Create a website performance dashboard

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Dashboards can be brilliant. They can act as a living mirror for your team, reflecting successes and challenges to address. They can prove the value of your work to clients and higher-ups in an easily digestible way. And they can reveal what your audience needs from your website.

Equally they can be totally useless. And don’t be fooled by the shiny ones. A pretty design and technical impressiveness are no indication of usefulness. 

It’s hard to achieve the former, and easy to bang out the latter. To create a useful dashboard you need to do a bit of work up front to:

  1. define your audience and their goals for the product
  2. get all the data 
  3. get rid of most of the data
  4. start with a low-fi design and iterate
  5. get your team using it

An example of a useful dashboard is the Dashboard for GOV.UK transition project. This allowed my team to get more resources to ensure that our site was meeting user needs.

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Define audience and product goals

Don’t try to do too many things for too many people. For example do you want your dashboard to primarily be for your team to help them improve content? Or do you want to show clients or management the value of your work?

Hold a workshop with your audience to define their goals

Having people in the same room is really important to get a consensus, because they’ll often have competing needs. A good workshop will allow everyone in the group to have a voice and go away with a better understanding of the product goals and how to meet them. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • what do you want to achieve with your website (i.e. increase inquiries or purchases)?
  • how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
  • what data do you use already, and how do you use it?
  • what will indicate why you have and haven’t achieved your goals so that you can improve your product?

Try not to ask what metrics people want to see! Often they’ll give you a long list of metrics that won’t achieve squat. Instead focus on the actions they want to take with data insight.

Prioritise competing needs as a group and be realistic about what you can cover. If there are loads of different needs go back to the original goal to work out what will make the dashboard a success.

Get all the data

Once you’re clear about what success looks like, take a wide sweep of the user insight available to you. Look for qualitative and quantitative insight from things like lab-based user research reports, call centre insight, surveys and online feedback forms. Do an in-depth user journey analysis using Google Analytics to find the best metrics and get more context about website performance. Get your hands dirty with the data and keep asking yourself whether it will achieve the product goals, and allow your team to measure the effect of any changes they make.

Get rid of most of the data

You’ll probably be swamped with data, so half the job is deciding what to leave out. You only want high-level indicators that will show you where to deep-dive. For example tracking each field in an online contact form is probably too much information for a dashboard. You just want the number of contacts, and only if this is an important success indicator.

Mock up a low-fi dashboard

Scrawling numbers and words on a whiteboard or brown paper is a great way to start. Keep it in a public space so that people engage with it, and encourage your team to own the dashboard and provide critical feedback. For dashboard mockups it’s a good idea to:

  • use real data and insights to make sure they’re useful
  • include a headline at the top that reflects the main takeaway of that period, for example if you’ve had a huge spike in contacts due to an effective promotion spell it out
  • use lots of words – unless your team is very data-oriented they’ll appreciate it
  • keep it uncluttered

Show it to your group and get feedback.

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Iterate

Keep your dashboard in a low-fi format for a while to see if it’s useful over time. Once you’ve got to a point where it’s delivering good results, decide on the best way to render it. A simple Google Analytics dashboard that can be emailed automatically will work well if that’s your main source of data. Consider Powerpoint presentations, Google sheets if you want to automate different sources of data. Or a whiteboard dashboard will do just fine if you’ve got a couple of clear goals, such as increasing sales and reducing complaints.

Show the team the value of the dashboard

Present the tarted up dashboard to your team and explain how the website is (or isn’t!) meeting their goals. Confirm how often and in what format they’d like to receive it. A combination of presentation and email is good – it’s best to talk your audience through the insights to make sure they’re useful and used. Let them know that it will never be finished, so feedback is always welcome.

If you need help making useful performance dashboards get in touch!

Get started with Google Analytics

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Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful tool, and it’s becoming crucial to use it to understand your audience and improve your digital product. If you’re a product manager, or agency / website owner you need to bring GA into the heart of your team. In this post I’ll show you the value of GA, help you decide what’s best for you in terms of using it, and outline how to infuse it into your team.

Why use Google Analytics?

Because it can help you to understand your audience. And this insight will help you to meet your goals, increase your traffic, and show your clients and management how brilliant you and your team are. Here are some examples of how powerful GA can be:

Often a simple headline will be enough to show the value of your work. For example there were lots of people searching for ‘opening hours’ on the Te Papa site so the team put this information on every page. The graph below shows how searches including the term ‘hour’ dropped by 85%, because people didn’t need to search for it any more:

 

Putting opening hours on every page:

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Resulted in an 85% drop in searches containing ‘hour’:

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What does it do?

Google Analytics shows how people use your website. It tracks hundreds of things like where they come from (e.g. Google, social, referral sites), what pages they visit, and what they search for on your site. If you need to set up GA Moz has a great guide on this, so go do that and then come back here so you can make the data useful.

How can I use it?

People tend to approach GA with enthusiasm, thinking that pulling a few levers will make all the insights fall out. But understanding why things are happening and how to fix them is more like one of those frustrating claw arcade games where you never get the toy. The confusing terminology, number of reports, and the fact that a lot of useful stuff isn’t tracked automatically make it tricky. Below are some ideas about how you can use GA effectively.

Get specialist help

If you manage a big site you’ll want to consider a full-time GA specialist to get to grips with your data. If you can’t bring in a permanent employee consider getting time-boxed help from a consultant (such as Lanalytics!). Spend a bit of time working with them so that you can use their data – sit down with a question about your users and go through the data together. Ask them to explain anything you don’t understand, it’s their job to help you get results.

Learn it yourself: pair with specialist

If you want to learn GA yourself it’s ideal to have a specialist on-site. You’ll be able to get help with questions when they arise, such as ‘Are users actually clicking on that 6 pt link that’s 3 km down the bottom of the page?’. If you have someone at your work you can pester them relentlessly. Just be prepared to provide chocolate.

Training courses and online tutorials

If you don’t have the luxury of an on-site specialist, try a certified course or do online tutorials (if you’ve found useful ones please share them with us in the comments). Define the main things you’d like to find out about your site before you attend, and ask the trainer to help you track these because training is often very broad. Likewise find bite-sized online tutorials that meet your specific goals – you’ll get lost if you try to learn everything.

Assign site measurement to a team member

Consider training up a member of your team. They should be passionate about users, good with technology, and good communicators. Don’t rule out less-experienced team members – putting data to good use relies on knowledge of business, team and user needs, which are learnt on the job.

Infusing your team with data

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Whatever route you decide to take, don’t let your data sit in a vacuum. Analytics works best when every team member can track what they’re interested in. For example designers will want to know whether their blue call-to-action button is being clicked, whereas content designers will want to know which of the pages they’ve written are popular.

Also define things that are important to your whole team, like are the right people finding your online form page? Work out your performance priorities as a team and build up to regular dashboard reporting (more on that in a later post) which reflects your goals and performance.

Google Analytics is a valuable source of insights to help you understand your users and improve your site. Whether you decide to learn Google Analytics yourself, assign it to a team member, or get a specialist in, make sure you build a performance culture within your team. GA will help you to help you increase traffic to your website, meet your goals, and prove the value of your work. Get started!

Contact Lanalytics for help with using Google Analytics to make your website brilliant.

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Data: helping people celebrate Matariki

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Night sky Canterbury, 2014. Photograph by Tom Hall, via Flickr. CC BY-ND Gen 2.0

Matariki is the celebration of the Māori New Year. It’s a time when people come together to remember their ancestors, share food, sing, tell stories, and play music.

Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum, and hosts an annual Matariki Festival. With data the Te Papa digital team were able to uncover more about the Matariki audience, and increase the reach of the content.

The Te Papa events were well-attended, but the website helped people engage with Matariki at home, on the move, and in the classroom. This is in part due to the team’s efforts in:

  • promoting Matariki to a new audience with homepage links
  • meeting demand in Google by creating content for Matariki search terms
  • increasing the engagement of the existing audience with compelling related links
  • live-streaming performances so people can participate regardless of where they’re based

Data analysis revealed a wider audience for Matariki, and confirmed that we reached 47% more people than the same period last year. It’s a broad audience that includes teachers and kids in the classroom, people who want to watch celebrations while on the move, and those who want to engage from the comfort of their own home.

It’s brilliant to know that we’re transcending the walls of the museum to take this cultural celebration out to people. We’re going beyond data and digital, and into people’s lives, which is an awesome thing to be a part of.

See the full story on the Te Papa blog – Using data to help people celebrate Matariki.

Govt.nz – making marriage easier

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Image source: Te Papa

We’ve recently brought births, deaths and marriages content on to Govt.nz and turned off this content on the Internal Affairs site. It’s a huge leap in terms of giving people government information on one site rather than spreading it across hundreds of agency sites, and reducing the confusion that users feel when trying to interact with government.

We started out by finding out what people need with analytics and call centre insight, and now we’re finding out whether we’ve improved things by looking at user data. People are engaging well with the new marriage content.

Data is from four weeks post-launch compared to the same period last year.

How to get married in NZ page is performing well. The team turned a scattered wilderness of marriage-related pages into this cohesive step-by-step guide:

How to get married

– high reach – 7K unique page views
– high engagement – average of 6 minutes on site and 5 pages per session for this audience
– low searches – only 50 searches on this page, which suggests that people are getting what they need from content

People can now find registry office locations and contact details:
– two registry office pages received 5K unique page views, and location results pages received 3K upvs
– registry office searches have dropped 70% compared to the old site

And on the other side of things we’re meeting previously unmet demand for divorce content, which used to be on a separate agency site:
Separating or getting a divorce pages received 6K unique page views
– divorce searches dropped 40%

At Govt.nz we’re making online government services easier to access and use, with plain English content and an intuitive structure. And we’re showing the improvements with data. See the full story on the New Zealand government Web Toolkit – Govt.nz: making marriage easier.