How to Better Understand Your Website Users’ Behavior

Stefan Rössler on January 24, 2015 –
4 min read

How to better understand your website users' behavior

Your website (app, etc.) doesn’t have a user experience, your users do.

That’s why you have to understand your user’s behavior and find out why they do what they do on your site.

There are 3 different ways to better understand your website users’ behavior:

  • Analytics
  • Customer support
  • Usability testing

Combine all 3 of them and you’ll find out how to improve the experiences your users have on your website.

The parts of every User Experience

  • User: a person using your website
  • Website: the navigation, design, technology and content that are your website
  • Goals: both yours and those of your users

Looks pretty simple, but there’s a downside to it.

No matter what kind of tool you use (analytics, customer support, or usability testing) you will never understand all 3 parts by using just one method alone.

Analytics teach you about your website and your users:

Analytics teach you about your website and your users

Analytics give you lots of information about how people are using your website.

But since you don’t know your users’ goals, you don’t know what motivates their behavior.

Some might just be browsing, some might research your product, some might be here to buy.

You need to talk to your users to find out what their goals are and make sense of all your data.

Customer support teaches you about your users and their goals:

Customer support teaches you about your users and their goals

Customer support lets you understand your users’ goals.

They will actually talk to you about their goals (problems, questions, etc.).

However, you will not be able to see how these people are using your website.

Maybe some share their screens, but this support situation doesn’t teach you much about their actual experience.

To see more real user experiences you have to do usability tests.

Usability testing teaches you about the experience users have while they’re trying to achieve these goals on your website:

Usability testing teaches you about user behavior

Usability testing bridges the gap between analytics and customer support by letting you control your users’ goals and telling them exactly what they should do on your website.

You can then watch them test the most important goals and hear them think out loud while they’re using your site (buying products, finding information, signing up to your website, etc.).

Combining all 3 for a successful UX

Each tool or method has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. To really understand your website users’ behavior and to create a great user experience you’ll have to combine all 3 methods.

Use analytics to identify and measure trends and patterns among your users. This gives you the big picture of your most important user behaviors.

Provide great support and talk to your users to find out more about their goals and what they say about the service so you can resonate their thoughts through your designs and your copy.

Use usability testing of your website where you’ll see exactly how they use your website and hear their thoughts to understand why they do what they are doing.

To understand your website users means to know their goals.

Not just speculations about their goals, you have to be absolutely sure about what your users want.

Otherwise you’ll draw the wrong conclusions and overlook one of the most important aspects of every user experience: motivation.

Motivate good user behavior

The goal of UX is not (only) to craft great experiences for your users.

As mentioned in this article about designing the user, our job isn’t to make our users feel entertained, excited, effective, etc. – our goal is to change their behavior so they can become better versions of themselves.

If we get the behavior right, the experience will follow.

Our users (and our kids) need to be motivated to do what’s right for them to do. I only compare users to kids because I want to remind myself that we should really focus on long-term goals and not give in to short-term gains too much.

Our job as product managers, designers, developers (and parents) is to …

  • find out what users do (analytics)
  • find out what goals our users have (support)
  • find out how easy it is to achieve these goals (usability testing)

By combining all 3 methods you’ll better understand your website users’ behavior and therefore be able to improve their experiences in the long run.