Let’s get straight to the point. A website redesign is no small undertaking. Every team, from developers/IT and design, to marketing and sales, has to be on board and understand what’s expected of them. Everyone contributes. But in the midst of inevitable page or section additions and improved navigation menu and other major changes, one small but nevertheless vital point is often pushed by the wayside.
It’s easy to understand why. After all, you’re redesigning layouts and shifting pixels around — you’ve done everything but put up a “please excuse our digital dust” sign. Restructuring and reorganizing are messy, and it can be incredibly tempting to want to pause your analytics while you’re reorganizing and rebuilding.
Don’t do it.
The fact is, you can gain some very important information by leaving your analytics on and collecting data during your redesign.
“Why would I want to do that?” You may be asking.
It’s completely understandable that you’d want to wait until the new redesign is polished, shiny and ready to roll out before flipping the switch on your analytics again and then keenly watching your visitors interact with your site, but in doing so, you’d be doing a huge disservice to them. If you’re running a seasonally-focused business, you’d also be missing out on year-over-year data to determine particular seasonal trends that could affect design tests (such as putting up holiday-related images over Christmas).
Why Leave Analytics On During a Redesign?
Leaving analytics on during a website redesign can give you valuable insights you may not otherwise get
During a redesign, restructuring or rebuilding of your site, leaving analytics on can give you some juicy, revealing information you may not otherwise get after “the big reveal”. For example, let’s say you unveil a brand new navigation structure for your menu. Preliminary tests have shown that this new menu is better organized, mobile responsive and easy to use.
But when it all rolls out, things go south in a hurry. Users struggle to find what they’re looking for. Stuff isn’t where it used to be, and they’re frustrated. They try the site search, but partially due to the redesign process, it may not be performing as well as before.
Had you left analytics on during this time and split tested your navigation menus, you would have captured valuable insights on the user’s experience (and frustration) with the menu (and the subsequent migration toward search) — taking you back to the drawing board to find a way to blend the best features of the old menu with the responsiveness of the new. You’d have saved time, and most importantly, saved sales.
But navigation and layout aren’t the only potential casualties of a redesign. There’s also the issue of what’s happening behind the scenes.
Making The Right Impression
Leaving analytics on can also help you get better results from split tests during a redesign
You may feel the temptation to shut off analytics during a redesign because you want to make the right impression with your customers. After all, no one wants to see a half baked website. But by split testing the traffic between old and new, you can again learn what’s working and what isn’t. You can use features like heat maps to see where traffic is dropping off and where the user’s attention is primarily focused. And if it’s not where you’d hoped, you can make adjustments on-the-fly.
Remember that best practices seldom apply broadly to every product or industry. What works well even for your competition may absolutely crush your own conversion rate. Your analytics will give you the raw data that shows you how well a proposed design change works for you, then you can tweak and refine it to improve it further.
What to Measure for Best Results
So if you leave your analytics on – what exactly do you measure during the building and rollout phases of your redesign? Well, it’s not much different than the key metrics you should be measuring ordinarily:
User Engagement – How your users interact with your site. You’ll want to focus on incremental conversion here – monitoring the click-through path step-by-step to see where customers may be dropping off in the process. Social media referrals may also affect the degree of engagement and interaction on your site.
Conversion Rate – Many people know that the “conversion rate” is important, but they’re not sure why. Essentially, conversion rate is the number of people who take a specific action on your site that you want them to take — whether it’s signing up for a subscription or proceeding to checkout. Your conversion rate is affected by many variables, but a redesign is one of the biggest overarching changes possible.
It’s entirely possible that your conversion rate could drop initially after a redesign, as customers and visitors alike get accustomed to the changes, but then rise slowly and steadily — showing that the changes you’ve made are indeed working as intended. What many people don’t know about conversion rates is that you can specify various paths that consumers can take to get to the end result – and then judge those paths according to how much of an ROI they bring you. Ideally you’d also get a view into the types of customers who are converting — are they at a higher pricing plan or average spend, for example?
In short, you can see what’s working and what isn’t — letting you concentrate your efforts on the stuff that works, while trimming the stuff that doesn’t. Over time, this leads to a better, laser-focused trail of what resonates with your target audience and keeps bringing them back.
The bottom line is this: when it comes to analytics, leaving them on even during the midst of a website restructuring can provide unusual details, user behavior insights or patterns that you may not ordinarily see. Making these kinds of course corrections in the middle of a redesign (rather than scrambling after the fact to pick up all the pieces) saves time, money and effort in the long run.
Share Your Results with Us!
Have you recently redesigned your site or made it mobile responsive? Did you leave analytics on during that time? What interesting data did you collect? Anything in particular stand out? It’s amazing what you can learn, even during an “under construction” phase. We’d love to hear your results and stories. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today! Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!