Website and application redesigns are major investments. However, project teams often fail to give timely and sufficient consideration to the vital role analytics plays in a successful site or app overhaul.
Analytics as an Afterthought
As analytics consultants, we see it all the time. Too often, measurement strategy is squeezed in during the frantic, final stages. This is always a way to guarantee frustration later when your boss wants to know how the product launch is going.
When designers and developers incorporate analytics into the earlier planning, implementation, and post-launch phases, the resulting product can deliver more powerful and comprehensive insights starting on day one.
Begin your Redesign with Measurement in Mind
During the planning phase, existing data about revenue and user engagement can help build an informed road map for the redesign.
During implementation, including analytics-friendly code directly into the new site or app is much more efficient than going back and retrofitting each page or screen after the fact.
Finally, after launch, readily available analytics reports can quickly show how the product is performing (or not!) versus previous versions.
Let’s take a closer look at how analytics considerations should be part of every stage of a redesign.
During the Planning Phase, Learn from Past Data
As you begin to conceptualize a new redesign project, allow plenty of time to query existing data. Identify unexpected trends and opportunities for improvement. Look for points of friction on your site. Pay close attention to key pages you originally thought would convert better than they have. Isolate pages with high bounce rates and target them for redevelopment.
User segments are especially valuable sources of behavioral insight when planning a website or app redesign. Are users having problems with specific devices or browsers? Or, does traffic from a particular marketing channel get lost and exit before converting? Even when less than perfect, your legacy web analytics data can identify problems and patterns with your existing site or app.
In fact, why not use this opportunity to do some housekeeping and get your analytics stack repaired and upgraded ahead of time? Just about every analytics implementation has a few leaks. Or, maybe you’ve been waiting for a good time to migrate your on-site code into a tag management environment like Google Tag Manager, Segment, or Amplitude? Whatever you end up changing, try to coordinate your analytics improvements with your site redesign launch date for a clean break point.
Most importantly, review everything you’re tracking presently and ask yourself if you really plan to use the data going forward. Take our advice and use the opportunity to scale back. More often than not, teams waste time and effort collecting far more data that they’ll never use. A little planning goes a long way. Don’t over-engineer your site or app to collect tons of data that just goes into a black hole. Plan up front what you want to track, anticipating future needs best you can, and build that into project specs.
Finally, introduce the topic of measurement early on to set the stage for strong communication between developers and UX designers. It’s vital for long-term project success that everyone understands why analytics is important, how insights will be disseminated, and how the data factors into further development and decision-making. Project managers need to help developers understand why they’re being asked to design pages in certain ways. When teams trust the data gathering process, they are more likely to trust the resulting insights and guidance.
Analytics Considerations During Implementation
Continuing into the implementation phases of your redesign, keep well-defined key performance indicators (KPI) in mind. Constantly review & refine what you’ll need to measure, by what specific dimensions, and on what pages or screens. Develop a full list of requirements broken down by “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”. For example, if you intend to use Google Analytics 360 to track dozens of custom traits through custom dimensions, document those so developers can build in the necessary code.
Conduct thorough validation and testing during development to ensure everything performs as envisioned. You don’t want to find out the development team forgot to put code on a page or duplicated code. You only get one chance to get it right from the beginning. Once the site or app launches, you’ll be missing key data if the code isn’t properly implemented. In Google Analytics, for example, goal conversion logic often needs to be updated, reflecting a new page location or changed funnel steps.
Often, we’ll get requests from marketers or senior managers to get analytics implemented the week of launch. It’s a challenging ask not just because it’s last-minute but because the redesign is rarely coded for optimal data collection. Instead, we prefer to get involved earlier during the wire framing and building phases so we can provide client teams with code requirements that pull unique events into GA or create new custom dimensions.
Using Analytics to Evaluate a Redesign
Post-launch, you’ll want to quickly identify difficult or broken user experiences. If analytics has been a project consideration from the beginning, site or app performance data will show you right away what’s working and not. For instance, if the project includes a shopping cart or an in-app purchase opportunity, you should be able to easily see how users are progressing through the buying process. View different audience segments to see if people using specific browsers or devices are running into problems. And, most important, how are conversions going? Are you seeing more applications or purchases? Fewer? Quickly discover what’s not working and isolate the underlying issues with a well-planned measurement strategy implemented before the problems begin.
Apples and Oranges
Because pre- and post-redesign sites are often quite different, it can be a challenge evaluating user habits and page performance across the two versions. In Google Analytics, well-defined Content Groupings and Custom Dimensions can help pave over the underlying technical changes and make for a smoother, apples-to-apples transition.
Additionally, encourage reporting stakeholders to focus on overall user experience flow. Does the new design make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for, to move from page to page, or view content they didn’t see previously? Have legacy friction points been eliminated? Are there new ones?
Whatever the size of your business and whether you undertake a full-on redesign or a series of sprints to update site features, the earlier and deeper you embed analytics in the process, the better you’ll be able to understand and demonstrate your return on development investment.
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