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Web analytics and usability

by Toby Biddle

Statistics are always problematic (or a great deal of fun) if you are not sure in what way they should be analysed and how they can assist in the continuous improvement of your digital offering. Starting this month we'll be running some articles focusing on what your website statistics could and should be doing for your business. This article looks at how you can start approaching the use of your website statistics to add greater value to your organisation as a whole (which never hurts when you're looking for budget).

Whether you're running the latest measurement software from Nielsen Net Ratings, or a simply click counter on your home page, it is crucial that your website statistics are an integral part of your continuous improvement process. At a basic level your stats will tell you how many visitors are visiting your website and how many people are achieving their goals (and your business goals), whether finding information or purchasing something from the site. At a more sophisticated level your website data provides comprehensive, real time feedback as to what is, and isn't working on your website.

When we analyse web statistics for our clients our goal is to determine direct actions for improvement based on the data you have collected and perhaps more importantly to measure the direct impact these improvements have on your website once implemented. The application of appropriate statistical analysis drastically reduces the guesswork in the improvement process of your website.

Statistics looked at in isolation will give you simple metrics such as number of visitors to your home page or the number of sales you've made. This may be all the information you need to get web budget approved, in which case there is no need for more sophisticated analysis. The problem of course comes when you need to explain why visitors aren't translating into customers or why your fantastic new digital help centre isn't reducing the burden of the organisation's call centre.

These types of scenarios can be addressed in two different ways.

1. Reactive Site Management

* The Customer Service Centre complains that too many customers are still calling to get mailed forms that are on the website.

* You check the statistics and see that 75% of visitors are coming to the home page, searching forms and then closing their browser.

* You try the search yourself and realise forms aren't coming up high enough in the search results.

* You optimise the forms page and voila! - more people download the forms reducing the call centre burden.

2. Proactive Site Management

* You approach a business unit to see where they are most in need of digital support, and you analyse the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data together with the website statistics to agree on some common goals.

* You decide together that the majority of customer calls are about needing to be mailed forms.

* You suggest that the Customer Service Centre build a question into their calls establishing that customers would be happy to download the forms from the website.

* You optimise the forms section in search, promote it on the site AND via the Customer Service Centre.

* You measure the website statistics in conjunction with the CRM statistics and can now show a direct correlation between the reduction in the volume of calls (and cost of postage) and the increase in traffic to the forms on the website.

While the result might be similar the impact is vastly different. As the owner of the website you've moved from being seen as just a cost centre to actually impacting on the business' bottom line.

Our Usability Insurance clients are finding that this ongoing process of measuring site traffic and visitor behaviour and assessing continuous improvement is much more powerful than reacting to a series of single issues. More importantly, when it comes to reporting time you have a suite of information demonstrating where and how you've added value through proactive web management rather than simply listing changes you've made to satisfy individual requests. Using statistics in this integrated fashion, rather than a simple measure of traffic, is ultimately more powerful for the whole organisation.

Saturday, Jan 13th, 2007