Learn from Existing User Experiences

We all learn from experience. So take advantage of your users' experience with your site and use the information they provide when they visit your site.

Web Page Exit Ratios

The Web page exit ratio is the percentage of users who leave a Web site at that page. Use this measurement to improve your home page visitor retention rate.

Real-life case studies:

  • On one site that had a 70 kilobyte home page, log file research revealed that over half of the visitors bailed out before the first page finished loading;
  • Another site had a 40 kilobyte home page. A review of three months of log files revealed that the home page had a 30% exit ratio; and
  • Every other page in the site was in the range of 32-35 kilobytes. The exits of those pages were in the region of 6-8%. So could a mere 5 kilobytes of download - one second of download time - produce such dramatic differences?Yes! The researchers trimmed the home page down to roughly 34 kilobytes. Remarkably, it found the exit ratio fell immediately from 30% to 6-8% just because of one tiny second of download time!

Conclusion

Most Internet users will wait no longer than eight seconds, before leaving a Web page. Since the average Web backbone connection speed is 5 kilobits per second, home pages that are larger than 40 kilobytes (5 kilobits per second X 8 seconds) are at some risk of losing visitors.

Monitor Site Search Words

Your site's search engine should keep a record of all words and phrases being entered.

Popular keyword searches can reveal some valuable insights into how users are using your site. For example, you could:

  • discover the most popular content that your users are searching for;
  • uncover content topics that may be missing from your site; and
  • discover that you may need to improve the visibility of the links to a particular topic, or section of your site.

Listen to User Feedback

Learn from what your users have to say about your site. Encourage them to send comments, criticisms, and complaints about your site.

It's best to provide an online contact form, and an e-mail address hyperlink. An e-mail address hyperlink alone will do, but is not recommended. The reason is because when a user clicks on an e-mail link, it will activate their e-mail program. Depending on the speed of the user's computer system, it can take a while for the e-mail program to open up, which can be annoying.

One advantage of online contact forms over e-mail programs is that a user can contact you without revealing who they are. Make sure that the user's name and e-mail address are not required to process the form. This will encourage users to be as critical about your site as they like, without having to reveal their identity.

Server Log File Analysis

Server log files are records of your Web server's activity - i.e. how users have used your site.

Types of Data Recorded

Log file data can offer valuable insight into how your users are using your site.

Your server logs will record the:

  • Name of the host machine sending each request;
  • Date and time of every request;
  • Files requested;
  • Sizes of all transfered files;
  • Identity of the pages that sent users to your site (referrers);
  • Names of the browsers people are using; and
  • Platform of users' computers.

Advantages Over Usability Testing

The advantages over usability testing in lab conditions are that:

  • It reflects real world usage of your site;
  • It represents the activities of many more users; and
  • It can represent usages of your site over longer periods of time.

Learn From User Experiences

Proper recording of server activity can contain usability data that will recreate the movement and activities of your site users.

You can learn:

  • Where your site visitors are located. i.e. who they are;
  • What are the most popular paths visitors are taking through your site;
  • How much time your visitors are spending on average on each page;
  • Where visitors are leaving your site; and
  • About the success of users' experiences at your site.

Disadvantages

Server log file analysis does have its disadvantages, sometimes due to insufficient or misleading data.

For example:

  • If a user returns to a previous page, the activity is not recorded as the page was served from the user's cache memory;
  • It can't tell you the user's goal of visiting your site; and
  • You can't find out the demographic make-up of your users.

Conclusion

You can learn a lot about your users' experiences from analyzing your log files. Use one of the many log file analysis and reporting tools to help you make sense of the data available in your log files.