Webinar: Understanding your website visitors
Hello and welcome to our latest on demand webinar. Today I’ll be taking you through one of the most important aspects of doing business online – understanding how people who visit your website are behaving. This is the key to turning visitors into customers, so it’s absolutely crucial that you get this right. There’s a lot to take in, so you might want to bookmark this page and come back to it in the future.
Measuring, knowing more about and understanding your website visitors is critical to improving their experience when they’re on your site or interacting with your brand online. Simply put: if you know how they use your website and what problems they have then you know what to address when it comes to updating or redesigning it.
If you’re a small business or a startup, you’ve probably designed your website with yourself in mind. You’ve chosen a template or a design that you like, you’ve picked your favourite colours or ones that stand out to you. When it comes to images, you might have even taken them yourself or used shops that you’ve always used in your offline material.
Whether or not you’re on a shoestring budget, you’ve probably written most of the text on your website using language you think everyone uses to describe your products and services. In actual fact, the people you should really design it for are your visitors because they’re the ones you’re trying to convince to buy from you.
You need a site that is easy for them to understand, to navigate and to take action, whether that’s buying a product or getting in touch with you.
If you manage to design and build a website that’s easy to use and to understand for your visitors, the benefits are massive. An improved web presence means that you can convert more of your visitors into customers, building your customer base. It means that you can increase your sales and revenue through reducing visitor funnel drop off. It means that you can encourage your visitors to return from having a site designed by their feedback. And it means that you can gain more recommendations from happy visitors.
A good user experience can have a direct impact on your NPS score, the likelihood that someone is going to positively recommend your brand to others. Get it right and your recommendation rate will get a real boost.
The problem when it comes to the web is that most visitors come and go without a trace. So how do you know their thoughts, their wants, their needs? How do you know what would have persuaded them to purchase? If you owned a physical shop you might hear what they mutter as they left the shop, or you could even ask them directly what they’re looking for. But listening to customers online is more difficult so we need to tools and techniques to help.
Here’s the first one: the Blur Test or Squint Test, which is an old art school technique used to reveal a site’s focal point and visual design hierarchy. The good thing is that absolutely anyone can try it. The idea is to take a look at a blurred version of the page to see what elements stand out. If it’s not what you want to stand out, it’s time to go back and make some design changes.
Blurring a page will reduce it to a bare bone representation of your page’s elements and the visual hierarchy. To save you time of blurring a page you could simply just squint at it until it’s no longer clearly visible. If you can read any text, try squinting harder.
Let’s try here with a page on 123-reg. Can you tell me what the main elements I want to stand out on this page, what the things are that I want you to click on, what really stands out as a call-to-action? Well, this is how the page actually looks like. Hopefully, you chose “Register yours now!” or the domain search bar to click on. I guess the image might have been distracting. Try the squint test on your site and see what it reveals.
Here’s another free test that you can do: the 5 Second Test. Now, five seconds may seem like a short time but research shows that it’s more than enough time for a website visitor to determine if there is enough quality in your website to make them want to stay.
A 5 Second Test is a usability testing method in which the participant is shown an image of a web page for just five seconds. Once the image is hidden, the participant is asked questions about what they remember. So, go along to www.fivesecondtest.com, input your domain and others will carry out a test on your site for free. Why not return the favour and do a few 5 Second Tests of other people’s sites.
This test is used for evaluating how well the page communicates the purpose and content of your site, and will usually help you work out if your headlines are easy to understand if your main image is an obvious one and the single call-to-action you want users to complete on a page.
Whilst technically not a usability tool in itself, live chat is a tool that can help you understand your website visitors better. Live chat allows you to hear from a group of visitors who wouldn’t call you before they left. However, for whatever reason, they’re ok and happy to carry out a live chat. Some people prefer this low friction, instant response way of interacting with you.
By using live chat on your site you’ll be able to find out which pages are causing visitors issues. The page that people will click on live chat will be the one where they need help. You’ll know from this that the content or layout on this page is not helping them understand something so they need to ask you a question.
You’ll also know what products visitors are asking questions about. You’ll get a clearer idea if some products are harder to understand or if people they’re aimed at need more help to be convinced to buy. You’ll find out what the users’ primary questions, concerns or objections are. If you know what question they have in mind, you’ll know exactly what information you should be putting on your site.
There are some real added bonuses of live chat. It often increases your conversion rate as your staff can personally help visitors to convert into customers and adds a real human touch to your website, showing that there are people behind the brand.
There’s nothing like getting specific comments about particular pages on your site. You can certainly get this info from tools like surveys using heuristics and services like usertesting.com which we’ll come on to later. But the problem with all these tools is that they require a user to actively participate, and this means it usually happens in low numbers.
If you use onpage surveys, which are often found in support articles to find out whether a page was helpful, it’s a great way of getting feedback from many people about a particular page. Granted, people will usually only feedback if they’re unsatisfied so expect it to be mostly negative news. Nonetheless, it will provide a wealth of suggestions to improve your page.
One of the best examples of onpage surveys are to be found on gov.uk where every single page includes the link “Is there anything wrong with this page?”. It gives the editors great information about the questions each page is not answering or whether people have wrongly ended up on a particular expecting to find certain information.
What’s fascinating about the gov.uk project is that they then publish the number of people reporting problems with the particular page to enable everyone in the organisation to see if particular pages of the website need to be improved.
Another direct way to get feedback from your customers is by asking questions in an exit survey. There are some really low-cost tools like SurveyMonkey, which you can use to create a custom on exit questionnaire, and it’s an easy way to collect some great answers. Due to the flexibility in surveys, you can ask a range of questions in different formats in varying levels of complexity.
So whether you want to find out your Net Promoter Score or general market information, the user survey is a quick and efficient way of doing so. One thing to mention though is that asking questions in this type of survey can be perceived to be intrusive. So consider carefully whether the feedback will be valuable enough to potentially impact on your website visitor experience.
An often overlooked way to get direct feedback from customers is using a site search functionality. Google gives this option to any website owner and by pasting some code from the Google Developer site you can add a search box to your website. People use site search either as a quick way to find relevant content or products, or if they can’t find a particular piece of information on a page.
You get a report which shows you which pages people are searching from and what they’re searching for. You can review what searches are being made on the homepage and use this to decide what pages your main menu should link to. For searches made on deeper pages on your site, you can use the report to see if you should start including more information on these pages or give people obvious links to where that content exists elsewhere on the site.
Here’s a screen graph from gov.uk who again are very good about reporting what searches were made on a particular page. You can see that users on the UK visa page, from which this screen grab is taken, are looking for the application form to log in to the site, both of which should be made more obvious to the users.
usertesting.com is a crowdsourced usability testing service that provides feedback from testers as they use your site. Going the next step beyond the user survey, usertesting.com allows you to ask the visitor to complete tasks, comment out loud on their thought processes and, at the same time, their screen is recorded. It’s also a cost-effective way of getting some detailed information on how your visitors behave and what’s going on in their head whilst actually using your website in completing tasks.
You can ask the testers questions too, asking them to elaborate on their responses. You can choose what type of user you want to take the test so you can, as closely as possible, match the users to your own target market.
Another idea for usertesting.com is to test how users interact with your competitors’ site. If you can find something that works really well there, you might be able to use it yourself.
There’s nothing more impactful than seeing people perform their tasks and encounter problems first-hand. Observation testing is like usertesting.com but taken to the next stage as you’re able to question and interact with the user as they’re performing their tasks. This provides deep and extensive knowledge of problems and potential opportunities, which isn’t possible when the user is given a list of tasks to go off and complete.
Testing can be done one-on-one or in a group. Both have pros and cons. Using a group you get ideas that have been bounced off each other, gaining the knowledge of five people rather than that of one. It saves on cost associated with repeating the test five times. However, some users get intimidated in a group and don’t put forth their ideas.
It’s worth noting that test participants may alter their behaviour due to the presence of an observer. The downside is the financial cost. Aside from having to pay a premium for the participants in person time, providing a location for the testing, you also need to spend time on having someone administer the test itself. So as the quality of the data has gone up, so is the cost.
Now, this is the low-cost alternative to observational tests. Here you sit down with employees from all parts of your business – sales, production, marketing, development – and if you only have a business with less than five people make sure you’re all involved. Set them three or four basic tasks to complete. For example, to find out a piece of information, to navigate to a particular section of the site, or to buy a product. Ask them to instruct you to move the mouse and click on the buttons, and ask them why they’re choosing those areas.
This test usually reveals that we all use different ways of navigating around a website. You take it for granted that people only use one way but it opens your eyes to different routes and it helps you understand what sticks out on the page and what’s hidden and difficult to understand.
Understand why people make particular choices – was it because the button was big, was it because of the price – and then use that to influence your design and to make your visitors do particular things. Make sure that you note down problems that you encounter. The upside of this method of course is that it’s cheap. Offer to buy them all lunch. the downside is that you don’t really capture the customers’ perspective, it’s only people that work in your business.
Inspectlet is a tool similar to usertesting.com and observational tests in that you understand your users by watching what they do. However this time it’s your actual visitors to your site rather than those in a test environment without them even being aware. You record your visitors as they’re on your site so you can watch their mouse movements, see where they pause and watch them filling out forms.
If you see them pausing for a long time on a page or on a form field, or filling out information incorrectly within a field you know that you need to improve the explanation for that field. The hard part here of course is that you get no voice commentary because you’re actually testing real people on your website. So the conclusion you make will be based upon their mouse movements on a page and their interpage navigation.
The benefit is that it’s significantly more cost-effective than the previous methods of watching what your visitors do. Most importantly, these are your actual customers who are using and buying or not buying from you. This is the closest you will get to unaltered information.
This information is really the next step up from a blur test as it shows what part of the page your visitors are drawn to click on. If you can see the buttons or links that your users click on you can make them more obvious and easier to find. You can also see if users click on pages and buttons or images where there’s no links. Users clearly expect something to happen when they do this so you might consider adding links to these elements.
Google Analytics is a tool offered by Google which you can add to your website in order to get data about people who visit your website, where they come from, how they behave once they’ve arrived. Whilst you can’t ask them why they’re doing particular things, you can identify trends and make some assumptions about where improvement could be made. The best thing is – it’s free.
This will require however a small piece of code to be added to every page of your website so depending on your experience level, you might want to ask your web designer to do that. In Google Analytics you get lots of reports about people on your website, all presented in easy to understand graphs, even for beginners.
Within Google Analytics there are four basic areas to look at. Under the Audience menu you can look and understand more about who your visitors actually are. You can find out their age and gender and this can help you focus your website on specific types of content. You can understand what they’re interested in, whether it’s travel, technology, shopping, or lots of other consumer data.
You can find out where they are and what language they speak. This will obviously help you decide if your content should be in more than one language or focus on particular geographic users. You can find out whether it’s their first time on your website or if they’ve been here before and how frequently they visit and how much time they stay. This helps you understand if you are successfully reaching new people with your marketing.
You can also see their computer setup, what browser and operating system they have. This helps you understand how technically advanced they are. If they’re on Internet Explorer it’s likely they’ll be beginners whilst advanced users will probably be using Macs.
You can also find out if they’re visiting on a desktop or on a mobile device. This is highly important and can help you understand if your site needs to be brilliant on a mobile. All of this stuff gives you great insights as to who your visitors are.
Within the Acquisition area you can see how the visitor found your website and the channels that they used to get there. Channels tells you which of several pre-defined channels your visitors came from. The main ones are direct, where someone types your web address directly into the search bar; organic search where they click on organic or natural link on a search engine; paid search when they click on an advert on a search engine; email when they clicked on a link in an email; a referral where they clicked a link from another website or from social media, if they’ve arrived from Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
This gives you a topline view on which of your marketing channels are delivering the most visitors. If you go down to the AdWords menu it will give you a lot more detail on how well your AdWords campaigns are performing, including which keyword and ads are driving traffic. This helps understand which keywords are costing lots but not delivering sales, and vice versa. It helps you focus your AdWords spend.
The Search Engine Optimisation area gives you insight on how well your website performs in the organic search listings, including how high it ranks and for which keyword. Social media will tell you which social network is sending you visitors and to help you understand if your social media efforts are really paying off.
Within the Behaviour section of Google Analytics you can look at how users interact with your site, what pages they first landed on, what pages they went on to view, where they clicked, and whether the site was loading quickly. Knowing this will enable you to structure your site and design to suit how it’s being used. It will help you to understand which pages are popular, what page people first see when they arrive on your website, and of course where they leave.
Within the Site Speed section you can see how fast your website is. Speed is an important factor for visitors. People are much more likely to leave slow sites so it’s important to make sure yours doesn’t fall down here. Within the Events you can track specific things on your site like downloads or form submissions. They give you an understanding of whether your website is actually benefiting your business rather than just being a nice place to visit.
One really interesting option in Behaviours is called “behaviour flow”. This lets you see how people move around your website, where their visit leads from one page to another. It gives you a great understanding of whether people are consuming your site in the order that you expected, or maybe they’re jumping to areas which aren’t logical and it gives you a chance to change your pages around.
Another one that looks really interesting within this section is called Inpage Analytics. This lets you see on the page what percentage of users clicked on each link. It’s a great help to understand are navigating around your website in the way that you expect them to. It might be that they’re taking a difficult route that you can make easier by making more obvious with leading copy and perhaps larger buttons.
Finally, within the Conversions section of Google Analytics you can look at the sales information that your site is generating. If you’re a shop and you sell products, you’ll be able to see how particular products are selling and analyse your sales funnel drop off and keep an eye on your total revenue.
Within the Goals and Funnel section you can define particular paths. For example, going from the homepage to a product page and then down the purchase journey, and understand where people drop out on that journey. If you can see the point at which people drop out, you can go and look at that page and work out why they’re leaving and improve it. A classic one is usually when you introduce shipping charges really late in that conversion funnel, which is a nasty surprise for visitors to get and it causes them to leave.
Within Ecommerce it will tell you how many products you’re selling, what they are and how much money you’re making. Multi-channel funnels is for more advanced users. Here you can understand how people found your website in all of their previous visits before they eventually bought.
It’s quite common for people to visit several times before they buy. The first might be from a search engine, the second might be a referral, the third of course might be an email. Without multi-channel funnels you might think that it was your email marketing that was working the best whereas credit needs to go to all three of these traffic sources.
Finally, I’ve shown you lots of tools and techniques here. It’s important for you to decide which tool or technique is right for you and your business. It depends on lots of different factors. For example, how much time do you have to invest in this, do you have any money to spend on this (some of these options are free), how technical are you (some of these options require you to install some code on the site) and what type of feedback do you understand more easily (are you good at looking at graphs or raw data or do you prefer videos and hearing people talk about their experience on your site).
Try to understand what you’re good at before investing your time and money. Of course there’s no point in finding out all this information if you’re actually not going to do anything with it. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the things that you learn and the changes that you might need to make.
Make a decision first of all about whether you need to start your website all over again or if you’re able to work with what you’ve got, addressing issues on a page-by-page basis. Distil the action points you uncover into ones that are both easy to change and have the biggest impact, and make sure that you address those ones first.
Last off, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a one-off exercise. You should build testing and understanding your website visitors into your regular marketing activities. Your customers and your website visitors are the most important people to understand and adapt to. The changes that you make need to be iterative and constant. You will never have the perfect site so make sure you keep testing it.
That was our webinar on how you can better understand and understand more about your website visitors. My name’s Nick Leech.
We’re really interested to find out if you’re able to put these techniques in place or in fact if you’re already using some of them and might have other suggestions to make. So please leave some comments below and we’ll be sure to get back to you. Thanks very much!
Links to tools mentioned in the Understanding your website visitors webinar
This is the Five Second Test tool I mentioned.
You can learn more about UserTesting.com on its website.
You can try Survey Monkey for free on its website.
The official Inspectlet site can be found here.
You can check out Crazy Egg here.