While not every site’s success can be measured in revenue, sales or leads you always can and should measure the sheer usability of your site. Many sites today still concentrate on being pretty, “having a bigger logo” and some special effects like Flash or AJAX, sound or video. While this might look good in most cases it’s not the most important factor that decides whether your site is going to fail or to succeed, usability is.
This is obvious, only returning visitors really like your site. So the more come back the better, the more successful you are. One time search visitors and casual social media visitors are not the backbone of your site. The subscribers and returning visitors (often the same people) are.
pageviews per visit
While measuring pageviews is sometimes futile as bad websites where you have to click more can have higher numbers of pageviews the number of pageviews per visit often will tell you a whole lot about how much your visitors like your website. A 1 to 1 ratio is bad unless they all click the buy button instantly.
time on page
The time spent on a page can be read in manifold ways but you can deduct from it whether people just skim your content or read your whole article among others.
time on site
It’s not always the longer the better but 5 minutes is in most cases better than 30 seconds, especially for a publishing site or simply a blog.
The bounce rate is one of the most important usability metrics and thanks to Google Analytics or Woopra easy to follow nowadays. 100k visitors from Digg with an bounce rate of 95% means that in fact only 5.000 actually visited your site. So a site with a much lower visitor number AND bounce rate can be much more successful than a “stupid traffic” site with huge traffic numbers. Targeted quality traffic is key for a successful site.
form/shopping cart abandonment rate
Forms are the most important parts of most websites in business terms, be it the contact form, or the shopping cart which technically in most cases is a form. Now imagine a super market where half or more of the customers abandon their cart in the middle of the checkout process or while perusing the market. Count these people and try to make them stay. The simplest way of checking the shopping cart abandonment rate is by sending a message to customer support each time a cart or other form gets abandoned. Sometimes you might be able to get back to the potential client with the incomplete data he entered.
To make people visit more than one page on a site we use internal links. Some of the links are links that we really want the people to follow. Checking the “next pages” from a particular landing page we can determine whether the readers followed our advice or wanted to see more of it. When on your home page the next page is in most cases the search or the sitemap page you’ve got a problem.
links clicked (heat maps)
Modern “Web 2.0? web analytics solutions sometimes offer heat maps views or at least a site overlay way of checking clicks. This way you can determine where your visitors click or try to click (to no avail sometimes in cases of not linked logos or underlines words which are not links). Do people click where you want them to click or not?
Even better than heat maps of click behavior are heat maps of actual eye movements. You need more than a web analytics package to check that you need real people to take part in a study but if you are large company depending on your website you should check this for sure. Do people look at your main message at all? Do they actually see the “buy now” button?