Seeing Inside the “Bounce” with userfly

16 Mar, 2009  |  Written by  |  under Analytics

I’m a big fan of Google Analytics, and check it often for clients’ sites, to see how things are going and get ideas about how to make improvements. One of the most frustrating stats for me is the “Bounce”. Today, I’ll show you a new tool for getting inside what happens during a bounce.

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A “bounce” is a visit where the user clicked to only one page on the site, and never clicked to a second page.  This can happen for a lot of reasons, of course!

  • Page wasn’t what they expected
  • Didn’t like the content on the page
  • Found what they needed, then went away
  • Didn’t find what they needed, didn’t see a link to a page where they thought they could

In most cases for my clients, a bounce is a waste. The site was hoping to make a sale, get a contact, or otherwise engage with the visitor. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. It’s like a “first date” that didn’t lead to a second one.

The way Google Analytics tracks traffic, each time a user goes to one of your pages, Analytics gets informed. So if a user clicks one page, then another, Analytics knows they were on your site for at least as long as the time beween those clicks.  What Analytics doesn’t know is how long the user looked at the last page in their visit. (That’s because Analytics never got told about the “next” page the user clicked, on some other site.)

So to Analytics, a bounce looks like a zero-second-long visit. The user may have looked at the page for 2 minutes, but Analytics can’t tell you that.

Last week, I started testing a new system called userfly, that helps penetrate the veil and look at what goes on during a page view, including during bounces. Like Analytics, userfly works by having you embed a line of JavaScript in your web pages, like this:

<script src="http://asset.userfly.com/users/12345/userfly.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

Once installed, userfly records a ton of information about the user’s session, far beyond what Analytics tracks. Important details include:

  • Where the user scrolled while reading
  • Where the user’s mouse hovered while reading
  • Areas the user clicks (including “failed” clicks where your navigation confused the user)
  • The user’s browser window size

(There are huge privacy concerns that I’m sure will be talked about at length regarding userfly. I believe we’ll end up using an image on the page to warn savvy users that we’re recording their session, and let them disable that behavior if they want. But I’ll leave that discussion for another day!)

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Userfly charges $0.05 per recorded session, in bundles of 100. For $5, you get 100 “videos” of real user sessions with your site. This is an incredible value relative to other solutions (focus groups, usability studies, etc.), and brings this solution down to a level any web site can afford.

Once you have sessions recorded, userfly lets you play them back and see what each user did on your site. This is great information for understanding usability, and hugely useful for finding navigation problems on sites. But for my money, the most exciting thing is being able to see what really happens during a bounce!

Now instead of thinking users are clicking to a page and going away instantly (remember, Analytics shows a bounce visit duration as 0 seconds), we might see that in fact the user read the above-the-fold content, scrolled down, ran their mouse over an important phrase, then disappeared. Maybe this was a satisfied visitor after all, and we just need to do a better job of drawing them into creating a relationship with the site!

On some sites where I’ve installed userfly, I’ve seen “bounces” as long as two minutes. That’s a slow bounce, full of information about user interest and intent!

A few bounce-specific insights you might gain with userfly:

  • What parts of your pages are “hot”. Where do users scroll, where do they move their mouse?
  • What parts of your pages really “bounce”. Do users bounce instantly (maybe headline problems), or do they seem to consistently bounce at the end?
  • Navigation problems. In many sites, bottom-of-page navigation is absent or terrible.  Your “privacy policy” link shouldn’t be the bottom-right link on your pages! That’s prime real-estate for someone who’s read the whole page to be drawn into a call to action!
  • Page-break opportunities. On blogs and other content-heavy sites, it may make sense to provide intro content, then have a “read more…” link for folks who want more detail. This lets you cross-promote and understand visitors better, and gets them clicking on the site.

More on userfly another day. I’ve got to go review more user sessions now!

-glenn

4 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Debiprasad  |  March 17th, 2009 at 8:16 am #

    However this post is so nice, I am going to bounce now. (I’ll not be recorded as bounce as I am posting this comment). Will come back later 😛

    Debiprasad - Gravatar
  2. allan branch  |  March 18th, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    I’d like to see how you’ve been able to use that tool to increase the time on the site and or improved your bounce rate too.

    allan branch - Gravatar
  3. Glenn Crocker  |  March 19th, 2009 at 5:52 am #

    On this site, I’ve split my posts into “intro paragraph”, more>> link, full article kinds of display. That’s resulted in a lower bounce rate, higher pages-per-visit, but probably hasn’t really changed how much of the content people read. In fact, by forcing clicks, I might get less time from folks skimming articles than I would with a big long homepage full of complete posts!

    I’ll have another article next week about doing usability studies on more complex sites. It’ll be a few weeks before I have results to cite on those, but the anecdotal “gee, we really need a link here” insights from userfly are great!

    -glenn

    Glenn Crocker - Gravatar
  4. Aimee Williamson  |  May 1st, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    Great post. Have you had a chance to check out our service: UserTesting.com? Using Google Analytics and userfly.com are great for the insights on “where” users leave a site. Our usability testing service can help determine “why” users leave the site.

    Aimee Williamson - Gravatar

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