Redesigning your website is a daunting task. You’ll have your major pain points that everyone knows about, and you might have some idea about how to fix them. But to improve your site for everyone you need a holistic view on performance. If you break things that are popular you’ll feel the wrath of your users!
Use data to see how user needs are performing
Data can help you prevent redesign fails. It’s not an insurance policy, but by mapping out user needs you’ll see the user priorities for your site and have a strong framework to inform your plans. You might have thousands of pages, but what content do people actually visit? Your colleagues will likely have strong views on what should be prioritised in the new site, but do these reflect the needs of your users? Data can help you see:
- your most popular content
- content that isn’t being used
- pain points
- user journey insights on conversions and key interactions
What are user needs?
User needs are the tasks that people complete on your site, like registering for an event, contacting you, or buying something. A need could also be purely finding out how to do something offline, or understanding entitlements and requirements.
Find your user needs
Create a user needs spreadsheet
List your user needs down the left-hand side, and capture the pages related to each need. Go beyond your current website structure to the real tasks that people want to complete. For example, MPI cover a need to sell food in New Zealand while complying with government rules and regulations. This information is contained in two different sections – Processing and handling and Food safety.
Note your measures for each need across the top row. Your measures will be unique to your website audience and goals, I’ve found these to provide useful insight:
- Google traffic
- Page visits
- On-site searches
- Pain point measure
- Success / conversion measure
Segment your audience
Once you have identified all the content related to each need, create a filter in Google Analytics to track the wider site usage of people who visit this content. See our blog post How to segment your audience with Google Analytics for more on this.
Examples of measures to use
Page visits – which content is the most popular?
If you do one data exercise to inform your redesign, capture visit volumes to the pages related to each user need. This will identify your most popular needs. You can dig deeper into these needs with user research, and make sure this content is easy to find and use in the updated site.
Page visits – which content isn’t being used?
A redesign is a great time to get rid of useless content. Dead content clutters up the site – we’ve all had to wade through pages of information to find the important bit that’s buried at the bottom. If pages get low visit volumes you should look at making them more findable, or get rid of them.
On-site searches often show what people can’t find, so make this information easy to access.
Pain points and success measures
Define the key interactions for your site. A good example is visits to the contact page, which could be a success measure or pain point depending on your goals! Look at the volume of these for each content area. Same for enrolments, form submissions, downloads, purchases – anything that shows quality engagement. See our Te Papa Venues case study for more context.
Google searches leading to each content area are also valuable to understand user intent. You’ll need data from Google Search Console to access this data – it can’t be done in Google Analytics.
MPI case study
We used this technique for the The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), they’re redesigning their information architecture (IA) with help from Springload. MPI makes rules and regulations for diverse activities like catching snapper, holding school sausage sizzles, and exporting manuka honey, so they needed an encompassing view on performance.
The most MPI popular user need is ‘I want to find out what I can bring or post to NZ from overseas’. This need accounts for 14% of all page visits, so it’s worth getting this content right.
Google searches leading to this content are generic:
- New Zealand customs food
- New Zealand customs quarantine
- bringing food into New Zealand
The on-site searches are mostly for specific products like cigarettes, medication, olive oil, tea, coffee and maple syrup. This shows the different needs at different stages of the user journey – potentially people aren’t finding specific products in the site content.
Understanding your user priorities means that you can ensure that you pay attention to the content that matters in your redesign. Tracking data on Google searches, on-site searches, pain points and success measures related to each need will give you a holistic view of your site performance. Using this insight to inform your redesign will give you the best chance of success.
This data research technique owes a lot to the work done by the early GOV.UK team. You can read more about user needs in the GOV.UK user need guidance.
Get in touch if you’d like help finding your website user needs – let’s chat.