Analysing Onsite User Behaviour

8 min read

It’s rare for companies to truly see their website through the eyes of the user and, as a result, they fall into the trap of making assumptions about their site which range dramatically from reality. Analysing onsite user behaviour helps you to understand how users interact with your website. How much time do they spend on the homepage? Which areas do they click most? Where are users commonly bouncing off your site? 

Your audience holds the answers. Skip the assumptions and get real answers to these questions, gathering insight that can fuel iterative improvements to get more from your website investment and make it work harder. Read on to find out what to consider when analysing your user’s onsite behaviour.

Building with empathy

Let’s start at the route of many user behaviour issues - viewing the problem from your point of view rather than your audience’s. Your users won’t be as familiar with your website as you are and won’t use it how you do, they will likely struggle with things that you may not have even recognised as creating an issue. Creating a successful website is all about building with empathy but this mindset often gets lost once the website has been launched. Advocates for an iterative approach to improvements, we believe it’s important to consistently review and enhance your website.

In many cases, your primary objective will be to encourage your customers to convert. However, your users may have a completely different goal in mind that you’re not aware of. By analysing real user behaviour and identifying usability issues, you can uncover improvements to your user journey and even discover gaps that could be beneficial for your business to consider. This isn’t just about fixing problems; it’s about using insight directly from your audience to create a website that works just how they want it to.

Data doesn’t lie 

Analysing user behaviour relies heavily on high-quality data which can come in two forms and is the best place to start when delving into the onsite actions of your users:

  • Quantitative: This research is used to quantify an issue or metric into numerical data by using platforms such as Google Analytics.
  • Qualitative: This research is mainly exploratory, used to gain an understanding of reasons, opinions, and motivations behind an action through tools such as interviews, screen recordings and biometric testing.

We advise starting with quantitative data first to gain information on the issues that may be occurring on your site. Qualitative techniques can then be used to validate what the data says, allowing you to uncover the ‘why?’ behind what your users are doing. By considering the instinctive, emotional side of how your users are reacting to your website alongside data driven research methods allows you to gain a deeper understanding of where your website is not pleasing your audience.

Quantitative data 

Using platforms such as Google Analytics, you can gather data around acquisitions, exit and entrance pages, bounce rates and general user behaviour including where the user has come from, what time they visit your site and the device they access it on.

Understanding why your users visited your website is fundamental in analysing their behaviour and this is something that Google Analytics can help you uncover. Looking at these metrics is also an effective way to identify potential issues. For example, it could be an increasingly high bounce rate off a certain page or no clicks or movement on a service page. Simply seeing this should spur you on to explore the data further which, upon analysis, you may find no CTA is featured, the text is too small to read or a link is broken and you’re therefore able to define some quick wins. Or, it could feed into a long-term strategy such as the pages isn’t what the user was expecting to land on and so it needs to be improved to answer its purpose.

Qualitative data

In the digital world, it’s easy to forget that the user behind each device is a real person with individual emotions and unique behaviours. Qualitative data harnesses the power of this emotional data through the likes of onsite user testing and biometrics. Through analysis of characteristics, behaviours and emotions, you can gain feedback on the user experience which can be fed into your website to ensure you are catering for your audience’s emotions. Biometric testing can include:

  • Eye tracking: Monitor what your users are looking at and when, which areas capture their attention and which they ignore. Combining eye tracking with heat mapping we can flag which areas of the site are getting the most or least attention, highlighting where improvements may be necessary.
  • Facial expression: Recognise facial emotions to understand what a user is feeling while interacting with your site based on their immediate facial reactions.
  • Galvanic Skin Response (GSR): GSR measures the intensity of response through electrical currents in the skin, picking up on emotions that aren’t shown through facial expressions. Uncovering subconscious emotions, GSR can detect when they’re happy or unhappy, providing insight into conversion barriers.
  • Pupil dilation: When your brain works harder, your pupils dilate. Teaming this tool with eye tracking, we can see which areas of the website a user is struggling with to streamline the user experience.
  • EEG (Electroencephalography): Our brains communicate using electric signals and we can analyse these signals using electrodes attached to the scalp. EEG gives insight into what’s happening in a user’s mind as they engage with different parts of your website.

User behaviour tracking tools

Tracking tools provide an extra layer of analysis to delve deep into the nitty gritty of onsite user behaviour. Traditional web analytic tools are a great place to start when collecting and analysing data, but numbers alone won’t give you real insight into what users are doing on your site.

Hotjar’s suite of user behaviour analytics tools visually communicate where improvements need to be made onsite. Featuring heat maps, recordings, conversion funnels, incoming feedback, feedback polls and surveys, you can better understand your user’s behaviour to make changes that will improve UX and increase conversions. In particular, the scroll map functionality shows how users navigate up and down your website and whether sticky navigation bars are causing them frustration. Although these website features may sound insignificant to the overall user journey, it is these tweaks that can make all the difference in keeping a user on your website. 

For example, for our client Salary Finance, we placed a Hotjar survey on their website and found that the majority of their audience didn’t understand their products and more information was required on site. These surveys can feature a range of questions specific to your objectives such as “Was this page useful to your online experience?” or “Did you get what you need from this page?”. We also conducted remote user testing which involved creating specific tasks which we could then watch as the user guided themselves through the site, asking them to comment and provide scores along the way.  

Don’t forget about your navigation

It’s rare today that people browse in a linear fashion, making it harder to track and interpret the user journey. A navigation bar and signposting features provide key insights into how users interact with your website. During your user testing, if you can see that a user comes to a dead-end or they are struggling to find the page they want, it could show an issue with your navigation.

Navigations should be created based on how your user interacts with your site, making it as easy as possible for them to flow through their user journey and reach their desired page. It’s also important to regularly signpost and use internal links to guide users through the website, highlighting to them what naturally comes next in their journey. 

Think content-first

Industry chatter has occurred around the content-first design approach for some time. However, with Google’s 2018 E-A-T update, this only became more prevalent for businesses, particularly those in your money your life (YMYL) sectors, to create relevant and detailed content that satisfies their user’s search intent. To successfully show a level of expertise, authority and trust within your onsite content, blog posts and landing pages often become long-form, usually 2000 words or more. This format can sometimes work against your website design meaning the content needs to be considered prior to the design stage beginning.

We understand that this predicament can be a tricky one to work around for some brands. The key is a balancing act between showcasing in-depth content in a way that won’t disrupt your website’s design. A good agency will compromise, taking both your branding and how the content will be displayed onsite into account before designing the final outcome.

Historically, when using Hotjar’s scroll map features, we could see that the majority of users wouldn’t scroll to the bottom of a long-form page. But our behaviours have since evolved and we are very much part of a scrolling culture. If the content is good and the site works in a way that complements this content, people no longer mind scrolling. To do this effectively, we advise taking a content-first approach to your site project. Doing so makes it easier for your designer to take your content requirements into consideration from the start, using your actual site content during the design process rather than the usual lorem ipsum so many dread. It’s about creating a design that fits your content, and not restricting your content to fit a rigid design.

Using user behaviour to create a business case

A web project is time-intensive, and it can take a significant period to pass before a return is seen. When you have a limited budget to stick to, it can be worthwhile taking a phased and priority-led approach to generates results faster.

By analysing onsite user behaviour, you can uncover the specific changes that your audience needs which will only result in online gains for your business. This controlled approach to site investment is not only backed by data direct from your customers but also offers focuses on improvements that will have a real impact to your online performance.

For example, let’s imagine you’re struggling to hit your lead generation target. Upon delving into your analytics, you pinpoint which page in the user journey the majority of your customers are bouncing from the website on. Conducting user testing, you can then see this is due to the lack of a CTA button, an important link is broken, or the colour of the text makes it practically impossible to read. Each of these scenarios are simple fixes to make but could drive a significant impact on your bottom line. Fuelled by this insight, you can make a solid case into the investment of your website highlighting the issue with your wider teams and identifying where opportunities are being lost. In turn, it should become easier to secure further budget to continue reinvesting into your site and making further improvements.


Analysing onsite user behaviour can give you a competitive edge, increasing customer retention rates and ensuring that you meet your customers’ needs by taking the guesswork out of how your website is built and designed.

Your audience should be at the core of everything you do and it’s critical to understand how these people interact with each element of your site. Gathering deep insights through a range of analytical tools and platforms, you can marry up the data with the unconscious and deliberate actions of your audience to drive important changes that improve business performance.

With over 20 years’ experience in the development of web solutions, we have worked alongside many businesses including The Institution of Structural Engineers, Theakstons and Havwoods, getting under the skin of their brand and audience to translate these needs into a high performing website. Get in touch with our team to find out more about how we can improve your website.

Thoughts. Opinions. Views. Advice.

Related Insights

1 of 1