Clickstream analysis is an approach to examining the way users interact with web pages and software programs that relies on tracking the clicks the user makes. As users navigate, they use their mice to jump from page to page, to activate menus, and to engage in other activities. This information, the clickstream, can be used in a number of different ways to improve experiences for users, develop better marketing campaigns, and analyze productivity in a workplace or similar environment.
One way to use clickstream analysis is in testing. As people interact with a new program or website, looking at the way they navigate can provide important information. The clickstream may indicate a component is broken or does not work as expected, suggest certain adjustments should be made to the navigation, or show that people are not using the site or program as intended. Software testers and people testing websites before they are made public are told to explore their options as much as possible, and sometimes to attempt to deliberately break the program or site. A clickstream analysis can provide important information about how they interacted with the computer during their session.
For marketing analysis, looking at clickstreams is very important. People use clickstream analysis on e-commerce sites to find out what makes consumers opt in or out of deals, and to see how to streamline the process. The goal is to encourage as many visitors as possible to complete transactions. While the site can be designed to appeal to people from a search engine optimization and aesthetic perspective, which ensures that people find the site and like what they see, if it is difficult to complete a transaction, potential customers can be turned off. Clickstream analysis provides information about how potential customers interact with the site and shopping cart, allowing people to implement new features and improve the navigation.
The clickstream can also provide information about productivity and efficiency. More clicks usually mean that people are having to step through several layers of options to get to the places they want to go. Making material more accessible and organizing information in more logical ways can cut down on the amount of time people spend navigating, increasing the amount of time they spend actively working.
Internet service providers may maintain information on the clickstreams of their customers, and can sell this information, with identifying information stripped, to companies interested in doing clickstream analysis. Servers also maintain clickstream data, allowing people to track activities on a given website or family of sites.