The Evidence-Based UX Design Guide

Analytics Dashboards

What you can learn

A dashboard is a way of tracking your choice of quantitative data about your website. It is something I’ve found most useful for long-term projects or when working in-house with a company for an extended period of time.

It means you can set up the important things for your project just once. You won't then have to manually go searching for the data each time you want to check it. You can also create something that is easy to share, especially with people who may not have access to your analytics software or may not have the time or capability to go rooting around in it for the data they need.

This dashboard can be your high-level view of a website, which enables you to easily spot anomalies in performance.

How to do it

The first thing to do is define what is important for you to see in your dashboard. Don't go creating it without a plan or you can end up tracking things for the sake of it.

The most important thing to track is your key metric or goal which determines success for your website or part of a website. For some that could be sales while for others it could be sign ups but either way it's likely to be something related to making the business money.

The next thing to have on your dashboard is conversion rates for the steps in the user flow to reach your goal. This could be the same as any funnels you've set up but it does allow you to be more granular if you want.

The other things to consider including on your dashboard are your important secondary or engagement metrics. These are ones that tell you a bit more about how a page is performing and include things like bounce rate, time on page, and in-page events (see page data for more on this).

These secondary metrics can be for a whole site or they can be per page in the flow. It might be the case that different metrics matter for different steps in your flow, for example bounce rate will be important for landing pages while specific button clicks would matter more for form pages.

Exactly how you set up your dashboard will depend on the tool you use. I won't go into that here but I cover a few tools below which you can use. It’s not too hard make your own dashboard in a spreadsheet from scratch.

Watch out for

Don’t try to track too much detail with your dashboard—if you put every stat for a website in there you might as well just use the standard interface for a web analytics package.

Setting up a dashboard can take a bit of tweaking—make sure the data that appears in your dashboard tallies with what's in your analytics.

If you check your dashboard and spot anomalies or downturns in metrics, be sure that you are comparing like with like. If you see a conversion rate drop, check that the period you are comparing it against is the same length of time as the period in question. You may also need to check it is at the same time of year, as seasonality can be a big factor in conversions for many sites.

If your key conversion metrics really do drop then this should be the start of an investigation rather than a time to panic and pull the plug. Look at page data to see what is happening on specific pages or browsers, view heatmaps, and check visitor recordings to see behavior. For a detailed understanding run remote user tests. It's a case of playing detective to get to the bottom of your issues.

Example tools (and cost)

To create a board for data visualisation, try Geckoboard (from $25/mo) which offers the best looking online service I've seen or the highly customisable Tableau software (from $999).

To make one of your own for free you can use Google Analytics' own functionality under the ‘Customisation’ section, or the recently introduced Google Data Studio.

A method I Iike to use is a plug-in such as Supermetrics (free and from $49/mo) to pull the data into Excel or a Google Sheet and manipulate the data here. This allows you to choose the exact resolution you want to see and means you can pull in lots of historic data.

How long does it take?

Setting up the dashboard should be a task that you do once for about two to four hours, and then you can just check on it afterwards.

How often should you use it?

Often

Sometimes

Rarely

Resources

Last updated on 9 May 2017

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Note: the examples in this guide are for website design, but most of the content is also applicable for native apps and software.