Using User Engagement Metrics to Improve Your Website’s User Experience
Are your users engaged in your website? The success of your website will largely depend on your answer. After all, engaged users are valuable users; they keep coming back and will recommend your site to colleagues, friends, and family. So, if you’re not sure if your users are engaged or not, consider looking into your user engagement metrics.
User engagement can be measured using a number of key metrics provided by website analytics platforms. Metrics such as bounce rate, time on page, and click-through rate all provide clues to user engagement and therefore overall website user experience.
This article will help you understand user engagement and why it’s important to measure. We’ll also discuss how to apply user engagement insights to improve website success. Combining a little bit of data with some user research is a powerful thing, so let’s get into it.
Understanding User Engagement Metrics
User engagement metrics provide valuable insight for both new and existing websites. They should be checked regularly as a sort of ‘pulse check’ for website user experience and performance. So, what metrics should you be looking at? Website metrics can be overwhelming; there are hundreds if not thousands to analyze, so let’s focus on three:
Measures the percentage of users that visit just one page on your site before leaving. If your bounce rate is high it suggests that users aren’t finding the content relevant, engaging, or useful. It points to a poor initial reaction to your site and means that users are arriving, making a judgment about your design or content, and then leaving.
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. Low time on page figures suggest that users aren’t getting what they need from a certain page, either in terms of the content, the aesthetics, or both.
Click-through rate compares the number of times someone clicks on your content, to the number of impressions you get (how many times an internal link or ad was viewed). The higher the rate, the better the engagement and performance of that element. User experience design can influence click-through rates through copywriting, button contrasts, heading structure, navigation, etc.
Conversion rates are perhaps the pinnacle of user engagement metrics. Conversion rate is the percentage of users that perform specific tasks you define. They are therefore dictated by your goals, which could include form submissions, transactions, etc. If your website has high conversion rates, you can be fairly confident that your website is matching your users’ needs, requirements, and expectations.
But how do these metrics help? Well, they don’t give you an answer directly. The metrics point to potential issues with website user experience. They guide further research and subsequent updates that lead to website improvement. In the next section, we’ll discuss how these and others can support better website user experiences.
Identifying Areas for Improvement
So, you’ve looked at your website’s user engagement metrics and discovered some good, and some bad. The good news is, there’s value in discovering both! The catch? You just need to find it. Remember, the metrics on their own don’t give you answers; they provide you direction.
The ‘clues’ that user engagement metrics provide are the starting point for further research. Remember, we want to make data-driven decisions. We want to avoid making assumptions and jumping to conclusions about why our website is reporting certain metrics. Fortunately, there are a bunch of different ways to do this.
User research data can be gathered by using both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. Insights into user behavior and needs can reveal why your website might be performing in certain ways. Research can include both qualitative and quantitative techniques.
Qualitative research techniques:
- Usability test – Test a product with people by observing them as they attempt to complete various tasks.
- User interview – Sit down with a user to learn more about their background, motivations and pain points.
- Contextual inquiry – Learn more about your users in their own environment by asking them questions before moving onto an observation activity.
- Focus group – Gather 6 to 10 people for a forum-like session to get feedback on a product.
Quantitate research techniques:
- Card sorts – Find out how people categorize and sort information on your website.
- First-click tests – See where people click first when tasked with completing an action.
- A/B tests – Compare 2 versions of a design in order to work out which is more effective.
- Clickstream analysis – Analyze aggregate data about website visits.
- Tree-testing – Test your site structure using text-only categorization and labels
The type of research depends on what question you want to answer. Being specific about your question will help you identify what research technique(s) to deploy and ultimately the quality of your answer. If you’re serious about website improvement; identify problem areas with user engagement metrics, and investigate how to fix them with user research.
Optimizing Content and Design
If you have conducted user research and found weak areas on your website, there are many things to consider. Three good places to start are navigation, content, and website layout. Combined, these have a huge impact on user experience and can be leveraged to address disappointing engagement metrics.
Navigation is a crucial aspect of creating a good user experience since it fundamentally connects pages and content which allows users to find what they need. Navigation should be simple and easy to follow, with important information/actions at the top of menus. Observing the results of card sorting, tree testing, and user testing can be particularly useful in website optimization efforts. You may find that search bars, breadcrumb trails, and internal links can also help overcome navigation issues.
Are users seeing compelling or relevant content when they arrive on your site? Is your content organized in a way that encourages further exploration? Card sorting and content audits are useful in answering these questions and can help provide you with the insights required to optimize your content. You should identify what content might be redundant, out of date, or repetitive, as well as any gaps that may need filling.
A well-designed layout can improve the overall usability of a website, making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for, understand the content, and engage with it. Consider how consistent your heading structures are and be sure to use consistent styling throughout the site, such as similar font sizes and colors. Don’t be afraid to use white space; it’s great at breaking up sections and making content more readable.
An additional factor related to layout is mobile optimization. Mobile-first design is necessary for apps, but it should also factor into your website design. How responsive is your website? How easy is it to navigate on mobile? Is your font size appropriate? You might find that poor mobile experience is negatively impacting user engagement metrics.
User experience design is an iterative, ongoing process, so it’s important to keep a record of your website’s user experience metrics at various points of development. Fortunately, website analytics platforms will provide you with historic user data and key metrics; but be sure to keep a separate record of what improvements you make along the way. This will help you pinpoint what changes impacted different metrics.
Define your goals and create a website optimization checklist that monitors key metrics on your site. For example, whenever you make an update, ensure bounce rates don’t exceed a certain number during the days following; check that your conversion rates are performing as they should be; check your time on sites hasn’t dropped. Be sure to compare metrics between desktop and mobile too.
User’s needs and expectations change over time, so keep an eye on how new content is performing. For example, which new blog posts have attracted the most attention? What pages or topics have had the most page views compared to the previous period? Tracking such changes can help to inform what your users are currently engaged in, and will help guide your user experience improvements.
User engagement metrics allow you to put clear parameters around user experience. They allow you to measure where your website is performing well, and where your website might need improving. Their main strength is in how accessible they are; you can access key metrics on website analytics platforms in moments. However, user engagement metrics on their own may not reveal how and why certain website improvements should be made. In order to understand what’s going on, you often need to dig a little deeper.
Time on page, bounce rate, click-through rate, and conversion rates are all great starting points to understand your next steps toward website improvement. Use them to define where further research may be needed. Not sure why your average pages per session is two? Try conducting first-click testing; where are they heading that seems to be a dead end? Is your bounce rate too high? Conduct a content audit to find out if your information is still relevant, or look into navigation roadblocks. Whatever the question; keep searching for the answer.
User engagement metrics will keep you on your toes, but that’s a good thing. They empower you to make ongoing website improvements and ensure that users are at the heart of your website design.