Tried-and-True User Research Techniques to Better Understand Your Website Audience

By June 6, 2017 No Comments
User Research Techniques

When creating a website, it’s easy to make assumptions; you are creating it with your own perspective and experiences in mind. You know what you would do in a given situation, what sort of content you would be most interested in, but what are your users interested in? What works best for them? That’s where these user research techniques come in.

The best way to answer questions about your website visitors is to conduct user research. Here are four tried-and-true user research techniques to better understand your audience, how they use your website, and how to better tailor your website to fit their needs. (Plus, all three user research platforms mentioned have free versions for you to try out on your own!)

Demographics in Google Analytics

One of the initial user research techniques that you should turn to is Google Analytics because it pulls valuable information about your website visitors all in one place. Google Analytics is pretty easy to set up and can tell you a ton about who you users are, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Country
  • Browser
  • Operating system
  • and much more!

Knowing who your audience is is important. It can help you compile valuable information for what might be useful to them on your website, and what techniques will work best to get visitors to your website in the first place. For example, if you know that your users are in an older age range and likely don’t have much internet literacy, a simple, traditional website will be easiest for them to navigate. On the other hand, if you know that your user base is younger, you can be more experimental in your design without fear of compromising usability. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what Google Analytics can do. You can find extremely specific details about your visitors and how they convert. However, all of the information it gives you can be overwhelming, so depending on how much information you want or need, it may be useful to implement other tools as well.

User research techniques - Google Analytics Demographics

Heat Mapping with Hotjar

Hotjar’s main use is heat mapping. It is a user research technique that creates visual heat map representations of where your users are clicking, moving, and scrolling. Heat maps can be set up for different pages, allowing you to see users’ paths through your site.

You can get information like this from many different services, and presented in many different ways. However, this presentation allows for quick pattern recognition, plus it is visually interesting. Here are a few of the main heat mapping features that can help you learn about your users.


This type of heat map shows where users are clicking on the page. As you can see from this heat map representation, the “About” page gets clicked the most out of all of the selections in the navigation.

User Research Techniques - Hotjar Heatmap ClickMove

This type of heat map shows where users are moving their mouses on the page. This also shows where users are clicking, but gives a more inclusive overview of the steps taken. For this example you can see the “About”, then the “Services” and then the “Work” pages get selected the most in the navigation and in that order.

User Research Techniques - Hotjar Heatmap MoveScroll

This type of heat map shows how far users scroll down the page. It also marks where the average fold of screens is. For this example, it shows that almost all users reach the main navigation. Then it shows that a majority of users get past the next main section of the Home page and typically will click over at that point to another page.

User Research Techniques - Hotjar Heatmap ScrollUser Recordings with Hotjar

Besides heat mapping, another great feature of Hotjar is user recording, which allows you to watch screen recordings of users on your website. This feature will show you what pages are visited and the steps taken to view those pages. It can sometimes be more helpful than heat maps in getting a complete picture of the user experience on your website.  This can help you find some usability issues that you hadn’t previously noticed, just by watching how people interact with the elements on your website. Does it take them too long to find what they are looking for? Are they clicking in the wrong spots? You can use this information to create a smoother user experience.

User Research Techniques - Hotjar User Recordings

A/B Testing with Google Optimize

A/B testing is used to test how your users respond to one scenario versus another. This is helpful when you want to experiment with different layouts, content , navigation, and more. Google Optimize makes this fairly simple, although you do need to coordinate with Google Analytics a bit. Essentially, you make changes on a page or group of pages, connect to a goal within Google Analytics, and Google takes care of the rest. Some of your users will be shown the original content, and others will be shown the experimental content. After enough data has been collected, you’ll get a report showing which version is most likely to yield better result.

User research techniques - A/B testing with Google Optimize

Once you better understand your users using these tried-and-true user research techniques, you can begin to create an experience for them on your website you know they’ll respond to. Know of any other cool user research tools or techniques? Let us know in the comments below!

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