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How to Make Your Analytics Work Harder

During the very early concept and design phases of a website build, most developers, designers, and UX architects focus on the things you might expect: site organization, layout, purchase path flow, etc. Brands usually invest a lot of blood, sweat, and meetings into this phase. But when it comes to measuring analytics, metrics, and KPIs, their web teams will often just slap the analytics code on at the end, almost as an afterthought. And when the analytics report comes in, well, as they say: “garbage in, garbage out.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. Because if you design your site with analytics in mind from the very start, your analytics can work harder and smarter than you ever thought possible.

Typical analytics reports: Big on data, small on insight

Setting up basic web analytics is no big deal. Your developer adds a few lines of analytics code to your site, and Google Analytics sends you a report. You’ll see which pages get the most traffic, which links get clicked on, the bounce rates, the views per session, and so on. The problem, though, is that this report can be a lot to wade through. Sure, you can tell which pages are the most popular, but it’s very difficult to tell, at a glance, which kinds of pages are the most popular.

The intersection of analytics and UX

So when a client comes to us at GLG, we can plan analytics for any application that we’re going to work on, not just when we’re creating new applications or redesigning old ones. We can start thinking about analytics in the initial strategy and wireframes phase with our UX team. As we begin our UX blueprints, we start annotating every part of the page with analytics in mind. We start calling out A/B possibilities such as marquees and calls to action, and we categorize your pages in all sorts of ways: by content type, by news, by blogs, by core product and service pages, by careers, by case studies—you name it. It allows us to get away from implicit reports and get closer to categorized details.

Analytics you can actually use

Why should you put this time in up front? Because it pays off so beautifully once the site launches. Remember the mishmash analytics report we talked about before? Now, your analytics can be organized into a much leaner and more powerful dashboard format that can be used immediately to optimize the site. Are people spending more time on news pages? If so, what kinds of articles are getting the most attention? Do people respond better to high-level content? Or do they prefer to dig deeper? Are pages with big images paying off? Or are people digging the infographics? What language are people responding to in the purchase path?

You wouldn’t install the electrical wiring and plumbing after your house is built. So why should your analytics setup be any different? Take the time to be the librarian of your domain, taking care to organize and catalog your applications. Everyone preaches the power of analytics, but it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Build it in from the beginning. Make it part of your blueprints.