Google Analytics: How to Perform User Research

Knowing who your users are is crucial to any design process, and user research plays a vital role in that. User research consists of a whole range of different tools and techniques, but what underpins them all is gathering useful information about who your users are and what they want to achieve. When you know what they want to achieve, you can help them achieve it.

Research isn’t only about asking users what they like or hate, but establishing cold, hard facts about them (for example, age and gender demographics, or what browser/device they’re using). We can use analytics to source these facts, so that we can base our design decisions on objective truths.

In this article, I’ll give you some tips on how your analytics data can support and inform your user research, using Google Analytics as the tool of choice for carrying out this research. The data that you source from Google Analytics is no substitute for in-depth user research, but taking an analytics-first approach to research will help you build strong foundations.

If you’d rather take a step back and learn a little more about Google Analytics first, then check out my article on getting started with Google Analytics.

Analytics-first: How It Works

There’s no singular method for approaching user research. You can approach user research in different ways, so the method may change depending on the client or scenario. I like to take an analytics-first approach to UX design, using data from Google Analytics as a starting point for the research process.

Google Analytics data can be used at the start of your process to get a rough idea of the types of users visiting your website. It can then be used to help you create detailed user personas, and to analyze the behavior of those different user types. Analytics will tell you what visitors are doing on your app or website, but it can also be used to find out information about them as people.

With this information, your design then has a direction.

Let’s take a look at some Google Analytics reports that are really useful for starting off the user research process. It’s important to know that you shouldn’t use any of this data in isolation to make UX decisions. Your Google Analytics data should be used as a jumping off point for additional research, rather than a basis for your design decisions. This additional research can take the form of user interviews, user surveys, usability testing, and so on.

Types of website analytics

Language and Location

Language and Location reports can be found under the Geo sub-section of the Audience reports. The geographical location of your users may alert you to any cultural factors that you should be aware of when designing.

The Location section

For example, around 58% of German shoppers pay by invoice for online purchases, so if you manage an ecommerce website and you notice you’re getting a lot of German visitors, you may want to consider whether your payment options are suitable enough. Also, in many Asian cultures, the color red means “good luck”, while in the West it’s associated with “error”, so analytics can alert you to any critical UX flaws like that.

Language can also impact your visual design, as the length of words will change when translated, so you may end up with strange-looking call-to-action buttons in certain languages. Different alphabets will also have an impact. For example, the Chinese alphabet is made up of thousands of characters, and Arabic is read from right-to-left. Factors like these will have an impact on your layouts.


Demographics information can be found in Google Analytics under the Audience section as well. These reports will tell you, with an 80%–90% degree of accuracy, the ages and genders of your users.

Data on Age and Gender

From different ages and genders, it’s important to look at the differences in user behavior as well as the number of visits. You may notice a big difference in conversion rates between older and younger users, and this may be something you go on to investigate in more detail using more qualitative research methods. Maybe there’s an accessibility issue for older users?

Demographics are also useful for recruiting usability testers and subjects for user interviews. For example, if you notice that 80% of your users are female, then you’ll want to ensure that women make up the majority of your usability testing group, to ensure quality responses that reflect your core audience.

Browsers and Devices

Browser and Device reports in Google Analytics, found within the Audience section also, are used mostly for functionality testing. Analysts will often look at which browsers their visitors are using, and then implement testing on the most commonly used ones, to ensure their website renders correctly for the majority of users before anything else.

However, these reports can also reveal hidden secrets about your users. For example, higher income households are more than three times as likely to have a tablet than lower income households, so you may want to investigate whether your tablet users are more affluent, and if so, what that means about their behavior and requirements. You’ll also want to consider how device usage of your audience will impact on your approach to responsive design.

As with all data, though, it’s important not to rely on stereotypes. Further research is required to validate any findings.

Continue reading %Google Analytics: How to Perform User Research%

Source: Sitepoint

The Smashing Mystery Riddle Is Resolved: When Purple Rain Meets Felix The Cat

These riddles can be quite addictive and annoying, can’t they? With seven mischievous riddles published over the last few years, we’ve learned a few lessons along the way. At this point, you might be used to endless, mischievous, tricky, mean, time-consuming and intricate Mystery Riddles, and the latest one wasn’t any different. It had to be playful and challenging, and take at least 45 mins to resolve. In the end, the first answer to the new riddle came in after 1h 48minafter the (slightly delayed — sorry about that!
Source: Smashing Magazine

Monthly Web Development Update 12/2017: Pragmatic Releasing, Custom Elements, And Making Decisions

Today I read an eye-opening article about the current young generation and their financial future. It’s hard to grasp words like “Millenials”, and there’s much talk about specific issues they face, but, for many of us, it’s not easy to understand their struggle — no matter if you’re older or younger than me (I qualify under the Millenial generation). But Michael Hobbes’ entertaining and super informative article revealed a lot to me.
Source: Smashing Magazine

RubyMine: Code Insight for Ruby and Rails

This article was sponsored by JetBrains. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.

If you are developing in Ruby or Rails, you may have heard of RubyMine.

RubyMine is an IDE for Ruby and Rails developed by JetBrains. It’s been around for almost 10 years and has a huge user base. And yet, as we visit industry events and shows, we often get the question: “Okay, what does RubyMine do that a text editor can’t?”. By no means am I trying to diminish the value or usefulness of free code editors, but “let’s just say, there’s a lot!” is my usual response as I fire the IDE for a quick demo. In this post I’d like to tell you about the key thing that makes RubyMine stand out: Code Insight.

Code Insight includes things like smart code completion, code navigation, language-specific inspections with quick-fixes, smart notifications, and in-editor quick documentation. So many terms, but what do they do and why would you need them? Let me have your attention for five minutes before you switch back to your $EDITOR$ and get on with your work.

Automatic Code Completion

This feature doesn’t need any introduction as it exists in all the popular editors. However, RubyMine’s autocompletion is not limited to Ruby/Rails built-in keywords and text-based autocompletion. As the IDE indexes your whole project on each startup, it can autocomplete almost any relevant entity regardless of where it’s defined. You don’t need to open a file in a separate tab to autocomplete any declarations from it – RubyMine knows everything about your project already!

Say, you are creating a new table. RubyMine will suggest possible autocompletion options of relevant column types and properties as you’d expect:

RubyMine - creating a new table

But wouldn’t you like to have access to the columns later, when you are working on a model? Of course you would, and the IDE will do that for you the same way as it autocompletes all the built-in Rails stuff:

RubyMine - IDE autocompletes

How about the ability to also autocomplete methods, earlier defined in the model, say, in controllers or other ruby files in your project? You got it:

RubyMine autocomplete methods

The IDE won’t make autocomplete suggestions for column names where you are expecting to see methods defined in the given model, and vice versa. This is a very important feature that makes the RubyMine completion stand out from other editors.

You can work with your views in the same manner. I am not talking about just the basic HTML and ERB syntax suggestions, they are a given, but actually all the specified entities in your project:

RubyMine - work with your views

Go to declaration (aka Go to definition)

When I talk with our customers, I always ask them what their favorite RubyMine feature is. The top reply of all time is “Go to declaration rocks!”. While I’d rather hear success stories about our GUI debugger or other advanced features, positive feedback is always good! But I got curious as to why this happened time and time again, so eventually I started comparing RubyMine’s Go to declaration with Go to definition that exists in some popular editors.

Without a doubt, the IDE proved to be far more reliable when navigating to declarations. Just use ⌘+Click | Ctrl+Click (or ⌘+B | Ctrl + B if you put your caret on the desired object) and jump to the definition you need:

RubyMine - Go declarations

Not only can you easily jump to a class, method, or any other entity declaration in your project, but you can also navigate to gems and their entities’ definitions. Need to rewrite a bit of Ruby on Rails to make your project better? Say no more:

RubyMine - Go to declaration rewrites

I tried to find some plugins that could do the same for the code editors I’ve been checking out lately, but they haven’t helped much. If you know some, your suggestions in the comments would be much appreciated. But until then, I’m sticking with my story: Go to declaration alone should make you want to give RubyMine a shot!

Static Analysis

What I love about Atom is its solid syntax highlighting. It won’t let me miss a closing tag or end. I also discovered a great plugin that underlines all RuboCop offenses and even allows you to autocorrect offenses for the file. Kudos, Atom and the plugin creator, this is cool!

Continue reading %RubyMine: Code Insight for Ruby and Rails%

Source: Sitepoint

Google Analytics: the Basics Explained, and Pitfalls to Avoid

Analytics are often overlooked as a source of information for UX designers. Many designers don’t consider analytics, and instead base their decisions solely on what they know about user psychology. While this isn’t wrong, analytics offer us more insight into our users, rather users in general. While data-driven design can sound intimidating at first, it’s actually really simple once you know the basics, and in this article we’ll learn those basics as we familiarize ourselves with the #1 web analytics tool, Google Analytics.

With over 50 million users, Google Analytics is the most widely used website analytics service in the world. It’s also free, forever. With only a small snippet of JavaScript code, you can have Google Analytics set up in minutes. With a little more tweaking, we can use Goal and Event tracking too, which will help you track very specific things such as users completing forms or reaching the checkout.

Let’s start by learning the UI.

Note: if you need a little help installing the Google Analytics tracking code on your website first, here’s a quick guide on how to do that.

Google Analytics UI

Have a look at the screen below (notice the reference numbers).

The Google Analytics UI

To make the most out of Google Analytics, you’ll need to know the following things:

  • Reports (found in the main navigation) are split into the following categories:
    • Audience (the users you have)
    • Acquisition (how you gained those users)
    • Behavior (what those users did on your website)
    • Conversions (any Goals/Events you want to track)
  • You can save, export and share your reports
  • You can segment specific user groups in your reports
  • Graphs appear on reports to give you an overview of what’s happening
  • Most of your analysis will happen within detailed reports.

Now let’s discuss the key terms.

Dimensions and Metrics

Most detailed reports in Google Analytics will take the form of tables. It’s important to understand the makeup of these tables in order to analyze them. The key terminology, which is common to all reports, are the terms Dimensions and Metrics. Dimensions are a way to group data — a form of categorization or identification. They’re normally shown in the first column of your reports, as things like Country, Page Title and Device Type. Metrics, on the other hand, are the numbers associated with those Dimensions. Metrics appear in the other columns of your reports, showing the numbers relating to the Dimensions in the first column.

Dimensions and Metrics

Examples of metrics include Bounce Rate, Avg. Time on Page and Goal Completions, which can help you to better understand the behavior of your users. In follow-up articles, we’ll learn more about these metrics and what they really mean.


Goals are the metrics that Google Analytics wouldn’t necessary track by default. Goals describe a notable action taken by a user on your website, such as viewing a specific web page, or submitting a specific form, and these require setup. Goals should reflect the key objectives of your website (for example, completing a form). They’ll generally be an indication of how well your website is performing.


In order to analyze what different types of users are doing on your website, you might want to use Segments to narrow down the data in your reports. Once a segment is applied, the reports will show only the data from demographics that match your segment conditions. Common segmentation types include segmenting users by device (e.g. desktop, tablet or mobile), by country, or by language.

We’ll learn more about segmentation later in a future article.

Continue reading %Google Analytics: the Basics Explained, and Pitfalls to Avoid%

Source: Sitepoint

An Introduction To Automated Testing Of WordPress Plugins With PHPUnit

WordPress is a popular content management system for building websites because it is easy to get started with and a ton of themes and plugins are available to extend its feature set. The main reason WordPress has a lot of plugins and themes is because it’s easy for developers of any level to start building one. Most of its developers are not experienced, and they do not write tests for their work, perhaps because of the following reasons:
Source: Smashing Magazine

How Do I Know If Venture Capital Fits My Business?

There is a popular image in the world of software which many young and inexperienced entrepreneurs are becoming infatuated with. It’s the idea that when you come up with an awesome idea, the highest peak to strive for — the ultimate goal — is getting in front of a venture capitalist and receiving a huge lump sum to propel your business to unimaginable heights and bring tremendous personal wealth. Well then, let’s explore what it really means to fund your business with equity capital.
Source: Smashing Magazine

An Introduction to A/B Testing

We’ve recently published a number of articles about data-driven design, or using analytics to inform our UI designs. The short of it is that we can use analytics tools like Google Analytics to conduct user research, to learn about our user demographics and user behavior, and to identify areas of our websites that might be falling short in terms of UX.

When we know where users are having trouble, and we have a little background information as to who is having trouble, we can begin to hypothesize why. We can then employ usability testing to confirm (or disprove!) our hypotheses, and through this we can potentially even see an obvious solution. The result? Happier users, more conversions!

But what happens when the solution doesn’t become obvious through usability testing? What happens if there’s a solution for one user group, but it doesn’t quite work for another user group? You could be fixing the user experience for some users, while breaking it for another demographic.

Let me introduce you to A/B testing.

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing, in short, is about implementing two variations of a design to see which one is better, where the primary metric to be measured is the number of conversions (this could be sales, signups, subscribers — whatever). There’s a methodical technique to A/B testing, and there are also tools to help us carry out these experiments in fair and unobtrusive ways.

Version testing

We can also use multivariate testing, which is a subset of A/B testing, to carry out experiments when there are multiple variables to consider.

What is Multivariate Testing?

Multivariate testing is more useful for finding out what content users enjoy more, rather than which version of an interface they prefer, but that being said, content is an important aspect of UX too. Just think about it: users don’t come to your website to appreciate how intuitive your navigation is. UX is what the users need; content is what the users want (and what they came for).

Consider a heading + CTA that’s the main conversion funnel on a home page. Let’s say we have various headings and CTA options, and we want to test them all in a variety of different combinations at random. That’s where multivariate testing might be used in preference to the standard A/B testing.

Multivariate testing

Continue reading %An Introduction to A/B Testing%

Source: Sitepoint

Get the Ultimate Web Development Beginner Bundle for Only $29

So you’ve dreamed of being a web dev, but don’t know where to start? Well have we got good news for you? For 48 hours only you can get our ultimate beginner bundle in web development for just $29 (that’s a saving of $435 BTW!)

What Are You Waiting For? Go Follow Your Dream!

Kick start your front end web developer journey with our ultimate bundle. In it you’ll get lifetime access to 7 of our best selling books and over 21 hours of video courses, so you can:

  • Learn to design beautiful and responsive websites
  • Level up your productivity with Bootstrap 4 and Sass
  • Learn JavaScript and in-demand frameworks from the ground up

Have We Piqued Your Interest?

You can find out more or get yourself a great deal here. But you better hurry up, this $29 kickstart to your web development career only lasts 48 hours!

Continue reading %Get the Ultimate Web Development Beginner Bundle for Only $29%

Source: Sitepoint