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Data Visualizations and Average Visit Duration

August 8th, 2013

For a long time, I’ve been interested in average time spent browsing websites. In particular, do data visualizations make people spend more time on a given site and thus increase the site’s “stickiness”?

I recently took a look at Google Analytics statistics on a number of sites we host. Interestingly, sites seem fall into certain categories according to their industry.

Here are my general findings:

  • B-to-B sites: average time spent on site 1:22 – 1:54
  • Museums: 2:00 – 2:13
  • Historical databases: 2:23 – 5:48 (see note below)
  • Data visualizations: 3:26 – 5:12

And here’s the same data (lowest and highest duration in each category) visualized with Chart.js:

Visit duration (in mins)

Most likely, a lot of people browse B-to-B sites in order to find contact information or such, which does not (and should not) take a lot of time. On the other hand,one might ask whether B-to-B sites should also provide more interesting content to keep the visitors engaged longer.

One explanation for museums’ higher stickiness might be that people usually browse cultural websites in their leisure time and might not be forced to leave the site as soon as they do during the daytime. (I might write another post on the correlation between stickiness and the time of the day. Do people spend more time on sites in the evening? See also my recent blog post)

The highest stickiness scores can be found on historical database sites, in particular Ylioppilasmatrikkeli, the online version of the Student Roll of University of Helsinki 1640 – 1852. Clearly, if you provide people with a lot of data that they find fascinating (and useful), they will end up spending a lot of time on your site. This might be a good tip for commercial sites, too. Open up data for your users!

And how about the data visualizations we host?

For a lot of them, there were unfortunately too few visitors to make the statistics reliable. Therefore, only a handful of them were really comparable. Those which were, however, were right up there with historical databases. Once again, if people find the visualizations engaging enough, they will spend more time on the site. Therefore, deploying data visualizations on a website can definitely be a way to increase users’ interest in your site.

*) For some reason, I found an exception to the rule, which is not shown in the graph above. The site we created on medieval sources in Finland, Kirjava keskiaika, currently runs the lowest average time in my entire selection of sites: a mere 1:11 / visit. This puzzles me a bit: the site has some very fascinating content. It may be that the site receives a lot of random visits where people do not find the site “right” for them and leave immediately.

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Data Visualizations and Average Visit Duration
Do data visualizations make people spend more time on a given site and thus increase the site’s “stickiness”?

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