15 May 2019

Peering Inside Your Customer's Mind: Using Usability Tracking.

We build websites armed with the knowledge of who the ideal website visitor is and what they want to do. But, the theory is different from practice, and sometimes you need to understand the problem from the user's perspective. That's where usability tracking comes in. Usability tracking is a great tool for getting inside your customers' minds while they're navigating through your website. Sometimes people act in a way that's different from what you anticipated, your website won't be performing at the level you're expecting and you will want to know why. Usability tracking is a great way to get the insights you require in all these areas.

What is usability tracking?

Usability tracking is a plug-in capability for your website that gives you a more granular view of website usage compared to Google Analytics. Usability tracking systems hook into your website and capture key information from the user as they click through your website. This includes, clicks, scrolls, and browsing history.

Comparing usability tracking to Google Analytics

While completely different solutions, usability tracking and Google Analytics have a common purpose - they understand the behaviour of the customer. While more people will have exposure to Google Analytics, usability tracking is easier to wrap your head around. Unlike the endless reports and views in Analytics, usability tracking is far more straightforward.

Usability tracking

  • Shows the individual journeys of users on your website

  • Per-element level granularity (deeper)

  • Small number of specific interactions tracked (click, scroll, browse)

Google Analytics

  • Shows the aggregate performance of users across your website

  • Page level granularity (broader)

  • Hundreds of different statistics gathered, spread across hundreds of screens.

Ultimately, as a metaphor, if your website was a house, Google Analytics tells you who went into which rooms, where they came in, and where they came out. With usability tracking, you get a detailed view of what people are doing in the rooms, what they are engaging with and where they get stuck.

What does usability tracking tell you?

With usability tracking, you can see:

  • How deep into the page users have scrolled

  • Page engagement (click capture)

  • Video's of users browsing your website

  • Form burn-down completion

Some usability tracking tools also have A/B comparison tools that you can use, but we'll cover this topic in another article.

What usability tracking won't tell you

While usability tracking is great, it's not a perfect reflection of the customer experience. You can determine how simple or difficult the process may be, but the critical missing piece is the user's impressions and satisfaction with the process. Usability tracking as outlines doesn't provide great aggregate statistics of the website performance. You can extract page scroll depth statistics on a page level. But in terms of click engagement and following the user flow, the results are less easily translated in a fixed score or success rate - for this, you would rely on Google Analytics.

Products available

For entry-level engagement, we recommend Crazy Egg. It is relatively easy to set up and provides some interesting insights almost straight away. Competing products

What does the output look like?


Confetti click map

Scroll map

User journey video 

The benefits of usability tracking

Scroll depth

Scroll depth isn't a fantastic measure of content engagement, as you will find that people get the gist of a page very quickly and move on.

Click engagement

Click engagement can be a really interesting way to see what people are clicking on, as this represents the interest level of the user. People will click on what they're reading, whether they are expecting that click to do anything or not. Best to add tracking to the destination pages.

Symptom: Click on a piece of text content

Possible conclusion: People are engaged with the content.

Symptom: Lots of clicking in a blank section of the site

Possible conclusion: The website capture has not worked 100%, and this section is being delayed. Requires a look at how the website is loading.

Symptom: Lots of clicks in the menu, little to no on-page clicking

Possible conclusion: People know what they are looking for rather than browsing.

In our experience, we always find it interesting to see what people are engaged in. Particularly the dynamic capabilities of a website, like an FAQ accordion.

User journey capture

With user journey capture, you watch a video of people using your website. But just a heads up, watching people use your website is a slow activity. You're viewing their experience in real-time. However, the tools available do have a built-in capability to play the recordings at faster playback speeds, and better tools will show you when the user is actually doing something on the timeline. It's common to see 10-minute videos that only consist of someone landing on your site, doing nothing and then closing your website. 

An interesting takeaway

People use websites at speed! They don't patiently review each image and piece of a copy of your website. They are looking for a hint of a mental checklist of a query they may have. This is why websites should be designed so that summary information is at the top, and detailed information is at the bottom. The only one reading every word of copy on your website is 'Google'.

When should you consider using usability tracking?

Usability tracking is a good option to consider:

  • After you have reviewed and implemented fixes for common practice problems

  • For system usage, and complicated workflows

Closing the gap with your mobile experience

Generally speaking, the mobile experience is the more common reason to start looking at usability capture.

Multi-page (or sequence) workflows

Google analytics won't help you one bit when trying to identify a problem with the usability of a complicated form. The click engagement will highlight areas where the interface is working in a way that's not expected by the user, and the journey recording will highlight whether they get stuck. It's worth noting that tools like Crazy Egg will block the visibility of the data people are entering for privacy reasons.

Building a case for improvement

Sometimes seeing is believing. If you're working with someone who's more convinced by real examples over abstract numbers, showing the visual difficulty a user is going through can ram home the need for the benefit.

Would you like to know more?

Tell us what you thought of this article. Is there anything you would like to know more about? Shoot through your thoughts to greg@lamb.com.au.

Greg is the Managing Director of Lamb Agency, a digital agency focused on creating industry-leading websites.

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