Top UX trends in data: part one

This post is part 1 of 3, based on a talk I gave at UX New Zealand

Part two and part three of the UX trends in data series are live as well.

Assumptions about how people are using your website can be dangerous. They can cause you to devote lots of energy to dead space, and miss opportunities to engage users.

User data will help you make the most of your time and resources by letting go of things that aren’t working, and putting that energy into things that are.

These are UX trends I’ve found over more than a decade working in digital data. They’re designed to help you to question assumptions about the websites that you’re working on, and persuade your organisation what good UX looks like.

1. The home page is not the front door.

People are often intent on getting their content on the home page. Guinevere from Research and Development knows that if she could just put a link to her 500-page PDF on the lifecycle of the inch-worm there, it would get thousands of visitors.
This belief can be misguided. In a sample of eight sites, only 25% of people started their journey on the home page. Look at where your traffic is actually going before you decide where to put things.
Note that if you’ve got a small-to-medium sized business it’s likely that the majority of people will Google your name to find you and start on your home page. Have a look!
For example RNZ found that only 15% of users even looked at the home page. The team stopped focussing so much attention on the page, and put more energy into to good SEO. As a result, the site got a 33% increase in Google traffic year-to-year. See the case study: RNZ audience tracking with Google Analytics.
Screenshots show an RNZ story appearing in an iPhone newsfeed, and a Google Analytics Real Time report showing 400 people visiting the page at the same time:

2. Google is the home page.
Most of the sites we work on get over half of their traffic from Google. Some of this traffic is from people Googling your brand name, e.g. people searching for ‘Te Papa’. But for large websites there’s often lots of Google traffic going straight to deep-level pages.
For example a lot of people who visit the Te Papa website have no idea what Te Papa is, they’re Googling things like ‘do spiders sleep?’ and finding Te Papa’s content in results.

Ensure your content is search-engine optimised to reach the widest possible audience.


3. People can get really confused in Google.

When we’re looking for an official source for information, it can be really frustrating when multiple sites offer the same thing. 

For example, Working for Families (WFF) and Inland Revenue (IR) both had pages on Working for Families tax credit, and they both appeared high in Google. 

Data showed us that people went on a confusing journey between the two sites – starting on WFF and then being taken to IR to apply for the credit, when they should have started off on IR. This got fixed, making parents and caregivers lives that little bit easier. 

A Hitwise report shows that both IR and WFF receive Google traffic for the search ‘working for families tax credit’:

It’s also confusing when page titles aren’t descriptive enough. For example the Ministry for Primary Industries had pages on exporting wine, meat, dairy and other goods. But the goods weren’t shown in the page titles:

Just adding ‘wine’ into the wine exporting page meant almost twice as many people landed on the page.

Research your competition in Google, and think about how your content will fit in with the other results. Let’s not litter up the internet.

4. More content = less findability.

Unnecessary content gets in the way of people finding what they need. That’s why it’s so important to define your key user needs, and create streamlined content with descriptive titles and link labels.

The DIA Rates rebate project shows how streamlined content improves findability. People were really struggling to find out whether they were eligible and how to apply in the old content, so DIA cleaned up the website content.

We found there were three main questions from users about the rates rebate using Google search data:

  • What is a rates rebate?
  • Rates rebate calculator
  • Rates rebate (application) form

The team created a simplified section with Google-optimised page titles:

This resulted in the clickthrough rate from Google increasing by over 10%, pages per session went down by 21%, and application form downloads increased beyond what was expected in the peak application period.

Likewise Te Papa Venues drastically cut down the required fields on their contact form, when Hotjar video recordings showed that users were spending ages on the form and getting stuck, resulting in a 64% increase in online enquiries over 6 months.

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Part two and part three of the UX trends in data series are live as well.

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