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Using Web site traffic data as a UI design tool

You want a site that looks good, but you really want it to generate business, whether that means registrations, purchases or other inquiries.

While working at, we monitored site traffic as part of the design process. This let us see if site use matched our design scenarios, measure the ROI from our design changes and help the business groups meet their goals. We increased transaction rates significantly in a number of places on the site.

Here is one example from our paper on measuring site traffic as part of design (PDF, 764 KB). It is included in a Nielsen Norman Group report on Usability Return on Investment.

Example: Increasing traffic to (paying) partner sites  

We had a drop-down list that linked to partner sites with attractive products. Usability testing showed that calling it Portfolio Collections didn't mean anything, so we used the clearer phrase Affiliated Sites.

Still, people didn't recognize the names of the sites: even though sold beautiful products, the name was unfamiliar. Traffic was too low and the business partners were upset. The first site in the list got the most clicks, the last one got the least. People didn't seem interested. Something needed to change...

Example of links in a drop-down list Example with the same links right on the page

The original design used a drop-down list for names of partner sites...

We changed it so all links were right on the page with brief descriptions. This increased traffic measurably

We made a change  We worked with the sales and marketing staff and the partner companies to come up with brief descriptions of each company and replaced the drop-down with text links right on the page.

The result was great  Traffic to partner sites went up 129% the week we put it up. Having links right on the page and having the descriptions made the choices clearer. We thought that this would be the result, but it was good to get evidence and good to know what the increase was.


More information  Read the full paper on Transaction-based Design (PDF, 764 KB) or read about the design process used at Interaction Design.