User path analysis: tips and tricks to take you to the next level

User path analysis: tips and tricks to take you to the next level

Have you ever wanted to know how users are navigating through your site? What shortcuts do they take? Where do they fall off?

Whether you’re creating an app or own a website, knowing how people interact with it is crucial to understanding the experience you’re providing them.

No one wants to use an app or site that’s confusing or frustrating. You can avoid this by knowing where users are having trouble and what causes them to abandon the website. After all, if they don’t find what they’re looking for quickly enough, odds are they’ll leave.

Let’s say someone is searching your website for information about their dog’s favorite toy. They search using several keywords but can’t find anything relevant, so they eventually give up and close the window. If the person could find what they were searching for within 30 seconds of opening your product, chances are they would have found their information. They would have then continued through to the checkout. This is an example of a good user path.

In this article, we explain why doing a user path analysis is so important. We’ll also share some simple tips on how to take things one step further. Let’s get into it!

What is a user path analysis?

A user path (also known as ‘user flow’) is a visual representation of what happens when people use your website or app. It’s composed of several pages that illustrate how they move between activities and actions. This includes where they drop off in their journey.

For example: If we have an eCommerce store with an “add to cart” button that leads to a checkout page, our user path would be from when they click on this button until they complete their purchase (or abandon it).

When you create a user path, you’ll have an opportunity to highlight the most important parts of your product so users know exactly what it is they need to do next. This is something that’s really helpful when it comes to removing friction or any other points at which people might be held back.

The user path also helps you identify patterns resulting in positive user experiences and sales conversions. You can’t please everyone, but you can at least understand them a little better by looking at their most common actions.

Why a user path analysis is so vital

Defining your user paths helps you identify the moments that could get in the way of your users successfully completing what they want to do — especially when these roadblocks can come down to simple design choices like labeling or interactions. They’re also essential for understanding places where people get stuck and navigate away without completing an action. And, if so, how often this happens.

By using something like Google Analytics, you’ll be able to learn how many people dropped off between each page — but Google Analytics can only take you so far when it comes to user path analysis.

In order to map out all the steps a user makes from page one of your website to the CTA, you’ll need help from a UX analysis. Essentially, this is a visual representation of what users are doing and where they’re getting stuck — so that next time, it’s easier for you to identify and resolve these issues.

Of course, being able to see your user’s path isn’t just useful for highlighting problems. You’ll also be able to see where things are working.

The main benefits of a user path analysis

  • They allow you to know the specific pages where users click out of your website, thereby reducing bounce rates.
  • You can see how much time it takes for users to finish their flows, which helps determine where your UX might be too slow.
  • You can identify key touchpoints, including how easy it is for customers to reach them.
  • By looking at each page in tandem with other versions, you’ll gain insight into which designs work the best.
  • You can track successful user journeys to better determine which paths are most efficient at leading to conversions.
  • It gives you insights into customer experiences, which can help you improve processes, which, in turn, boosts customer satisfaction, loyalty, and sales.

What kinds of issues can a user path analysis help you solve?

Users can face all kinds of bottlenecks when working their way through a website or app. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more common issues, as well as how to fix them.

1. Conversion funnel leaks

Having a leak in your conversion funnel means you’re losing customers — and, therefore, revenue. This could be due to a number of things, from signup friction to CTA issues. Whatever the cause may be, finding what’s causing the issue is essential — and a user path analysis can help you do just that.

The fix? Get to the root cause by examining the data by different user segments. Then, set up campaigns specifically targeting the users or fix the underlying cause.

2. Bottlenecks, UX friction, and 404 pages

Bad UX can mean users drop off, or worse — a bad rep for your business, which is a one-way ticket to low profits.

Businesses need to offer their users a smooth user experience, or risk losing revenue to competitors. Broken pages, bad design, overly long checkout processes, or annoying pop-ups all spell trouble.

The fix? Once you spot drop-offs and friction points, you need to reconsider the user path, then optimize it using testing and user feedback.

3. Poor campaign performance

User paths can help understand the direct and indirect impact of your campaigns in driving revenue and growth. You can also improve your paid ad campaigns once you understand how these users behave on your funnel and which part of the funnel they drop off from (and why).

The fix: If your campaigns aren’t doing so well, analyze user behavior to better understand what campaigns drive positive results (and which efforts are falling flat). Then, ramp up the good stuff and kill what’s not working.

How to run a user path analysis

Running a user path analysis isn’t something that can be done in a day — nor is it something you do once and forget about. It’s a process that is constantly evolving. And, with each iteration, you’ll gain more insight into the user paths people commonly take through your product. It’s not easy or fast, but it’s very much worth it.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to running an effective user path analysis

– First, sit down with the team to determine how you’d like to analyze your user paths (for example, by platform or device type).

– Once you know the specific areas of your app or website you want to analyze, map out all possible paths a user could take. This can be done on paper or in an online diagramming tool. You’ll also need to identify where it is you want your users to go — these will be your conversion points.

– You’ll then need to create personas before starting. It’s important to understand who is taking these paths through your product because this will influence how you approach analyzing them. For example, do mothers use your application? If so, are their journeys similar to teenagers’ journeys? Note down who needs to be included in your analysis.

– Analyze one path at a time by reading through each step thoroughly and making sure it aligns with current usability standards (such as a clickable button or a label for each text input box).

Double check

– If a step does not meet the standards, it’s important to find out why. For example, if your labels are unclear, users could be confused and get frustrated with your product. Find out how they’re getting stuck in this step and write down what you can do to fix it.

– Once you’ve looked at all paths, go through them again and include which ones the general population uses the most often (in other words, spend more time on these).

– To make a comprehensive analysis easier for yourself down the track, add a common pattern or key flows to your online diagramming tool. These patterns or flows can include primary and secondary flow paths, common drop off points, and the majority path.

– With your online diagramming tool, create a map of all possible routes someone can take through your product, including a list of pages visited and critical steps that can be broken down into subroutines. For each route, identify the event that initiates its appearance (i.e. a button click), then decide what happens next. Common user paths which you may want to include are: sign up process, login process, searching for data or information on your site or app, and exiting the website/app.

– Check out our guide to creating a user flow diagram

– Keep in mind that people will likely bounce around between different paths during their session. Therefore, you should try and map out as many paths as possible (even those with lower traffic).

– Think about where users might get stuck on certain parts of the journey — do any labels need clarifying? Is it difficult to find some content? Is there any clutter?

– Think about what people are trying to achieve when they arrive at each part of the journey. For example, you might need to prompt users to login or sign up during certain parts of your user path (e.g. adding a “create an account” link on every page).

User path analysis: What not to include

– Try and keep it lighthearted — avoid focusing too much on numbers, percentages, etc. unless it’s really relevant to your product/business goals. You can include specific statistics if you think they’re useful, but try not go overboard with them. It may distract from the rest of your content. The focus should be on helping users achieve their goals.

– Get feedback from real users by observing how they use the site or application in real life, noting their reactions as they navigate through the screens on their way to completing a task. This is equally important as it gives you insights into the unexpected results and missed opportunities.

– It’s important not only to track each individual task, but also how it relates to other tasks. This way, you’ll better understand what users are trying to achieve (and if they’re achieving them) and where they might get confused or lost along the way. For example: If there’s one main call to action but others are competing with it, you might find out that users are either clicking the less important one, or dropping off entirely because they’re confused. Neither situation is ideal, and needs to be fixed.

Final thoughts

Once you’ve mapped out all your possible user paths, not only will you have a better idea of what’s going wrong and right on your site, but also where improvements should go in the future.

What’s more, user paths are great for collaboration among team members, clients, and stakeholders, helping ensure everybody is working toward similar goals for your product. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll also be able to adapt faster to altering user behaviors, make better business decisions, and develop mer effective marketing strategies.

To make this process easier and more collaborative, we recommend using a diagramming tool, like Cacoo. You can add useful elements to your flow, such as images and text boxes. You can add annotations that point out key steps in the user journey. Along with dragging-and-dropping to seamlessly integrate your user data, Cacoo is also cloud-based — so everyone on the team can contribute and collaborate in real-time, at the same time.

Georgina Guthrie Georgina is a displaced Brit currently working in France as a freelance copywriter. Before moving to sunnier climates, she worked as a B2B agency writer in Bristol, England, which is also where she was born. In her spare time, she enjoys old films and cooking (badly).