Tracking User Behavior

Tracking user behavior sounds like something the NSA would do.  Your smart TV is off and yet big brother is watching you. Sounds far fetched but apparently that is true.

And what is also true is the ease at which all of our website activity can be tracked, monitored, even recorded.

Tracking User Behavior

Before you get too upset let's take a step back. There are some really good benefits to our online activity being tracked. For one, personalization.

The internet, which connects about one billion websites is anything but personal. A dark, shadowy place, with evil-doers lurking around the corner is what some may think of the web. Not very personal now is it?

But with the ability to track our behavior, interests and more, the internet can become personalized.

More of what we are interested in can be presented to us proactively versus having to search for everything.

Cookies

So how do you track user behavior? Through cookies. Not the edible kind, rather the readable kind. Little bits of data our browsers use to improve our online experience.

For more on what cookies exactly are and how they work, please read Wikipedia - Cookies.

For the sake of this post let's just know that "cookies" exist and they enable tracking of our activity.

I Digress

OK, let's get back on topic. That being tracking user behavior. There are a lot tools on the market right now that do what Google Analytics tends to struggle at.

Google is great at telling us about traffic to our site. But what about traffic on our site? What exactly do people do?

This is where tools like Hot Jar, Crazy Egg and more come in.  They focus purely on the activity on a domain. They have limits when it comes to knowing how that user came to your site. But that's not their purpose.

Why Collect Data

The purpose of understanding user behavior is simple. To improve website design. Make the user experience more enjoyable.

With tools like heat maps, you can see exactly where people click. Even if a people click on something that is not a button or a link. Such data can be invaluable to know where to move things. Where users want stuff, if you will.

You can also see things like activity above and below the fold. And with more and more mobile devices being used, above the fold is not much real estate. So you have to be really creative in how you design your website.

Responsibility

Now you cannot have a discussion, even a 500 word post without at least broaching the subject of responsibility.

Measuring user behavior on your site for the sake of improving the user experience creates no moral dilemma. Especially when nothing happens with that data.

When problems do arise is when companies take such data and start to share it with others, unbeknownst to you. That is clearly a moral dilemma. And clearly not what we are discussing here.

So I strongly recommend you look into tracking user behavior. And using that data to make more informed decisions about website design, and improving the overall experience of your users.

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