Saturday, 18 June 2011

Click analysis - Research group homepages

I recently ran a click analysis study across 10 research institute homepages in our Medical School. The study only collected data on visitors from outside the University network to exclude as many staff and current student clicks as possible. Unsurprisingly, user behaviour and priorities were the same regardless of the design employed.


Almost all the institutes manage their websites independently and use a wide range of designs. Two use the University's content management system so have the same page layout.

Click analysis heatmaps for research group homepages

  • Some were image heavy, some not. 
  • Some were link heavy, some not
  • Some presented a navigation panel consistent with the rest of their site, some didn't
  • Some were consistent to some degree with the rest of the University, some were difficult to identify as University sites at first glance
  • The number of words on the page ranged from 140 to over 900
However, a few things were the same for all.

Visitors didn't spend much time on the homepage. On average:
  • 34% of visitors had clicked within 5 seconds
  • 78% of visitors had clicked within 20 seconds
So in the majority of cases less than a third of the page content could have been read (based on Jakob Nielsen's approach and estimating online reading speed to be 250 wpm).

Visitors were looking for the same things. Regardless of the layout and the terminology used, the vast majority of visits resulted in clicks to find out more about study opportunities, research activity (project overviews etc) and staff profiles & contact details.

I also had access to Google Analytics stats for 3 of the 11. The top content in these reports corresponded to the hottest areas of the heatmaps. These reports also revealed that visitors to institute websites spent at least as much time on other areas of the University site.
Jakob Nielsen's Law of the Internet User Experience: Users spend most of their time on other sites. (This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.)
So nothing new here really. These trends are repeated whenever I conduct analytics analysis for academic units.

User behaviour was broadly the same regardless of the homepage design and the institute because in the main, they all attract the same types of user with the same interests and motivations.

My previous post on university homepage click analysis: Homepages - good signposting is critical (September 2010)

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