Web Design, Analytics and Such…

…Rantings Of A Technology Student
Chris_Cone 10/15/2009

Table Of Contents

• Introduction • Web Analytics ○ What is it? ○ How is it measured? ○ How is it used? ○ A few tools ○ Rants • Web Site Attractiveness ○ Web Site Design Theory ○ Search Engine Optimization ○ Search Engine Marketing ○ Rants • Application Of Research ○ What I Did ○ Impact Of The Changes • Conclusion / Summary Of Rants • Bibliography

The purpose of this project is to understand web analytics and web site design theory and then to apply the theories and analytics to a personal blog. A baseline of the blog will be compared to the updated blog to see if the changes had any impact on the level of usage or the type of usage. At the end of each section I will give a short thought on the research called Rants, basically my opinion, random thoughts, rants…

Web Analytics
What is a website really worth? Is there any possible way to put a real value on it? Numerous people and companies have made even more numerous attempts to quantify a website’s value to a business. Everyone has encountered the “clicker”, the little number clicker that displays the number of “hits” or visits that a web page has received. Exactly how many different users visited, how many of those “hits” where from the same person? Where was the traffic concentrated? Right now the little “clicker” that could seems a bit inadequate. There has to be a better way to track the performance of a website…

What Is It?
Meet web analytics,” the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage” (Wikipedia-Analytics). In short, now the information to begin quantifying a websites business value is available. With web analytics a business can find out how a visitor found the website, what pages the visitor looked at, what they bought, when they visited, etc., all of this can help a business figure out how improve their website to better serve the visitors. Analytics involves gathering the data and using that data to make a decision. Web analytics grabs this data from all sorts of sources but there are two main ways that that web analytics collect data.

How Is It Used?
One approach is to include JavaScript code on each web page that will send user activity to the analytics provider. The second approach is called the log file or log analysis method. Log analysis refers to “tracking files that record user behavior”( Web Data)Each approach has its benefits: log analysis

is often cheaper and safer while JavaScript is often more accurate, the right method will depend on the site and the needs of the user. Here are some of the metrics that are tracked: (Web Analytics Standards) Variable Visits / Sessions Description Measures one person’s actions over a specific amount of time. A user that has been on a coffee break for 32 min and decides to continue browsing will count as two visits. Counts the number of unique persons (by IP address) on a website at a particular time (hours, days, weeks…) The number of times a link was clicked The number of click-throughs for a specific link divided by the number of times that link was viewed. Number of exits from a page divided by total number of page views for that page This is the page URL that originally generated the request for the current page or object. Each website hit will have a referrer.

Unique Visitors

Click-Through Click-through rate Page Exit Ratio Referrer

A Few Tools
Web analytics seem like a great thing, so where can I sign up? First off ask a few questions: What do I need to know about my website visitors? , How complex is my website? How much data do I need?, How do I want the results displayed? Many web host offer some sort of analytics option that is included with the hosting. These are often very basic but could be a reasonable choice based on the user demands. If the demands are high, here are a few web analytics options. The Tool Google Analytics Description Offers surprisingly rich displays and robust data when the price is considered. Cost It’s Google… Free

Omniture’s SiteCatalyst WebSideStory

Powerful hosted packed directed at complex high-traffic websites. Regarded as one of the most powerful and usable solutions. Wide range of products but known for high-end.

~ $1000 / month Varies

Choosing an option will still depend on the answers to the questions above, along with a few others, and personal preferences. Course of action… check with the web host there may already be a free, included option that will work out. The next stop would be Google, the analytics package is very impressive, but some issues have been noted with support and the forever beta version. Moving into the advanced analytics packages unveils a host of other questions, one must consider if the multi-level data tree support and flashy dashboards out-weigh the cost of the service. Personally Google provides more than enough bells and whistles for a website with two pages or a single page blog, however, for more complex websites a purchase option may be the answer. Sample Screen Shot of Google’s Dashboard(Google Analytics)

Web Site Attractiveness
What exactly is attractiveness? The word itself means different things for different people…so how is a web designer supposed to create something that is considered attractive? The short answer is that it is impossible; the more complicated answer leads to web site design theory.

Web Design Theory
As with any marketing design or campaign, the target audience should be the first consideration. With that in mind there are a few basic concepts that can help guide a designer’s eye. Web design theory must start with general design theory, theory that can be applied to and strengthen any design; color, balance, proportion, rhythm, contrast and closure (Digital Web)each one of these elements contains its own design theory. Without getting lost in the theories and details I’ll try to keep the design concepts more related to web design. Good web sites begin with a good layout. In general a clean easy to navigate layout will be the best play to start a website. The website must consider flow, which is how visitors will move from one page to another. Navigation must make since and be easy to follow. Websites are becoming more and more rich, meaning that; users get a more engaging and stimulating ( visually and auditory) experience, data is displayed in dashboards and elaborate graphs, and user interfaces increase productivity. There can be too much of a good thing, but designers should leverage the tools available for creating rich internet applications. Sometimes just as important as what things a designer should include in his or her website are the things that should not be included. Screen Shot From The “World’s Worst Web Site” Created to Display Common Developer Mistakes Click here to enjoy the World's Worst Website

While dramatically overdone, the picture above does teach a few valuable lessons: color choice does matter, pop-ups make people crazy, misspelled words are unacceptable, and there is such a thing as too much animation and yes advertising can get a bit overwhelming.

So now that the website is looking pretty good, how might people actually find this website? Google owns between 62 % and 69% of the search engine market share depending on what news article is being referenced, so how does Google (and the others) find you? Search engine optimization is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines (Wikipedia-SEO). Basically SEO deals with making a website more likely to be found by a search engine. This is done by ensuring keywords are repeated and placed in the right places, meta-data is correctly placed in the HTML file, domain names are related to the website, and images are relevant to the keywords used in the website. Search engines can be tricky, too much optimization can lead to a website that is poor in design or veers away from the original intent of the designer.

Search engine market is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of paid placement (Wikipedia-SEM). The goal of SEO and SEM are essentially the same, the process of getting there is much different.

Websites are, generally speaking, created for people to visit. Follow the design standards, implement SEO techniques and consider SEM…it all

sounds great but it is not quite that easy. In the end a website must reflect its visitors preferences, analytics can help to determine what these are. Many website will never show up on Google without SEO, becoming lost in the sea of information. SEM is expensive, $9.4 billion in 2006 (WikipediaSEM) whether it’s worth it will depend…my rant, I think that SEO is generally enough, but there must be something to the SEM story with that kind of money be spent on advertising.

Application of Research
Learning is only as good at the application of that knowledge and for me, more learning took place during the application process. The analytics of the blog in its original form revealed 3 visits, but the interesting (at least to me) fact was that one of those visitors was directed from a search engine. I figured that everyone that viewed the blog got there from the master blog list on the class website, so seeing that someone found my blog through a search was pretty cool. With only 3 visits…and I’m guessing that one of those visits was probably me, I know another was Dr. Piercy (he left comments), and then there is the search engine referral, so there simply is not much data to analyze. I used Google Analytics because Google is free, I already had a Google account and the services / tools that Google provides seemed to be adequate for my needs. Setting up Google was a snap, simply create an analytics account with your current Google account, and input the URL into the Google interface and Google will create a snippet of code to be placed in the HTML of your blog, pretty straight forward. The only trick is that it can take Google up to twenty four hours to establish the connection and report the status back to the user interface. The tricky part…not reading that before hand and trying to figure out why my status was showing up unknown. Here is a screen shot of the blog in its original form along with the analytics from the original blog.

What I Did
After studying over the design ideas, theories, and such, I decided that my blog was too crowded. I was previously using Google Adsense on the blog and it was really a joke, don’t get me wrong the ads were relevant and numerous, but after really considering what a blog is for and how the ads were basically taking over the page, I decided that they had to go. Next I wanted to focus on increasing the richness of the blog, and making the user experience more interactive by adding videos that relate to the topic of the post. I also added pictures and logos that related to each post. I used a

template to create the color scheme and felt that the colors were appropriate and allowed for a certain amount of customization for each post (see the Blue Ocean Strategy post, where the colors are blue).

Impact of the Changes
So what happened? Unfortunately there simply were not enough visitors to really get a feel for the analytics, although the number of views did go from 3 to 6, a %50 increase in around 4 days. I originally thought that the increase came in the last few days with my fellow classmates viewing blogs while working on the midterm, further analysis led me to believe that this was true as all of the visits came on Tuesday the 13th, data was not yet available for Wednesday the 14th, but I’m thinking that it will reveal even more hits than Tuesday did. Feeling a little disappointed, I kept playing with Google Analytics and found the Content tab. Here is where I felt a little better about myself; I noticed the video that I added related to SOA got two hits! I took the junk ads out and added a video that made since and got a bite, it worked. So while the impact of the changes may not be huge, or even noticeable, I can really see where the analytics can reveal a lot of information about how your site is performing. I also can see how applying some very, very simple design theories / suggestions can have an impact. Who knows, if my website was selling an iPhone app, and that video was a demo, I may have just grabbed a couple of customers that I would have otherwise missed. Screen shots of the analytics and the updated blog. The video bar on the right side is a top iPhone apps from YouTube that also got a hit.

Summary of Rants

Overall I’m impressed with how a little knowledge can go a long way. I’m currently in the process of applying some of the design theories and using Google Analytics on a website that I created for a friend’s non-profit organization. I’m pretty excited about the results. I’m still shocked that the videos that I posted on the blog actually got hits and pretty quickly. Google Analytics seems to reveal more to me every time I use it. The analytics are truly very powerful and can reveal a lot about a website's visitors. Applying simple, basic theories in design (like removing ads) can really make a huge visual impact. With more visitors I’m sure that I would have noticed a change in navigation also.

Works Cited

"Web Analytics". Wikipedia. 10-07-09 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_analytics>.

“Web Analytics Data Collection Methods". Practical E-Commerce. 10-08-09 <http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/196-Web-Analytics-Data-CollectionMethods>.

“Google Analytics". Google. 10-07-09 <http://www.google.com/analytics/>.

"Analytics Definitions". Web Analytics Association. 10-08-09 <http://www.webanalyticsassociation.org/attachments/committees/5/WAAStandards-Analytics-Definitions-Volume-I-20070816.pdf>.

"Principles of Design". Digital Web. 10-09-09 <http://www.digitalweb.com/articles/principles_of_design/), >.

"World's Worst Website". Angle Fire. 10-13-09 <http://www.angelfire.com/super/badwebs/>.

“Search Engine Optimization". Wikipedia. 10-13-09 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization>.

“Search Engine Marketing". Wikipedia. 10-13-09 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_marketing>.