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User flows can sometimes confuse and overwhelm people. Find out easy ways to use them so you can learn about user behaviour on your website.


In this screencast we're going to talk a little bit about user flows and what you can learn about user behaviour on your website. Now I hear from a lot of people that when they first look at the user flow screens they're a little bit confused and overwhelmed about the information that they're looking at.

And that's not really a surprise. It's a lot of spaghetti. You can add, for example, a whole number of steps on the end of the user flow diagram, down to about 11 or 12 interactions that your users make. In fact, really that just makes things worse.

Most websites that I've looked at when I've done this, the user pathways go all over the place. Now by default, the user flow map will probably be showing the data based on the country that the user has come from. I tend not to use it this way. I would change it over to show the channel grouping, or the source of where the traffic has come from.

Sometimes that does give you some insights around well, what is actually driving people to certain pages of content. You might be able to see is there a difference, for example, between where organic search is leading you to where your social traffic is leading.

You can click on individual pages within the tree and highlight the traffic through that particular page. But again, as you can see, it creates spaghetti. You can also change different parts of the diagram that you're highlighting from. And you may start to see some slightly more refined pathways. So this example where I've highlighted the social traffic coming through the site — it's a little bit simpler. But it's still rather confusing.

Interestingly, you can also highlight a drop off point from the diagram and then backtrack through the diagram to see well, what's the traffic and what pathway have they taken to reach that drop off point? Again, could be interesting, at least at a high level. But it doesn't really give you any actions that are directly and easily actioned. So you need to look at some other things.

You can add a segment onto your user flow. Now this could be useful in that it will simplify or reduce the amount of data that the user flow diagram is showing. All of your segments are available to use. So I'm actually going to apply the single session user segment now. And this is going to show what pages people went to and how they moved through it. Most users only came to the website once during the period that I'm reporting on.

Now you'll also see that when I apply the segment you can only have one segment running at a time. So it's a good idea to just remove any other segments that you have currently set so you don't get confused. Now I can see here that the majority of the traffic that are single user sessions have gone through a particular pathway.

Now sometimes you'll see the pathways are actually grouped together by Google. And it will show here that there's more than 100 other pages that users could have followed. You can bring up the group details and see what those pages are. Then Google does some really unfortunate things. It doesn't actually honour any previous filtering that you have done.

So in the example here, where I've been looking at traffic coming through the home page, if I then go and look at the large group in that second interaction, this is showing me all of the pages and all of the places that people have come through, not just from the homepage. Well Google, that is not helpful.

Right, so actually looking at the page content itself and looking at the navigation summary might be more useful in most cases. So if I drill down into one of the pages that I am interested to learn a little bit more about — so this is one of my blog posts that was done recently all about making reporting simple and easy — if I switch over to the navigation summary view I can then see the sources of traffic to that page, where the traffic came from, and where it went to after users had finished viewing that content.

Now to be honest, to me this is a little bit easier to get my head around. I can look at specific pages and see where users are coming from and going to. Then I can make some judgement calls about well, is that the kind of behaviour that I would expect to see? Is the exit rate from this page higher than what I would like it to be? Do I really need to drive users into some of these other pages of content?

Well this is a blog post that I'm looking at. So a high exit rate is probably actually OK. So just like we did with user flows, we can apply some segments to the data. And in this case, I'm going to apply both the multiple and single session user segments. Again, you can drag the order of segments around. That will change the way that they're presented in your report.

Now when the diagram regenerates, I can see what the traffic pattern is like and what type of user is actually looking at the blog post. That could be useful for me. I can see that there's a fairly consistent pattern between both new and returning users to the website.

And scrolling down on the report, I can see are there differences between how they got to that content. So are our multiple sessions users coming directly into that content? Maybe they're following links in our email subscription notification.

What are the users doing in terms of their behaviour once they've been on that page? Are they going to different pages? Are the exit rates different for different types of users? I can start, again, to make some judgement calls about how well this content is meeting people's expectations and their needs.

Now if you look at the pages that are shown in the two sides of the table, you may notice that some of the pages on the next page path are also the pages that are showing up in the previous page path. This is probably an indication that users are going off and looking at other pages on the site and then coming back to the page that they were previously looking at.

Can I be 100% sure that this is happening? Well, no. This could actually just be users coming from the other pathway. They may not be bouncing around from page to page. But you can then explore a little bit further. I might then go and do some more detailed reporting about those related pages and see how the traffic is getting to those pages.

Was there, for example, a large landing page rate coming through one of the other alternative blog posts? Just cleaning up some of these segments now, removing them, very easily-- just click on the drop down and choose the option to remove.

So user flows or navigation summary — personally I think the navigation summary is more useful most of the time. So take a look at it. Have a play. What's happening with your website?

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Other screencasts in this series

See the first post in this series for the full list of screencasts.

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