Redesigning with Analytics
I code websites for a living. So it’s not a surprise that I hear the question from a lot of people, “So I’m thinking about redesigning my website, what do you think of . . . ?” How people finish that question ranges from color preferences to the benefits of certain technical features. On occasion I offer my advise or my opinion if it’s something I feel strongly about, but the majority of the time my answer is, “I don’t know, have you looked at your analytics?”
Analytics, anlytics, analytics. I can’t stress it enough Personally I would never redesign a website without first studying the data.
If you aren’t familiar with analytics for a website, it’s a snippet of code that is included on your page that sends information about your users back to a source that compiles all of that data. Google Analytics is a popular provider, but there are lots of other data collecting services out there. It’s nothing invasive or private but important things like how long did a viewer stay on the site, what pages were visited most, what keywords were used or what search engine led users to the site. It can even show data like screen dimensions, browsers or operating system of your users. All of which can be very important when considering making changes to your website.
Naturally all of us that have put up or maintain some sort of web presence feel our content is important. We all have this idea that there are people out there just waiting to read or see what we have to published. Which may indeed be the case, but what if you learned that not a single person was getting to your site? What if you discovered that every visitor you had clicked away from the site within seconds of seeing a page. That tells you something right? Something is broken. Perhaps you’re not sure if you are using space on your site properly and want to make it wider to accommodate more information, when in truth all of your users have very narrow screens. Wouldn’t you want to know that before you change your layout?
Your web designer won’t look at the site again after she’s done designing it for you, your brother-in-law doesn’t look at or use your website regularly, in fact there is a good chance that you don’t even use your own site as much as others do. Don’t build a website for your designer, not your uncle, not me, not even for yourself. Build it to meet the needs of your customers and you can do that by getting their opinion directly from their behavior. That behavior is shown in the analytics.
Redesigning a website can do as much damage as it can good. When done properly your site will become more efficient and successful over time. You will learn the habits and preferences of your audience and adapt your presence to meet their needs for a positive reaction. If you ignore those needs and users are not finding your site useful they will tell you in how they behave.
If you are not sure if your site is gathering analytics, talk to whoever built your site and get them to add them immediately or sign up for a service like Google Analytics and follow their instructions to add them yourself. If your site does have data, get that data before you start the redesign process. Otherwise you may be in for a longer, more frustrating process that may or may not even be helping your site.
Good luck, happy redesigning.