Data Driven Design: Using Data for Website Optimization

Data is big, both figuratively and literally. Approximately 328.77 million terabytes of data are created every single day. How is that possible? Because every single pageview, click, download, and scroll generates data. That’s a lot of information, and if you know what to do with it, it can be invaluable. With data you can spot patterns, design a strategy, and make predictions. All of this help you in creating a data driven design for your website.

Data driven design is the process of using data to inform and improve your website’s design. While you can technically use any data for this process, using data from your own website has distinct advantages, such as:


  • Analytics for your website’s performance
  • Specific insights about your users
  • Goal tracking to measure improvements
  • The ability to compile all of this information for customized strategies


By using data to inform your website design, you take all the guesswork out of the process. Through analysis you can learn what users like and dislike about your website. You can find out how users are navigating through your website, where they are dropping off, and how to improve the user experience. This all starts with gathering the data. 


Gathering Data from your website:

There are several different ways that you can gather data about your website and users.  You probably already use one or more of these methods to run your business and enhance your marketing. Today, we will explore some new ways you can the data tools at your disposal. Let’s break down the most common site data collection methods.


Method 1: Website analytics

Most website builders, like WordPress or Shopify, have website analytics built into their templates. The kind of information these built-in trackers provide will differ, but even the most basic trackers can still give you an idea of how your website is performing. Most website analytics tools will show you how much traffic you have, where it’s coming from, what pages they are looking at, and how many of them are converting ( as defined by buying an item, subscribing to the channel, submitting a form etc.)

If you would like some deeper insight, you can add a third party website analytics tool like Google Analytics. These more advanced tools allow you to really dive into the nitty-gritty of your traffic flow and audience. You can learn how long users are spending on specific pages of your site, how users are navigating through your site, where users are leaving and much, much more! They also allow you to segment your data for more in-depth looks at different traffic sources and user demographics. 

The data you get from website analytics is quantitative, meaning that it’s all about the numbers. This data will tell you how much, how many, and how long. Knowing these numbers is essential in setting goals for your new data-driven design. 


Method 2: Website testing

This is the heart and soul of most  data driven website optimization projects. If you want to know what your audience really wants from your site, you have to put it to the test. 

A/B testing is the most common form of optimization testing, but other forms exist as well. The goal of all these testing types is to gather information about how your audience responds to various changes. This is done by comparing your users behavior across the variations or changes. 

The data gathered from these tests is also quantitative. The numbers come from the metrics you set at the beginning of the test. For best results, your metrics should be based on data you are already tracking through website analytics. While website analytics can tell you the “what” website testing can start to explain why certain behaviors are occurring. Once you know the why, you can test how increase the occurrence of positive behaviors (like placing orders).


Method 3: Heat Mapping

This is the only qualitative method we are going to explore today, but it isn’t the only one you could use. Qualitative data refers to information that cannot be counted or quantified. A heatmap presents a visual representation of what users look at on your website. They show you what areas of your site receive more views/clicks through color-coding. Highly viewed/clicked areas are given warmer colors (like red and orange), and less popular areas are given a cooler shade (like green and blue).

Heatmap data is more about the user’s experience of the website than the “success” of the site.  This is because heat maps show what users are looking at instead of what actions they are performing. This data can help you understand the context behind your website analytics data, and can show you where to focus your website testing efforts. 


Analyzing the data:

Now that you have the data, you need to analyze it in order to create a data-driven design. The process of data analysis is complicated and does require some skill and training for maximum effect, but simplify things we are going to summarize data analysis into two steps:

  1. Determine what is happening on the website
  2.  Find out why it is happening.


Step 1. The  “what”

To find out what is happening, you will need to look at your data. What is the data showing you? Some things to consider are:

  • How much traffic do you have? Where is it coming from?
  • What’s your conversion rate? What’s your revenue?
  • What actions are users completing? 
  • What pages are they visiting? 
  • How far down the funnel are they going? 
  • Where are they looking on the page? 
  • When are they leaving the site? 

Website analytics and heatmaps are useful tools at this stage of the process, but you will continue to use them as you move into step 2.

Step 2. The “why”

Finding out why things are happening on the website is difficult because it starts with speculation. You have to approach the why like a science experiment; you have to form a hypothesis, and then test it. This process can be further broken down into smaller steps:

  1. How is my website performing in relation to my primary goal?
  2. Which page(s) during the customer journey is showing the biggest drop in performance?
  3. What is on this page(s) or path that could be causing this problem?
  4. Is there a particular area that is sticking out on the heatmap?
  5. What is it about this area that could be causing the problem?
  6. How can I test this?

The why stage is where you start the design process of data-driven design. Now that you know what is happening on your website, and have an idea why it’s happening, you can finally move on to testing solutions to the problem in the form of new designs.


Data Driven Design in Practice:

There are many ways you can use data driven design, from improving the effectiveness of your SEO and PPC campaigns, updating your branding, to improving your user experience. Your only limits are what you can reliably track and what you can feasibly build. 

There are many reasons and many ways you can use data to improve your website. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the tools, metrics, and methods you can use for Optimization, but an experienced website optimization team can help you design a customized strategy for your unique website and goals.


Summary: No matter the reason for your website updates, creating a data driven approach eliminates all the guesswork from the process and ensures a successful design. To get started on your data driven design journey, contact an optimization specialist today!

Ashley Mae Biggerstaff