Sunday, September 17, 2006


I recently had a dialog with somebody who was somewhat justifiably complaining that what she wanted was not analytics, but analytics that actually mattered. She was having trouble threshing out the latter from the chaff that all these programs produce in abundance. Or maybe that's the wrong metaphor. She had this full pantry of ingredients but didn't own a cookbook and, furthermore, didn't even know what she wanted for dinner. Or (sorry, sorry, sorry! I'm going too far with this ...) she didn't even know whether it was time for breakfast or dinner.

It sounds like a pretty typical conversation that analytics people hear a lot (or have with themselves when nobody's around). But this lady was a really smart and experienced person, although as she admitted, a bit of a princess at times. This particular got-analytics-so-what conversation was more thought-provoking than usual.

Her half of the conversation (which was sporadic over a couple of days at a conference) made it clear that she had already done a lot of good analysis that was definitely in the "matters" category. The perplexing thing for me was that a lot of this analysis didn't use site traffic data. She was doing focus groups and surveys as well as site data. A lot of what she was learning was coming from the former.

So the first thought-provoking part of the conversation was this musing: I have a survey research and focus group and interview background and the situation is familiar. A web site is an experience for human beings. Being able to ask direct questions to actual human beings is probably what most of us would instinctively gravitate towards. So surveys and groups happen.

When analyzing site traffic we are a couple of concepts removed from asking human beings about what we want to know. We may be able to come up with really smart questions (which is 90% of the talent of good researchers), but when doing site traffic analysis we have to do additional steps, namely translating those questions into other questions that can be answered by what amounts to photographs of footprints.


Anonymous Avinash Kaushik said...

Chris: It can't be a either or strategy. Website "analytics" is such a complicated beast that I have found a multifaceted approach is usually required. One that would allow us to measure the behaviour (clickstream) as well as the experience (what your friend was measuring). That gets us to the desired outcome or having "analytics that matter". The interesting part is that it is just much quantitative as qualitative.

Here is a post if you might be interested in more context:

Would love to get your feedback as well.



1:02 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

No question that it's not either-or, at the organizational level. All possible approaches should be combined.

In my post I was staying within the level of an individual working on just one of the legs of the stool, the clickstream part and only the clickstream part. My point is that we have these clickstream analysis tools that rarely produce something genuinely USE-ful.

5:29 AM  

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