A dashboard is a way of tracking your choice of quantitative data about your website. It is something I’ve found most useful for long-term projects or when working in-house with a company for an extended period of time.
It means you can define up the important metrics for your project just once and then let live updates come in. You won't then have to manually go searching for the data in analytics software each time you want to check it. This dashboard can be your high-level view of a website, which enables you to easily spot anomalies in performance.
It should be something that is easy to share so everyone in a team or company is on the same page. This can be especially useful for people who may not have access to your analytics software or may not have the time or capability to go rooting around in it for the data they need.
The first thing to do is define what is important for you to see in your dashboard. Don't go creating it without a plan or you can end easily up tracking things for the sake of it.
The most important thing to track is your key metric or goal which determines success for your website or part of a website. For some that could be sales while for others it could be sign ups—either way it's likely to be something related to making the business money.
The next thing to have on your dashboard is conversion rates for the steps in the user flow to reach your goal. This could be the same as any funnels you've set up elsewhere but you can set your dashboard to be more or less granular as required.
The other data to consider including on your dashboard are your important secondary or engagement metrics. These are ones that tell you a bit more about how a page is performing such as things like bounce rate, time on page, and in-page events.
These secondary metrics can be for just one or two key pages in the flow, depending on what you have learned is a useful indicator. It might be the case that different metrics matter for different steps in your flow. For example bounce rate will be important for landing pages while specific button clicks would matter more for form pages.
Exactly how you set up your dashboard will depend on the tool you use.
Once it is set up it’s just a case of checking back regularly and building up the data over time. One of the most useful features of a good dashboard is to easily be able to compare how a key metric has changed over weeks or months.
Don’t try to track too much detail with your dashboard. If you put in every stat you can get hold of for your website you might as well just use the standard interface for a web analytics package. The point is for it to give you key information at a glance.
Setting up a dashboard can take a bit of tweaking to get it performing correctly. Make sure the data that appears in your dashboard tallies with what's in your analytics tools, and that they're measuring the right things.
If you check your dashboard and spot anomalies or downturns in metrics, be sure that you are comparing like with like. If you see a conversion rate drop, check that the period you are comparing it against is the same length of time. You may need to check if it is the same time of year, as seasonality can be a big factor in conversions for many sites.
If your key conversion metrics really do drop then this should be the start of an investigation rather than a time to panic and make drastic changes. Look at page data to see what is happening on specific pages or browsers, view heatmaps, and check visitor recordings to see detailed user behavior.
In fact it can kick off a chain of different sorts of evidence-gathering as I explain through the framework in my redesign course. Ultimately it's a case of playing detective to get to the bottom of your issues.
To make one of your own for free you can use Google Analytics' own functionality under the ‘Customisation’ section, or the recently introduced Google Data Studio.
A tool I've used before is a plug-in such as Supermetrics (free and from $39/mo) to pull the data into Excel or a Google Sheet and manipulate the data here. This allows you to choose the exact resolution you want to see and means you can pull in lots of historic data.
Setting up the dashboard should be a task that you do once for about half a day, and then check back weekly.