Data mining user behaviors in web apps

by Cedric Dugas on March 6, 2013

tl;dr I got a jquery plugin that track agitated user behaviors.

Do you currently track user behaviours? Most people would say yes, if you have google analytics installed you do track behaviors, at least a form of it. But do you do the extra mile to understand your users? That’s a question that could be really interesting to ask to a room full of product owners.

Let’s take an example of a behavior that most people do not track: a user that made the extra mile and finished reading an article. GA track how much time a user passes on a page, but we never track how much of our users really finish reading articles. Can you do something interesting with that information? Well let’s check what Shopify does.

Acting on behaviors

When a user finishes scrolling through a Shopify’s blog article, the “Subscribe to newsletter” box gets highlighted.

The user is interested by an article and just finished reading it, if he went that far you better give him a hint that he can subscribe to more content easily, so Shopify acts on that. Knowing how long a user stayed on your page is nice, that however does not tell you if he really finished reading your article, logging that data is also useful.

Another interesting situation is a checkout system. When a user puts something into his cart and continues shopping, making the checkout button more prominent is a good idea, reminding the user they already got something to buy. If he quits the website sending a reminder email with the items in its cart is a nice touch too.

Understanding how our users react is essential for the long term longevity of our apps. It’s important to log that information but you also must act on different behaviors. It will help you make smarter apps, giving more context to a user where he normally would miss something, and you are probably going to make more money too.

What about agitated behaviors?

While looking at normal behaviors is good, it’s not as important as knowing when our users become frustrated. When a user is frustrated he is more prone at making harsh decisions like deleting his account or abandoning his current task (shopping, using a wysiwyg & etc).

Do you currently know when and why your users get frustrated? Can you even log such a thing? There are signs that we can track in javascript:

  • Does he hit frantically a key?
  • Maintains multiple keys at the same time?
  • Clicks multiple times on a button?
  • Maintain a mouse down a long time on a button?
  • Highlight text?

And that’s just a start, there other trackable behaviors too.

Still acting on it is difficult. Deciding if a behavior is serious enough to warrant showing a popover help box, a chat box, or sending an email is hard. In any case, just logging that information helps you understand where your app is maybe failing the users.

Now that you are convince that you must track agitated behaviors, is there even a script that does that currently? Well there is now the jquery plugin below.

A jQuery plugin to mine agitated behaviours

I decided to open source a jQuery plugin I created to help me track those behaviors. You can download it right here.

As the current version (0.1.x) might tell, this is a beta, and it’s never been tested on a big site. So please use with caution. Also, I would really appreciate if you guys add/suggest behaviours into the mix.

Want more?

Please check this awesome presentation on emotional design by Jonathan LeBlanc (Principal Developer Evangelist – PayPal). It covers behaviors and also the color theory.



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