Tracking Errors Will Improve The User Experience On Your Website
Tracking Errors Will Improve The User Experience On Your Website

Tracking Errors Will Improve The User Experience On Your Website

Tracking Errors Can Help You Improve User Experience

Visitor-tracking tools such as Google Analytics make it simple for you to check metrics like navigation patterns, conversions, and visits, but these metrics do not provide information showing when users come up against errors on your website. Tracking and optimizing form-field and 404 error messages for drop rates can help to improve your website’s user experience.

Form-Field Errors

After a form-field’s validation runs, you are able to capture errors using Google Analytics, Omniture or Performable. Whenever an error message appears, whether it’s client-side or server-side, you can create an event in your visitor-tracking tool of choice to keep track of each time this occurs.

Often, visitors will hit stumbling blocks on forms where users are attempting to create new accounts, log into the site, or check out. If you find a form with high exit rates or possibly one that has high traffic but low uniques, you can tell that people were trying to come back to reuse the same page and that there may have been a problem when they did so. From here, you track an event each time the user encounters an error message:

_trackEvent(category, action, opt_label, opt_value)

For incorrect password submissions upon log in:

<script type=’text/javascript’>
_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Error', 'Sign In', 'Incorrect Password']);
</script>

If you store the error messages as variables, you can use event tracking to call the variable and you can change the variable’s text as time goes on and A/B test the different error message versions:

<?php
$message = ‘Incorrect password’;
if ($message) { ?>
<script type=’text/javascript’>
_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Error', 'Sign In', '<?php echo $message ?>']);
</script>
<?php } ?>

If the user can get more than one error on the page at a time, you can store the messages within the same event tracker. You can concatenate them into the same variable you’re calling in the event tracker or you can use an array. When you see that users are skipping many fields in the same form, it could mean that the user is trying to see which of those fields are required. Using the same event to track multiple missing fields can tip you off if this is happening. But you might want to begin by tracking the events separately because you may need data from having tracked individual errors over time.

404 Error Tracking

Even if you already know the number of times your 404 page is viewed, you may not be aware of the referring URLs or the pages the users were trying to access. You can see both of these things by adding tracking codes to 404 pages:

<script type=”text/javascript”>
_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Error', '404', 'page: ' + document.location.pathname + document.location.search + ' ref: ' + document.referrer ]);
</script>

Using Google Analytics to Track Errors

If you have tracking code set up, you can go into Google Analytics under Event Tracking (under Content) and you will find a list of your errors. By choosing the Categories link, you can sort by error types.

If you want these reports readily available on your dashboard, you can use the Add to Dashboard button. This is helpful with 404 errors because you then have a reference point for when new 404 errors come through as you log in.

You can use the Intelligence section to figure out if error messages are spiking by attaching an alert to a specific metric. You can set custom alerts which will email you when certain events exceed a certain level by a set percentage from the day or week before.

Analyzing Errors

Once you are aware of the times and places that error messages are occurring, you are able to figure out where your site’s common stumbling blocks happen and why. Knowing the types of problems your users encounter will help you make smart decisions about how to alter your site to make the UX flow better.

If your site has a traffic spike, you may want to look for groups of users who are getting certain types of error messages because there might be something unique about that segment of your user base. If you’re looking at traffic coming in with new visitors, these people are seeing your site fresh. They are unaware of the navigational flow or which fields in your forms you have set to required. If a visitor is returning, they might be more familiar with the layout and structure of your site and how to navigate it, so these people might not encounter error messages as much because they already know which parts of the site caused them to receive errors in the past.

You can set segments like new visitors and returning visitors in your error event listing so that you only see those you’re working with at that moment and it makes it easier to analyze that particular data set.

You can also use the filter event setting in the search bar in Google Analytics to check referring sources for 404 pages. This is helpful when you’re searching for errors on pages within your own website.

You ca then prioritize which errors need to be fixed right away. If you look at which errors are affecting the largest set of people, you can fix those first before moving on to errors that are only affecting a small portion of your users. After that, you can determine which are fixed most easily and work on those first to get them out of the way, making time for more involved error repair projects. After you’ve prioritized your first round of error repairs, you can track your errors for another week to see what is happening and then reprioritize again. If you’re seeing the top errors change from where they had been, you can fix those and move on to the errors affecting the next largest group of users.

Improving the design, layout, and text of your error messages when the user sees them can help to eliminate a lot of the problems associated with your users having repeat encounters with the same error message. If you make sure the message is clearly written and highly visible, you may drive down your repeat error alerts in your tracking. You can do this by A/B testing the messages you’re sending out to see which ones work best for the users and then measure each one’s effectiveness.

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