Designing with Analytics Insights: Because People Lie

Users Lie

Why integrate analytics in your software designs? Because sometimes, users lie.

It’s not always on purpose, in fact, most of the time it’s not on purpose.

For a majority of people on earth, our memory recall is just straight up flawed.

We have conducted studies in the past in which folks would tell us they use a feature on a daily basis, only to find when we pull analytics that they are using the feature MAYBE every 3-6 months.

Could it be a misunderstanding on the part of the participants around which feature we’re asking about? Yep. Could it be that they just feel like they use the feature way more than they actually do? Yep again.

Analytics It Up

Integrate analytics tracking everywhere you can. Google Analytics makes it extremely easy to record custom click events. Toss some of those click events on tasks you want more information about, and you’ll have a goldmine of data to draw from.

Don’t Limit Your Research Methods

Should analytics tracking be the only form of user research that your company relies on? Absolutely not. Analytics data can answer very specific questions and help you track trends.

It cannot tell you WHY the data is coming in the way it is. You need to perform user research with real, live people as well. Mixing and matching your methods will help develop a more complete picture of what your clients are doing and the problems you need to help them solve.

HotJar’s Viral Marketing Campaign Is Brilliant

As a designer, sometimes I see a product and a ray of light shines down on it from heaven. I just had one of those moments this morning when Tom Kerwin (@uxdesigntom) introduced me to the epic-ness that is HotJar. Curious? You can check it out and sign up here:

After I got insanely excited about it, I went to their website and signed up to join the waiting list.

They immediately displayed the following message:


I was pumped! I was only 482nd in line. Then I read the rest of the message and realized that if I could get 5 friends to sign up, I’d get INSTANT ACCESS! I immediately posted the link to Twitter. (The level of excitement I experienced reminded me of how I felt when Mailbox first launched.)

Then this happened:

check your spot

So guess what I did I did immediately? I clicked the red button, obviously. I couldn’t wait to see if I had any registrants to bump up my spot in line.

Then I saw this:

Campaign lower number

Now I’m only 44th in line! Extreme joy followed. My phone beeped and I found 2 really nice emails from the company. The first one explained that they’re a start up and they can’t afford a major marketing campaign, and expressed how thankful they are for our support. The second one was a congratulatory email telling me that I had my first signup using my personal link. The anticipation of not knowing when the next referral would occur was exciting. I kept refreshing the screen over and over throughout the day. Want to know why?

I took a step back and realized that this system was ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! Kudos to the HotJar Team for completely hacking my brain! They had activated the daylights out of my nucleus accumbens. (It’s the part of your brain that gives you motivation and mega pleasure from anticipating an awesome reward happening. It also plays into addiction, which contributes to folks clicking the refresh button 98345 times to see if they’ve moved up in line yet. Psychology background FTW.)

I was already excited about the product, as most people who sign up to be on a waiting list are, so giving the option to move up in line simply by posting a referral link was genius.

You know how sometimes you sign up for services, and at the end they say, “Do you have any friends who may want to use this service?” Every single time I ignore those, because I think they’re cheesy. I’m obviously not going to give my friends’ email addresses away, it’s a rude thing to do. But this? Giving the ultimate reward (early access) for sharing info about a tool that I already think is amazing?

Epic, epic marketing. HotJar, give your marketing team a raise.

10 UX Tools I Couldn’t Live Without: Oct 2014 Version

uxrocks copy

SolidifyApp – Mega simple prototyping/click tracking tool for desktop and mobile usability testing.

UXRecorder – Mobile usability testing app (Create a native prototype in SolidifyApp and run it through UXRecorder = Magical).

Silverback App – Mac usability testing.

Trello – Organize all the things.

Skitch – Fab for UX reviews.

Balsamiq – Best collaborative wire framing tool on the market.

TargetProcess – Track Design/Development/QA progress and burndown.

GoToMeeting – Design collaboration via video chat/recording sessions & screen sharing with Audio.

Google Analytics – Analyze how your clients are using your product, look for pain points, adjust UX accordingly.

InVisionApp – Hi res desktop and mobile prototyping.

Bonus Tool:

Spotify – Great music gets the creative juices flowing!

Google Analytics Free: Your Data Is Fake (But It’s OK)


I recently discovered that users of Google Analytics Free don’t always fully understand what they’re seeing when they log into their dashboards. They think they’re looking at their actual, honest to goodness data. So let’s clear some things up:

1. Your data is fake.
“What are you talking about! It’s not fake, there are graphs!” Your data is sampled. In some situations it’s still statistically significant. In fact, in most cases it is, so don’t panic yet.

2. Want access to your real unsampled data? Fork over $150,000.
For major corporations it’s pocket change. For the average person with a small site, your sampled data is still statistically significant, so it’s no big deal. If you’re a start up company who is still poor but is experiencing rapid growth, you’re out of luck. Break out your wallet.

3. If your company is expecting/experiencing rapid growth & has set up a bunch of custom events, of the four leading analytics companies, Google Analytics Premium is by FAR the cheapest.
If you hit 5 billion events per month, Google Analytics Premium bumps up to a flat rate of $220k. Adobe Analytics jumps up around $7.4 MILLION dollars per year. That is not a typo, it’s a legit quote. If you’re scaling crazy fast and need quality data, Google Analytics Premium is your friend from a financial perspective.

4. Unsampled, pure data is freaking expensive.
It just is. If you really need it, surrounded by a UI that isn’t terrible, be prepared to shell out some serious cash.

5. I previously mentioned that sampled data is statistically significant for most companies, so who cares about whether data is sampled or not?
CMS companies in particular need to care. Let’s say a company has global analytics tracking. They may have 4 huge clients (3 million events, 2.5, 2, and 1 million events per month) a handful of 100k – 250k events-per-month clients and so on into tiny client land.

Google samples the daylights out of your data. The higher the number of monthly events, the worse your sampling rate becomes.

From a global tracking perspective looking at high level metrics, sampling is no big deal. However, if a 100k events-per-month client calls and requests a report about mobile device traffic to their primary domain, you’re statistically SOL. You can pull the report, but the drill down data will be garbage due to the crazy sampling rate.

The worst sampling rate I’ve come across in Google Analytics Free was .02%, but you get what you pay for.

The moral of this story:
For small sites and small businesses Google Analytics Free is a viable option. Your data is “fake”, but still statistically significant.

If you’re a rapidly growing business with a pile of domains being tracked under one account, eat the cost and upgrade to Google Analytics Premium. From a scalability perspective it’s the cheapest option, and you can pull unsampled reports to obtain accurate data all day long if you want to.

Analytics and Improving UX: What’s the Connection?

Part of my role as a Content Strategist and UX Editor is to keep an eye on, and harvest data on our monthly analytics, and then write an analysis report. I am a giant stats nerd and absolutely love this aspect of my job. Someone recently asked me how analytics tie into our UX strategy since our flagship product is a CMS, so I thought I’d share some insights about what our design and development teams learn from our monthly stats.

1. We learn in depth browser usage information about OUR user base.

Our user base is a pretty specific group, with individualized needs. Could we look at industry averages of browser usage? Sure. Would it help us? No. Because our end users and editors have very different needs than the general public. We work with school districts, and often times the editors don’t have any control over the equipment they are given to edit in the schools, nor the browsers they have to use. So our decisions on which browsers to support, and which ones not to support are driven by OUR analytics data. Would we love to stop supporting legacy browsers? Absolutely. Would it destroy the user experience for a large percentage of our users? Yep. Some companies can make snap judgements on browser support based on industry averages, we can’t. We put the needs of our client base first, and our analytics data is a key driver in that decision making process.

2. We are able to monitor adoption rates of new product features. 

We launched a new feature about a year ago and started tracking it with custom events in Google Analytics. At first we had a snow rise in usage, then a few months later the usage went through the roof and our clients started raving about it. We got to watch that progression, and see how much time it took for our users to start loving that enhancement.  You don’t always have instant adoption of new features which can bum you out, but watching adoption rise over time and then fly off the charts is a pretty rewarding thing!

3. We can see which areas of our product are hit the heaviest and then research ways we can improve those areas. We can also identify areas that aren’t being used as heavily, and then do additional user research to find out why. 

Analytics can be incredibly helpful when you’re doing analysis of which areas of your product need additional UX work or a refresh. Analytics also help identify areas that may need to be researched further, to help identify why users are ignoring them.

4. We can monitor which help materials are being accessed the most, and use that data to review the areas that are causing our users confusion.

Sometimes if a person gets stuck, they call or email asking for help, but more often than not, folks use our online resource center. So in reality, the areas folks are calling about, may not be the areas causing the most client frustration, since most people hit the online help before they call. Being able to see analytics that show how folks are using our help materials helps us identify usability issues quickly, and then we are able to follow up with additional user research to find out which aspects of those areas are specifically causing confusion.

5. We have a direct view of how mobile is being used by our client base.

Mobile is here to stay obviously, and we have awesome mobile solutions for our clients. We have responsive site templates, mobile web apps, iPhone apps, and Android apps that are all fed data from our single CMS. I absolutely love the power behind our system, and how much time it’s saving our clients by letting them COPE (Create Once Publish Everywhere)!

I am able to see our mobile growth each and every month, and it’s fascinating. I can see how many people are using phones vs tablets for editing and viewing, I can see which devices are most prevalent. I can see the absolutely huge divide between iPhone users and Android users in our viewing audience (Last month our app downloads were 83% iOS and only 17% Android! Our visitors are apparently huge Apple fans!). It’s extremely helpful for us from a design standpoint to see how our clients and their visitors are using tech to consume content. It helps give us perspective as we design new products and features.

There are about a million other exciting things you can learn by tracking analytics to improve your site or product UX, I could add about 900 more bullet points, but this post this is just a small teaser to get you started.

I just want to reiterate how powerful integrating analytics into your UX strategy can be! Analytics data isn’t  just a tool for marketing teams; product designers and developers can benefit from analytics data in a huge way too!