Google Analytics is a powerful tool that most people who are involved with running websites should be using, as the platform can provide a wealth of information about how visitors find, navigate and use a site. For web developers who need to improve user interface and user experience design, Google Analytics has a variety of specific key performance indicators that are useful.
User Interface Design vs. User Experience Design
User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are often used interchangeably in colloquial language, but the two terms do have different technical definitions. While they both approach issues from a similar perspective, it’s important to first understand how the two design approaches differ before you try to use Google Analytics data to improve either one.
What Is UI Design?
User interface design is a people-centric approach to the aesthetics of a digital product. The discipline focuses on the digital touchpoints that users interact with, examining website items such as text, buttons, background, images, etc. By adjusting typography, color, size, location, and other factors, web designers who specialize in UI design seek to create a visually enticing product.
The overall goal of UI design is to create products that delight users with their aesthetics.
What Is UX Design?
User experience design is a people-centric approach to product design at large. The discipline takes a comprehensive look at how users interact with a product, examining everything from the user’s first contact with the product to their last. The goal of UI is to create solutions that address pain points that users experience, and thereby improve the user experience.
The overall goal of UX design is to create products that delight users with their effectiveness.
How Do UI and UX Work Together?
As distinct as they are, user interface and user experience design are very much complementary. While you might be able to specifically focus on one or the other when solving an issue, neither can truly flourish without the other.
To use an analogy, consider a wedding cake rather than a website. The best cakes look beautiful and taste delicious, meaning they need both elegant frosting (UI design) and good flavor (UX design). Frosting without flavor or flavor without frosting might get some compliments at a family birthday party, but it’s not suitable for a wedding where the hosts want to wow the crowd.
Similarly, a website should have both a good aesthetic design and offer a good experience. Either without the other might be fine for a small, family-specific genealogy site, but it won’t appeal to the broad audience that most sites aim to reach.
To see more specifically how UI and UX design complement one another on a website, consider the simple issue of two navigation buttons that are placed near each other. The buttons must navigate to the correct locations on the site, or else visitors will become frustrated that they can’t get to where they’d like to (UX design). They also need the right aesthetics — designed so they’re noticed, clearly labeled and distanced enough to easily click one or the other — so that visitors see and can easily use them (UI design).
Why Good Website Design Is Important
Having a good website design that incorporates both user interface and user experience considerations is essential if a site’s to be successful. Visitors will be frustrated and likely leave (or not even find) a site if it has problems with search engine optimization (SEO) friendliness, site speed, brand performance, mobile-friendliness or any other UI/UX design elements.
Moreover, a website will also probably be ineffective at attaining the desired goals if there are problems that keep visitors from moving along the site, converting, or even simply walking away with a good impression.
How Google Analytics Is Helping Web Developers in UI/UX Design
Many of Google Analytics’ key performance indicators (KPIs) provide specific data that’s extremely valuable to web developers. The following are some of the most important KPIs to monitor when trying to improve UI and UX analytics.
Overall Performance: The overall performance of a website provides a bird's-eye view of both UI and UX design. A significant change in performance usually correlates to at least one change in UI/UX design, and the big picture should be considered before drilling down to any specific issue.
Event Tracking: Tracking specific events on a website can help pinpoint UI or UX issues. Whereas changes in overall performance can indicate a change somewhere in UI/UX design, event tracking can help you determine precisely where the UI/UX change has occurred. Of course, it also helps measure the effectiveness of any positive change that you implement.
Behavior Flow: The behavior flow of a site reveals how visitors are interacting with the site, showing you exactly which pages they visit and what order they visit those pages. This helps show how UX is impacting behavior, but keep in mind that UI can also have a major impact too (remember the buttons example).
Audience Insights: Audience insights provide data on who’s visiting a website, and that data can be quite helpful when designing the UI of the site. Everything from gender and location to time of day and device used may impact the fonts, colors, calls to action (CTAs), layouts, and other elements that you choose.
Device Performance: Breaking website data down by device performance lets you make sure that a site is serving both desktop and mobile visitors well. If there are issues with a particular type of device, you probably have a UI/UX issue with that device. A UI problem is most likely if the issue is across all devices of a certain size (e.g., mobile devices), while a UX problem is more likely if the issue appears across a certain operating system or browser.
Page Scrolls: Knowing how far users typically scroll down is valuable information. You may adjust the length of a page’s content, shortening or lengthening it to better match with the average page scroll data. In some cases, you might also place specific widgets at certain points where users scroll to. The former is a UI improvement, while the latter is primarily UX.
Traffic Sources: The traffic source data helps further personalize a site from the moment visitors land on their first page. Direct, referral, and search users often have different aims when they visit a site, and this data lets you cater to each group’s interests.
Time on Page: Time on page shows where visitors are spending most of their time on a website and where they’re not. This information can help identify which UI elements are beneficial and which are detrimental. It also can reveal where a website needs improvement in its UI design.
Bounce Rates: Bounce rates primarily reveal UI information, for most visitors initially give a website mere seconds (at most) before they make a judgment about it. Having a strong UI design can help reduce bounce rates by merely captivating visitors with a site’s aesthetics.
Conversions: Conversions are the ultimate goal of a website. Although conversion data may not reveal exactly where a UI/UX issue lies, any change in conversions likely points to a corresponding change in UI/UX design.
Use Google Analytics to Improve Your Website’s UI/UX Design
Every website can use at least some improvement in both user interface and user experience design, and many sites can use a lot of improvement. Leverage Google Analytics’ KPIs, and you’ll know exactly where to improve your site’s UI and UX design.
About the author
Dan Kipp is the Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager guru at Marcel Digital. He loves traveling, cooking, sports, and spending spare time with friends and family.