4 Key UX Metrics to Track for Improved Website Performance
User experience (UX) is the pointy end of website design. Great UX validates a lot of hard work behind the scenes, but poor UX will quickly render it useless. Why? Users are becoming more and more impatient. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, or interactions aren’t intuitive, they’ll simply leave as quickly as they arrive. What’s worse? They probably won’t come back! Thankfully, many businesses are recognizing the importance of great user experience and its influence on website performance.
In this article, we’ll cover 4 key UX metrics to measure the success of your website performance: bounce rate, time on site, pages per session, and conversion rate. Captured by website analytics platforms, these metrics provide you with a high-level understanding of how well users are engaging with your website, and where you might be able to improve user experience. We’ll also look at the roles of navigation, content, and the customer journey, and how they impact overall website performance.
If a user bounces on a trampoline, they’re probably having fun. If they’re bouncing on your website, they’re probably having the opposite of fun. Let’s discuss bounce rate, and why it’s such a good indicator of why your users aren’t having much fun.
Bounce rate is a UX metric that measures the percentage of users that visit just one page on your site before leaving. Essentially they arrive and they might scroll, but they don’t click anywhere; they simply leave. A high bounce rate means that a lot of people are doing this. Why is this (usually) a bad thing? Generally speaking, you want users to be so engaged in the page they landed on that they stay and have a look around. You want them to explore your other content, maybe fill in a form, watch a video, etc.
There are a bunch of ways to improve your bounce rate, but there are two key things you should consider if you’re experiencing a high bounce rate:
- Content – Are users seeing compelling or relevant content when they arrive on your site? Are they seeing additional recommendations for content? Is your content organized in a way that encourages further exploration? Content is king. Ensure your users see the information they want, need and expect.
- Page load speed – Is your page loading too slowly? Think of your own experiences with websites. It’s hard to argue with the fact that we’re becoming more and more demanding online. Too slow? Too bad. We move off to the next website. Check page load speed and improve where necessary to remove it as a barrier to engagement.
- Navigation – Is your navigation intuitive enough to guide your user through your website? Analyze the structure of your menus and in-page links. Do the labels make sense? Have they been categorized appropriately?
Bounce rates give you a strong indication of what your users’ first impressions are of your website. You’ll need to dig deeper to find out the cause of high bounce rates, but it’s certainly worthwhile. Use the 3 elements mentioned above as your starting point.
As a final note on bounce rates, we want to point out that there are exceptions where high bounce rates might not directly relate to poor user engagement. For example, users may arrive at a blog post that contains everything they wanted to know. This usually happens if you’re generating traffic to a specific page from social media or search engines. However, if your home page has a high bounce rate, for example, you’ll want to investigate. So, be sure to keep bounce rate metrics in context.
Time on Site
In addition to bounce rate, you should find out how long users are sticking around in general. Time on site is the next logical UX metric to analyze. The longer users spend on your site, the more confident you can be that you’re providing exceptional user engagement and experience.
Keep an eye on the following metrics to gauge time on site and website performance:
- Average session duration – This is the total time that all users spend on your website divided by the total number of sessions. A session is defined as the entire time a person spends on your website. Therefore, a high average session duration figure indicates high engagement in the content on your website.
- Time on page – Calculated by the time difference between the point when a person lands on the page and when they move on to the next one. It indicates how engaging or relevant individual pages on your website are.
So, armed with these metrics, what should we look for to improve website performance? Well, firstly you should look for some benchmarks. How are you performing compared to other sites in your industry? How do time on page figures compare with each other? For example, if some of your pages are getting over 5 minutes of time-on-page and others are getting 20 seconds, there’s a disparity between how useful, engaging, or relevant the content is.
Even if your website is performing well, we recommend analyzing your time on site metrics to understand where improvements could be made. A great place to start is a content audit. This pulls together data from all of your content into one place where you can analyze what is redundant, obsolete, and trivial (ROT analysis). What’s driving engagement? What information isn’t adding value? Overlapping this audit with time on page figures can reveal extremely useful insights into how you can improve user experience by providing the most useful content.
You should also shine a light on your navigation. If users can’t find their way through your content, they’re not going to stick around. Can you streamline your navigation? Can you order your content from most to least relevant to better meet user needs? Are some menus confusingly labeled? Improve your website performance by taking a critical look at the factors that influence time on page.
Pages per Session
Pages per session calculate the average number of pages on your website that users access per session. It is calculated by taking the total page views and dividing it by the total number of sessions that have taken place across the same period.
Pages per session is an important UX metric to track because it reveals how relevant and ‘explorable’ your website is. The higher the figure, the more pages your users are visiting during their stay, and the more engaged they’re likely to be. As we highlighted earlier with bounce rate, users will quickly leave if they’re not finding what they want. Therefore, in general, if users are sticking around, it’s a good indication you’re providing a good user experience.
How can you increase pages per session? Firstly, provide useful, relevant content at every turn. No matter where your users may land on your website, they should be satisfied and gratified. All going well, this initial content will leave them thirsty for more. This is another great reason to perform regular content audits – to critically analyze the type of content that makes up your site.
But great content doesn’t automatically mean great user experiences. User engagement might be high, but how are they getting between pages? How easily are they getting from one part of your site to the next? This is where navigation comes to the fore. And whilst menus and sub-menus are obviously important, we want to highlight call-to-actions and internal links.
Cleverly placed call-to-actions and internal links pull users along. They sit there within the content (or below the content) urging them to learn more and search more. A good example of this is ‘related articles’ at the end of a blog. Of course, the key is that they should be relevant. Disrupting the user’s journey with something unrelated could put them off, rather than retain them. This is particularly true for call-to-action buttons – they should be visible and attractive, but not so much as to obstruct the user.
It’s important to remember the goal of your website. Good UX is great, but there’s no point aiming for the highest page per session figures unless you’re getting conversions. Which, incidentally, is our next subject.
Tracking conversion rate is the ultimate test of user experience design. Of course, there are a lot of factors involved in conversion rate, so we’ll focus on which elements of UX design can have the most impact.
Conversion rate is the percentage of users that perform specific tasks you define. Conversion rates are therefore dictated by your goals, and in most cases, will include things like transactions, newsletter sign-ups, phone calls, completing contact forms, or downloading a white paper. Why are conversion rates important to track? Well, your website is a machine for [insert your purpose here]! In many cases, we simply want to increase sales or leads.
There are a few ways to increase conversion rates. Firstly, if you haven’t already, review or build your customer journey map. Customer journey mapping is a technique used to help you visualize your customer’s key touchpoints, sentiments, pain points, and actions. It helps you understand how your user gets from awareness of your product/brand/website, right through to conversion. Every customer journey is slightly different, which is why it’s so important to understand. Fail to understand your customer and it will be glaringly obvious in your user experience design.
Customer journey mapping leads nicely to your value proposition. Do you have it clearly defined? What is your point of difference? How is it being communicated? Whilst encouraging a user to explore and engage in your website is great, some users may be time-poor. Could you speed up the consumption of your information? Trial a short video on your home page or landing page, for example. You may find that it increases engagement and conversion rates.
Increasing conversion rates can also be achieved by reducing navigation friction. Make call-to-action buttons obvious and easy to find. Ensure the readability of buttons and text. Perhaps your forms could be optimized, for example, you may want to reduce the number of fields required, or you could embed forms at the bottom of key pages, reducing the chance of clicking away. Form optimization can be a simple yet effective way of improving conversion rates.
Tracking UX metrics is an ongoing task that ensures you’re meeting the needs of your users. As your users’ needs, demands, and expectations change, so should your website design. One of the easiest ways to do this is to keep track of your UX metrics for website performance.
Bounce rate, time on site, pages per session, and conversion rates are some of the most revealing metrics. Collectively, they highlight user engagement levels on your website and give strong indications of where your UX design is meeting expectations, or where it’s falling short.
The key strength of these metrics depends on how you interpret them. You may need to dig deeper into why certain aspects of your site aren’t performing well. Implement some of the research techniques mentioned in this article, like content audits or customer journey mapping, to find clues to the answer. The answers could very well lead to a significant boost in website performance!