analytics is to track user behavior on a website or app so that we can understand the effectiveness of our design and make adjustments to better meet user goals and business needs. 

One of the problems of analytics tracking is that it can only provide a certain level of granularity. The easiest way to configure website analytics is to work on the page level. With this setup, data is recorded each time a user clicks to a new page. We get some good information such as what page the user arrived from, which page they clicked to and how long they spent on the page.

However, what the user did while they were on the page remains a mystery. Did they spend 3 minutes on the page reading our content and flipping through our photo gallery? Or did they spend 3 minutes away from their computer stretching their legs and getting a cup of coffee? We’d like to know this so that we can improve our design in the most effective ways possible.

We can see this kind of improvement happening with unsurprising frequency on Amazon.com. They scour through analytics to see exactly which widgets and page elements are used most often to convert browsers into purchasers. A small tweak can mean an increase in Amazon’s bottom line. A short visual history of Amazon’s shopping cart widget makes this clear.

Amazon Shopping Cart Evolution

Amazon.com regularly updates and improves their website based on analytics analysis.

This is where event tracking comes into play. Event tracking is a simple piece of code that can be added to just about any page element – image, tab, button, graphic or even a text link. When the user interacts with the element (e.g., flips through a photo gallery), the interactions are tracked and can be analyzed much like other analytics data.

This type of element tracking is important for marketing websites but can be even more essential when working with a web or mobile app. In apps, users tend to spend longer on a single page and interact with more elements. Teasing out how a users uses or does not use an app feature can give us clues for future improvements of the offering.

Event tracking requires planning and additional effort during the implementation phase of a website but the additional granularity it provides can really pay off when you try to understand how your users are using (or not using) your website.


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