Increase User Engagement

User Interface (UI) is the critical point where human meets machine, and it can make or break the success your web or mobile application.

User Engagement is a term that addresses how and why mobile or web applications attract people and what encourages ongoing use. Effective interfaces capture users’ attention then maintains and rewards it.

If your digital experience is not performing, you likely have a problem with User Experience (UX) that’s placing obstacles on users. In this 8 part series, we will look at engagement and the factors that improve it.

Part 1: Know Where You Stand

Part 2: Boil It Down

Coming Soon:
Part 3: Make Speed a Feature
Part 4: Make it Personal
Part 5: A Fresh Coat of Paint
Part 6: Data Visualization & Interactivity
Part 7: Content Experience
Part 8: Make it “Unboring”

Know Where You Stand: 

Before commencing any User Experience enhancement, establish benchmarks and gather feedback on your product. Tracking and analyzing user behavior is the best way to understand areas of opportunity to increase user engagement.

The root cause of most User Engagement failures typically fall into these camps:

  • Clutter, Obfuscation, & Confusion
  • Slow & Performance Failures
  • Outdated Look & Feel
  • Let’s face it – it could be Boring

A number of tools exist to measure engagement for both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Our favorites include:

User Behavior Tracking

Toolbox recommends the implementation and study of visual tracking tools such as: HotJar & Full Story. Both provide tracking heatmaps and mouse interactions with your application.

User Feedback allows you to observe a user in real-time using your product and verbalizing their experience. The platform allows you to cost-effectively find qualified testers and record their experience.

Metrics & Analytics

Analytics packages such as Google Analytics and Fabric can summarize metrics of site performance on key views.

User Behavior Tracking – Heatmaps and Mouse Tracking:

Heatmaps – can demonstrate what your users currently investigate or ignore by demonstrating “hot” and “cold” areas — specifically, areas of interest and disinterest:

Areas of Interest (Hot)A brief evaluation of “Hot” areas of a heat map quickly demonstrate valued content or functionality. Luckily for us, it also demonstrates how the human eye works as many users track eye movement with their own mouse. By observing heat, you can validate areas of interest and activity with your app.

Areas of Avoidance (Cold) – Just as important as heat, you must observe and respect the cold. You should challenge the necessity of your least used features. Regular evaluation of cold areas can assist you in determining unused or unhelpful aspects of your application, redundant or unnecessary navigation, can content that may need to be relocated to heated areas. Your mission should be to strip away your application until it’s down the core needs of the user and iterate upon that.

Mouse TrackingSometimes key features or functionality are overlooked or abandoned due to user confusion. Measuring confusion can be difficult through heatmaps, so Mouse Tracking gives you more insight into the timeline of user behavior. Here’s what to observe with Mouse Tracking:

Mouse Wiggles – Watching a user stumble through a seemingly intuitive interface can be agonizing. On mouse playback you can often observe the “wiggles” — where a user will erratically move their mouse back and forth between areas, often indicating they are unable to find content or features they need. You can watch them open and close menus, move back and forth/up and down in visibly frustrated odd patterns.

Erratic Scrolling or “Bouncing” – Users who scroll up and down like jumpers on a trampoline indicate they cannot find their desired content, or are quickly scanning content and functionality.

Clicking on the Unclickable – Visuals or text in your application can draw clicks, as users can be seeking further information or functionality which does not exist. Observation of these can give you an idea of what users want more detail on, or identify areas that look inviting and clickable, but have no functionality.

Example of Hotjar heat map tracking user clicks

User Feedback – Gathering Live User Feedback

Though time consuming, nothing beats the observation of real users utilizing your website or application — allowing them to verbalize their feedback and demonstrate why exactly it’s not meeting their expectations.

Think Small – A vast majority of usability issues can be uncovered in less than 10 user observations, so no need to have hundreds of testers. The diversity of your testers matters more than the quantity.

Diversity Your Testers  – Seek out testers who range from deep-thinkers to the (ahem) “lowest-common-denominator”.  

Novice Users – Users who are inexperienced with your product, or demonstrably un-intuitive with digital interfaces. These users can demonstrate UX roadblocks or obstacles you have never considered because you are overly familiar with your product.

Power Users – Users who have fully mastered your product can provide deep insights into the obstacles to achieving flow state. Power users tend to want more features, more quick-keys, reduced guidance.

Gathering feedback from both audiences will help you understand how your product will be perceived by both audiences, and a roadmap that will consider both.

Ask Good Questions – The key to getting good feedback in minimal time is by asking questions that will get your users to articulate their issues on areas of concern. Ask them to accomplish a task, and watch as they attempt to solve the requested problem.

Online vs. is a great platform for gathering feedback from qualified testers completely remotely instead of a costly in-house focus group. The platform allows you to capture commentary and observe recorded use of your product. The platform is flexible, allowing you to collect feedback via verbal or written feedback, surveys, and screen recordings.  You can find qualified users through their platform based on demographics or recruit your own users.

Metrics & Analytics

Traditional analytics platform can give you a strong sense of product performance. For User Engagement, here are the metrics we recommend tracking before, during, and after UX overhauls:

Bounce Rate – For a marketing product, observing “bounce rate” gives you an indication of how effectively you are immediately grabbing a visitor’s attention. High bounce rates can indicate that the user arrived and was not compelled to continue with your experience. Factors that can contribute to this include: slow load times, boring messaging, lack of clear next steps or call-to-actions, ugly or out-of-date design. Mitigate these to decrease your bounce rates.

Exit Rate – Looking at the exit rate of each step of a process, such as onboarding, can demonstrate where you are losing users. Convoluted processes lead to immediate frustrations and abandonment.

Session Time – If your goal is to retain user’s attention, session length can a metric worth tracking. To increase session length, dedicate your team to retaining your users’ attention and providing an experience worth exploring.

Event Interaction If you are seeking a desired action or conversion, event-tracking is necessary. Especially for non-ecommerce sites, event tracking of specific interactions such as clicks, registrations, downloads can help you define goals for users and track conversions.

Conclusion: Before taking any action, utilize the concepts above to benchmark your application’s performance. Once you have a clear understanding of areas of opportunity, it’s time to start making improvements.

The first improvement we always recommend is the simplification of your product.

Read the second part of the series: Part 2 Boil It Down.