Thursday, September 06, 2007

Measuring Usability: Web Analytics

Quck and dirty usability testing ...

"If your company has the luxury of having its own usability staff or the budget to invest in complex laboratory analyses, more power to you. Unfortunately, most of us aren't in that position and for someone like myself, who works to put usability principles into practice for small and medium-sized businesses, we often have to get creative and make do with what's available.

So, how can a smaller website or one with a limited budget assess usability? I'm going to be exploring that question over the next few User Effect entries, with the goal of compiling those entries into a white paper on the subject.

For the first installment, I'd like to explore how you can get clues about usability from your existing traffic logs and web analytics. Although analytics have been around almost as long as websites, they've matured a lot in the last few years, and we're still just beginning to tap into their value.

It's All Relative
Whenever you're taking a fresh look at your web analytics, it's important to keep in mind that there are seldom "right" answers. Getting caught up in absolutes and what any given number should be is a recipe for insanity. Websites vary wildly, and you need to have a good understanding of your own site's baselines. For any given statistic, focus on improvement and gradually sorting out the story behind the number.

Statistic: Pages/Visit
One of your first clues to your website's usability is whether or not your visitors stick around long enough to see what you have to offer. Web surfers are notoriously impatient, and this is probably the biggest battle of website usability. Tracking the average number of pages per visit is a good starting point to understanding whether or not your visitors are sticking around. Again, don't focus too much on what a "good" number is. If you've got a blog where most of the visitors hit the home-page, getting them to 2-3 pages/visit could be fantastic. If you've got an e-commerce site where the product ordering page is 5 layers deep, a 2-3 page/visit average is probably a bad sign.

Statistic: Time on Site
Similarly, the average time each visitor spends on your site is, generally speaking, negatively correlated with frustration (as the statisticians would say). The more time people spend on your site, the better, especially if you're trying to sell a product directly."    (Continued via User Effect)    [Usability Resources]

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