Assessing Analytics Tools to Improve UX Design Outcomes

Does your development strategy rely on intuition?

Probably not. Successful design teams, web developers, and marketers rarely achieve long-lasting results simply by trusting their gut.

The gut is important, of course, but it has to inform action according to a strategy backed by data. This is what the most successful strategists in any industry do, and it’s no different for UX design.

Experienced UX designers certainly develop a feel for good design, but they always test their inspiration against hard user performance metrics to improve product usability.

There is a key to striking the right balance between inspiration and analytics. Designers who focus on the right data, captured with the right tools, enjoy better outcomes than their less-informed peers.


Which Tools Augment Data-Driven UX Design Best

There is no one “right way” to approach UX design. Different designers look for different metrics to answer specific questions, which can change depending on the needs of the project at hand.

Finding the right tool for the job requires knowing exactly what kind of data represents the user activity you need to design for. Nonetheless, designers have agreed on some of the most popular and useful options:

1. Google Analytics

Like a carpenter’s trusty hammer, the oldest tool in the shed is often also the most reliable. When it comes to using Google Analytics, nothing makes up for years of experience interpreting the data it offers.

Bounce rates, conversion rates, and the other data Google Analytics offers is crucial to forming a meaningful UX design strategy. Google Analytics remains the best and cheapest way to find out what users do on your website, where they come from, and what engages them.

Google Analytics can’t replace the power of an inspired UX decision, but it can measure the effectiveness of UX decisions over time. Use Google Analytics alongside a detailed user journey map – with well-designed user personas – to find out steps users take on the way to becoming loyal customers.

2. Heatmaps

Heatmaps like Hotjar and CrazyEgg offer valuable user data at the individual level. The process is simple to understand – map out exactly where users are clicking, where the cursor hovers, and how long it takes them to make decisions.

Heatmaps can offer huge returns on relatively minor investments, making them a crucial asset in any UX designer’s toolbox. They are especially helpful in addressing functional web page elements, like navigation, layout choices, buttons, and images.

Not all heatmaps are the same. The greater the degree of user specificity you can get out of your heatmap software, the better. A heatmap that can categorize users according to gender is a useful tool, but a heatmap that can categorize users according to wide-ranging demographics, and respond to their actions accordingly, is a potential goldmine.

3. Customer Surveys

Customer surveys are tricky because many UX designers get them wrong. As a result, they are quick to dismiss the whole prospect and write off surveys as being antiquated relics of an older generation. This is not true, however.

UX surveys can offer a great deal of information that is not attainable through any other metric. Good questions, presented in the right way, lead to reliable answers that reflect the concerns of real-life users.

There are no performance metrics that correspond to how users actually feel while browsing your website or navigating your mobile app. The only way to get that information is by asking the user to provide it to you.

Properly categorizing user responses is key to making that data actionable. You need to be able to interpret user responses, compensate for biases and priming, and put the data your surveys generate to work on improving the UX.


UX Design Is a Constant Challenge

The data-driven approach to UX design implicitly accepts a fundamental fact of designing experiences for users. User expectations change over time, and UX designers have to constantly watch out for behavioral trends that imply large-scale cultural changes.

Examples of such large-scale changes are easy to point out – the iPhone brought about an entirely new set of expectations for the way people interact with technology and the Internet.

The only way to stay on top of these changes is by paying close attention to the trends that reinforce them. Keeping a close, data-oriented eye on UX design is key to being on top of changes when they occur and not getting left behind.