Visualizing Data for Insight into the Customer Journey

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Click to learn more about author Victor DeMarines.

Skills related to User Experience (UX) design are high in demand. They are among the top 10 in-demand skills in 2019 ranked by a LinkedIn study, and finding qualified UX designers is tied with finding software engineers in terms of hiring priorities, according to a recent Adobe study. Within that UX bucket, designers who have skills related to analytics and research are particularly sought after, with those qualities being named as a must-have.

But the ability to analyze the user journey to create delightful experiences for end-users isn’t just a skill that is exclusive to (nor required only of) UX professionals. For stakeholders across the spectrum of software development and delivery, access to interactive data visualizations on how the user is moving through a task can help each group more successfully deliver on their own goals – from engineering, to product management, to marketing. And while access to this data may be expected in a cloud-based application, it’s equally (if not more) important for on-premise software publishers to enable this type of analysis in their products.

By looking at data related to user flow (also known as “path analytics”), product stakeholders begin to identify the series of steps it takes users to reach their goals. With a deep view into the steps surrounding a key task, several helpful pieces of information that may have been difficult or impossible to visualize now become readily apparent – things like unanticipated actions, broken workflows, or shortcuts power users have discovered that could be promoted or productized. 

Having this knowledge has benefits that extend beyond streamlining and optimizing the user interface. This insight can help better determine training requirements and guide users, and also provide points for comparison between old and new user interfaces that inform product development.

So How Does User Flow Analysis Work?

It starts with choosing a “hotspot” event to analyze. This can range from launching the application, to launching any event within it – such as using a wizard, opening a menu, or accessing a particular feature. Then, pick a path direction within the hotspot to drill further into – the start, end, or somewhere in the middle. This is where it is crucial to understand the question you’re trying to answer. For instance, the hotspot would be the starting point if the goal is to understand where users go from a particular point, the steps taken, and whether that meets expectations. The hotspot would be the endpoint if you’re trying to answer a broader question about the value of the experience – such as the steps leading up to the user clicking on a link to explore upgraded functionality.

Choose the number of steps to analyze, and the number of events within each step, as well as any paths that you don’t want to look at. As you audit the events you have tagged, there are a couple of best practices you can follow.

First, make sure to have a naming convention for events that makes interpreting them easier in user flow reports and visualizations. Secondly, make sure that all of the high value events are tagged, to get data on them as soon as possible or before a specific marketing campaign or product roadmap decision.

Having a window into these user flows has several key benefits, as it enables the organization to:

Validate design: Confirm that users are taking the path designed for them or identify if different workflows may produce a better result.

Visualize the journey: Quickly navigate through path reports to see traffic patterns through events and relative popularity of next/previous steps with a single click. This includes the ability to filter reports to view paths of specific sets of users based on their properties, and exclude noise events such as system generated events that are not user-initiated for clean user paths. The best tools will enable chart-based analysis, and provide the ability to export the data to CSV for offline analysis.

Verify campaign effectiveness: User flow analysis can also be applied to measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns being pushed out through in-application messaging – with the ability to see the path a user took after seeing that message. User flow analysis lends the ability not only to see click-throughs, but also drill down within that to see the exact path users took.

User flow analysis is important tool in your data analytics toolbox to help design and deliver delightful experiences for users.

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