The Most Useless Site Metrics for a Designer

I am a believer in designing with data. I’m also a firm believer that, if you research something to no end, the design becomes reactionary rather than visionary. Data and creativity need to work hand-in-hand.

And that brings me to useless site metrics. When presented in a vacuum, they drive designers crazy. “Time on Page” is one. Bounce rate is another. These two metrics—although easy to track—don’t actually tell us anything.

Illustration of web site metrics

Is the bounce rate high because our content isn’t good enough? Or is it high because we gave the users exactly what they wanted and they went on their way? Time spent on the site is up… Great! They love the content and they’re hanging out. Pump the brakes! Or could it be that we are not delivering what they want fast enough, which, in turn, is making them search longer?

When we design for the web or for an app, qualitative research helps us analyze the quantitative data. Actual user and potential user experience testing done with something as close as possible to the real thing is key. The product you’re testing and whom you’re testing it on is crucial to getting accurate data. People behave differently when they have to pretend, so the most accurate data will come from someone carrying out real tasks they would normally do. We recently did this for our client Recycle Ann Arbor’s website, and we’re proud of the end result.

As easy as analytics tools are, they do not tell you why someone clicked on something or what features are the most useful. But with qualitative research, you can figure out what analytics like “Time on Page” actually mean.

If you’re suddenly wondering whether your site hits the mark, let us put you at ease. See how re:group approaches web design and development.



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  • I wholeheartedly agree! (Thanks to Taylor for sending me here via Linkedin.)

    I often have to give 37 disclaimers to most clients about bounce rate & time on site because they falsely become the be all and end all.

    So many things can drive the numbers in the wrong direction and yet still be good for business, like squeeze pages pushing time on site down, and digital ads increasing bounce rate.

  • Thank you for the comment Martin. It’s nice to know others in the industry share my sentiment. On top of providing an ample amount of disclaimers, I’ve been working to improve my ability to inform the client and stakeholders of what the metrics mean and when they are relevant.

    A good chunk of time on top of being a designer is to also be an educator. So much changes on a regular and frequent basis that it falls to us to share our knowledge with our clients to ensure we’re all on the same page. It makes for a smoother process and ultimately a better product