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No More Pogo Sticking: Protect Users from Wasted Clicks

by Aurora Harleyon April 12,2015

Summary:Misleading links and omitted information force users to bounce back and forth in a hub-and-spoke pattern between a routing page and subpages linked from it,increasing the interaction cost and decreasing engagement over time.Use web analytics tools to identify and monitor pogo-stick behavior on your site.


When people have problems finding content,both time and clicks are wasted hunting through extraneous pages on a site.Thehub-and-spokepattern of navigating from a routing page—a search-engine results page (SERP),section landing page,product-category page,or similar—to a page deeper in the site's hierarchy,then immediately back to the routing page is referred to aspogo sticking.

Recently,I found myself pogo sticking through the Redbox website.Why,you ask,was I doing this?I had wanted to walk to my nearest Redbox location,to get a little exercise and avoid an extra trip in the car,and grab a movie to watch that evening.On the website,I searched for my specific Redbox kiosk location and was shown a list of movies to browse.Upon seeing a movie that interested me,I clicked to get more information only to find that it was not available to reserve at my chosen location.Disappointing.I returned to the list of movies to try another option and again it was not available.It became clear that this browse page contained numerous movies that were not available at my chosen location.This did not match what I had specifically asked for!The excess work and frustration nearly dissuaded me from renting a movie altogether—had it not been for others in my company wanting to watch a new movie,I would have just streamed something on Netflix.

When a company's website makes customers think lovingly of the biggest competitor,something is wrong.

Pogo sticking between Redbox movie pages
Pogo-stick behavior on the Redbox website: After specifying a kiosk location,the list of movies still included options not available to rent at the chosen kiosk.This did not match the expectation set by selecting a location,and forced me to pogo stick through each movie in the list until an available movie was found.Note: the browse page does display a tooltip showing availability when a user hovers over a movie,but the delay is too long and the hidden help can be easily missed.

The Problem with Pogo Sticking

Pogo-stick behavior is often discussed in regards to people bouncing off a site and returning to an external search engine.While this pattern may be generated by a poorly manbetx官方网站手机版designed landing page,highbounce ratescould also be due to visitors who are not truly interested in the product or service offered,and thus are not valid prospective customers.

Within a website,pogo-stick behavior is an indication that people are struggling to find relevant content.Navigating repeatedly through the same pages quickly becomes tiresome,and is highly discouraging.Users in this situation may give up entirely,or settle with the mostsatisficinganswer encountered during the arduous journey through the site.Because of the excessive effort exerted,these users are not likely to extend their visit for a second purpose,nor do they ever return.This demonstrates theinteraction elasticityof websites,where a higherinteraction costresults in lower usage over time.

Users pogo stick from a page because the content found upon arrival was disappointing—somehow thedestination did not match the expectationset by the page leading to it.Thismismatch between a link and its corresponding pagechips away at the credibility of the website,and at the brand as a whole.People resent sites that trick them into spending a click while getting nothing in return.In user's eyes,these are not onlywasted clicks,but also wasted time.

Identifying Pogo-Stick Behavior Using Web Analytics

Most often,pogo sticking is discovered by directly observing users during usability tests.However,web-analytics tools can also help identify this behavior and monitor improvements once changes have been implemented.The process of examining the sequence of pages that a user has visited during a single session on a website is known as path analysis.

The tool needed to find this data may be named differently in various web-analytics platforms,but it should be available in each of them.Analyzing specific navigational paths within a website can be a time-consuming task,so it is best to first identify those pages that are candidates for pogo sticking.Suspects may include your homepage,landing pages for main sections of content,your site's internal search-results page,and product-browse pages.Prioritize which pages you tackle first,based on their visibility to your audience (overall unique traffic) and their potential for improvement.(Some personal judgment will be required for the latter,but you're likely to gain the most from fixing those pages within your conversion funnel that have a high exit rate.)

The most simplistic way to identify a page where pogo-stick behavior may be occurring is to look at routing pages with a high ratio of page views to unique page views.This measure indicates that many usersrepeatedlynavigate to those pages.However,this number alone does not necessarily mean that users pogo stick or otherwise fail to find information.

The exact same click behavior can be indicative of a positive user experience instead of pogo sticking if users repeatedly follow links from a routing page because they find all the destinations interesting.Consider,for example,a newspaper homepage with many news stories.If a user clicks,say,five of the headlinesand reads all those manbetx官网手机登陆articles,then this is good,not bad.On the other hand,if a user clicked those exact same five headlines and was disappointed with every single article (because of misleading teasers),then it would be bad.Simply counting clicks won't differentiate between these two scenarios.

To get a better picture of how users interact with a routing page and with the pages it links to,the data must be narrowed to the session level and exclude paths where the user visited several pages before returning to the routing page or when the user spent substantial time engaging with the destination pages.In other words,you want to include only patterns of the type X-Y-X,where X is a routing page and Y is a page linked from X.  By creating a segment identifying that path sequence,you can measure the percentage of users exhibiting this pattern of navigation,and monitor it over time.

Segment by sequence screen in Google Analytics
Example of setting up a path-sequence segment using Google Analytics.Note the use ofis immediately followed by… rather than theis followed by… option,in order to properly separate visits navigating directly between the specified pages without any detours.

Investigate Using Qualitative Methods

Once pogo sticking has been identified,follow up with qualitative research—usability testing—to determine what may be spurring this behavior.Are people looking for a page or some content that they expected to find but doesn't actually exist (or at least,isn't available through that page)?Did a link on the page promise cute pictures of kittens but instead presented users with a wordy article scrutinizing society's infatuation with prepubescent animals?Or,did that browse page not clearly display key differentiating information for people to easily find the product that fulfills their need—like what happened to me on the Redbox website?Quantitative data from analytics cannot explainwhya behavior occurs,nor how to improve the experience,but only if and where that behavior may be happening.

Here are some of the common problems that can cause pogo-sticking behavior,along with suggested solutions and research activities that can be used to uncover the best way to implement those solutions.

Problem Solution Research

Users want something that is not currently on your site.

Create that content.

User research—field studies,task analysis,and search-log analysis (people tend to search for something if they want it but can't find it)—can identify users' top information needs.

Misleading links cause people to be disappointed after clicking.

Write plain-spoken links,usinguser-oriented language,instead of ‘teasing' links or links using your own internal terminology.

Search-log analysis can reveal the users' preferred terminology,as can listening to usersthinking aloudduring usability studies.

Users can't determine which of the items listed will meet their needs.

Improve theinformation scentof each item's description on the routing page.

Discover the strongest differentiating parameters by watching users solve problems in usability studies.

After fixing a pogo-sticking problem,you will probably observe an immediatedecline in your page views.But this is good!Users aren't wasting as much time and effort navigating to pages they don't need,and so the overall page count drops.This is an example where a more nuanced approach to interpreting website analytics data is required than simply wanting ever bigger numbers.Additionally,if you track analytics data forreturningvisitors you will likely find an increase inuser loyalty,driven by improved usability now that people can easily find what they're looking for.Higher loyalty will again drive increased page views over the long term.But short-term numbers will be down,这是积极的,因为这意味着你stopped annoying userswith wasted clicks.

Learn more tips on using analytics data to identify usability issues during our full-day course onAnalytics and User Experience.