Why your website designer should care about analytics

1 June 2017

Whilst all clients ask for Google Analytics, almost none of them frequently use it to its fullest extent. However this issue isn’t just limited to end users, marketing managers and business owners: designers can also suffer from a lack of analytics understanding.

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Its an interesting phenomenon: upon each successful website launch, my clients quickly ask “you did install Google Analytics right?”.

Now firstly, I actually don’t install Google Analytics within the first 24-48 hours of a website going live. Why? Because within the first 2 days, all of the clients’ staff, friends and social media surfers will quickly browse the newly launched site just to see what’s different. They are unlikely to be a target customer and are more likely to just visit to snoop-and-go. So by avoiding this flash mob in the first 48 hours, your analytics data is more consistent and averages out more accurately when compared with the normal day to day usage.

However I digress. The interesting point is, whilst all clients ask for Google Analytics, almost none of them frequently use it to its fullest extent. However this issue isn’t just limited to end users, marketing managers and business owners.

The Self-made Web Design

Within the last 12 months, a client approached me wanting a new website to be developed based on designs they had already produced. The designs were sleek; minimal; laced with beautiful imagery and certainly looked impressive. I am no designer (I am a marketer and developer at heart) however I can certainly tell the difference between a good looking visual and a poor one. And the one presented to me, graphically looked amazing. The trouble is, after the first impressions, I began to look at the design semantically, as a developer and as a marketer, and this is where the issues began.

The navigation was clunky and the user-flow from one page to the next seemed awkward and could have been better thought out.

The hierarchy was convoluted and didn’t follow a consistent flow. The navigation was clunky and the user-flow from one page to the next seemed awkward and could have been better thought out. The text content was minimal (far less than 500 words per page) and there was little room for any sort of indexible or structured content for Google to hook onto.

What was most interesting however, is that the core content of each page was positioned after a generic banner that repeated on each template. As a marketer, as I looked upon these designs, as well as factoring the clients business and requirements for good SEO for lead generation and exposure. I immediately became concerned over what impact these designs would have on the websites SEO ranking and the business in general.

So I asked the question to my client and their designer: “are you sure these designs are final or can I make recommendations?”. Unfortunately the response I was given was not what I was hoping for: “Sorry James, but by adding in titles or more copy, or changing the layout, would compromise the simplicity of this design”.

Their reply stuck in my mind. Not for what they did say, but rather what they didn’t.

Their reply stuck in my mind. Not for what they did say, but rather what they didn’t. Not at any point did they mention SEO. Nor did they mention how the users will experience the site. They didn’t cover page file size (a critical factor for Google) and nor did they seem to consider the menu structure, layout and visibility.

What I found crazy about this, is whilst the visuals looked stunning, a quick glance at their existing Analytics would have suggested that there was a better way of doing this. And this is the crux of this article. Unfortunately for the client, their designer thought they knew better than the thousands of people who were using the site day in day out. Without any regard as to how the user actually uses the website, they produced a new web page visual under their own bias.

If only they would have viewed the analytics, they would have noticed that over 75% of web visitors were actually coming from mobile devices which feature a smaller screen size. As a result of this, when you viewed the site on a mobile, each page looked identical to the next. As the repeating top banner was taller than the page folder on mobile phones, the content that a user wanted to see had to be scrolled to and wasn’t obvious that it even existed.

When designing a site, your web designer shouldn’t put pen to paper (so to speak) before reviewing your current website. This doesn’t have to be a long process but by understanding the user base, a more informed and structured web page could increase leads by 10, 20, maybe 50% or more.

6 months on

Interestingly, 6 months after launch, I went back to review their analytics. Unsurprisingly, the key metrics had all taken a turn for the worst. Bounce rate was up 15%, page duration down by over a minute and organic referrals 20% lower.

So next time you meet with your web designer – start by asking what they think of your analytics – and their reply should tell you if they are a keeper or not.