Before any major project kicks off, one of the most important factors that all involved parties must agree on is, how will success be measured? How will both you (the client) and the vendor interpret the measurement of success after the project is complete?
I don’t believe the website should be deemed a success just for meeting its deadline date. Don’t get me wrong, that is a golden achievement and should be celebrated. However, the measurements which support your initial goals for creating the project in the first place are much more important.
These initial measurements, also known as benchmarks, allow both the vendor and the client to prove value for all that hard work before, during, and after the implementation.
For example, if one of the most important goals for your website is improving the number of site visitors who click and download your website resources (white papers, case studies, etc.), how would you rate your future projects success or failure if you didn’t initially benchmark your current user engagements with these resources?
Using the Right Tools
Being able to measure the success of your website project not only allows you to validate that the work that you are doing means something, but it also allows you to make educated, data driven decisions in the future.
One of the best and most time efficient ways to capture those initial benchmarks is leveraging your Google Analytics reports. For example, let’s take the concept of being “mobile first,” and either designing a mobile site, or developing on a responsive grid, in order to provide the best user experience for all site visitors. Now, even though we know this to be the correct decision, it is not a cheap one. However, if you have Google Analytics set up to report on your website, you are empowered to see the trends in mobile engagement on your website and provide the data to validate if the extra cost to create an optimal site experience is in your best interest.
Example: Benchmarking Mobile Users
Here’s how to benchmark your mobile users using Google Analytics:
First, log into your Google Analytics account. Once you have selected the appropriate account, and you are within the “Reporting” tab, you can use the date picker, towards the top- right portion of the screen, to toggle between dates.
For this example, the area to be looked at is under the “Reporting” tab, and within the “Audience” segment in the left-hand navigation. From there, click on the option for “Mobile”. Once in the “Mobile” section, select the option for “Overview”.
Understanding your mobile metrics
What this view allows you to see is not only what device (desktop, tablet, mobile) category each user was segmented into when on your website, but also the additional metrics for the number of sessions each segment acquired during the selected date range, including bounce rates and session lengths. Use this to compare if and how long mobile and desktop visitors stay on your site to have a good sense of whether or not your mobile users are having a worse user experience. By framing this in the context of your total mobile traffic, you have the recipe to understanding how significant your non-responsive site really is.
Building a business case for mobile
For example, I recently was working with a client that was trying to “sell” to her stakeholders that their next website redesign needed to be responsive (yes, there are still people out there that need to be sold on this concept). One thing that she was unaware of was the exact number of mobile users that visited the website month over month. Leveraging their Google Analytics account, and comparing the year over year metrics (2014 vs 2015) we were able to see that mobile traffic had had increased 4% from the previous year and accounted for approximately 10% of their traffic this year. Now, I know that 10% doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you consider that their annual traffic amounted to approximately 2.5 million sessions, 10% (250,000 sessions) carries quite a bit of weight.
Making decisions informed by benchmarking data
Having the ability to present the percentage of mobile traffic on your website, and being able to show the trend of that percentage month over month, or in this case, year over year, provides decision makers a much clearer insight into the potential negative experience that you are currently providing for your mobile users on your website. Thus, you can alter the mindset of the decision makers by proving that an excellent mobile experience isn’t so much a financial burden as an essential type of experience for many of their users.
Proving ROI through Benchmarking
These reports exemplify how benchmarking is at the origin of the data-driven decision making that will allow your organization to measure the future successes of your website projects. Be sure to keep those original benchmarks, because you’ll want to reference them after launch to prove that creating a mobile-friendly site actually impacted your organization’s website objectives.