UX Crash Course: Stupid Question 26 of 30

The idea of designing with data can seem like an oxymoron. Design is creative. Data isn’t. Right? No! In UX you need to collect data so you can watch trends and behaviour. Which brings us to today’s question:

“We just got analytics. What do I measure?”


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Analytics is just the fancy business word for statistics. Or data. Or whatever you want to call software that counts clicks and pages and time information about users.

I tend to use Google Analytics as an example because it is popular and free. But there are other options like Mixpanel or Kissmetrics and several more that are worth checking out if you’re curious.

They all do essentially the same thing, maybe in slightly different ways, but the interfaces can be very different. Some of the newer options are much less intimidating to learn, in my opinion.

However, when you’re a beginner, or when your company has never really used analytics before, choosing a tool isn’t your problem. 

The real question is: “What do I measure?”


The stupid answer:

Measure all the things!


The real answer:

Measure all the things!

But don’t worry, you don’t have to pick specific things to measure. In general, all you have to do is put a “tag” (a little copy/paste bit of code) into each web page and the software does all the work of recording things and making them into graphs and tables and whatnot.

The actual work to set up analytics is usually pretty quick and easy, unless your website has a weird URL structure or you live in North Korea. They aren’t big fans of data transparency over there. Or information in general. 

But I digress.

I could also mention here that UX designers and marketers want different information from analytics, so don’t ask those people for advice. 

Marketers want data about how people get to the site or app.

UX Designers want to know what happens after users are doing things on the site or app.


Why this isn’t a stupid question:
Analytics is about patterns and comparisons, not checking things.

Many people, when they first use analytics, imagine it as a checklist you do every day to see if anything amazing has happened, like suddenly you’re world famous, or your UX Crash Course has been featured on Hacker News.

That (almost) never happens, and if it does, it’s more interesting after it happens. So no rush. And odds are, you will probably know those things are coming because you will cause them.

Instead of thinking about analytics like a check list, think of it like exploring.

Once a week (ish) take an hour to sit down and go through all the things your analytics software gives you and see what they are doing

Are they going up over time? Down? Staying the same?

Are there any days or pages that don’t look like the others? Did you get a spike in traffic or does one page get much more time from the average user?

Usually it will be pretty similar to the week/month before.

The basic stats will give you an overview, and if you run campaigns or send out email newsletters or post your sextape on TMZ you can expect sudden changes. Otherwise, you will probably see fairly consistent patterns.


You can also measure custom stuff.

The general data will create questions sometimes. 

What do people click to get to that page?

Why aren’t more people buying things?

And sometimes the general data won’t quite answer those questions.

You can also use analytics to measure clicks on a specific button, or measure how many people get from PageA-to-PageB-to-PageC, and to do A/B tests without too much hassle (tomorrow’s question!).

There are step-by-step guides on how to set up those things for all the popular analytics software. Just Google it.


ProTip: Analytics software can generate reports too, which are great and useful, but you should think of reports as a way to communicate analytics. Everything that isn’t in a report will go unnoticed, so try to analyze data in the tool itself.


Tomorrow we will answer: “What should I A/B test?”