Archive for August, 2008

The Challenge Complete and Looking Ahead

Friday, August 29th, 2008

The post-a-day challenge for August has come to a close. What started as an idea from Cole Camplese (to challenge himself), for me, it turned into such a great challenge and learning experience.

I know I’ve already posted about my thoughts on the post-a-day challenge, but I’d love to sum up the experience as a whole … and talk about the future.

Not only have I learned to focus and not over-edit (or at least try) my posts, I’ve learned so much more:

  1. To open up
  2. To take a risk
  3. To respond quickly
  4. To post it and relax

I spent about 2 – 3 hours every night writing and editing my posts and reading others posts. It has been challenging, but I loved every minute of it. The timing of this challenge couldn’t have been better as I had *just* started this blog about three days before Cole’s kick-off post. The challenge forced me to dive in head first. Exciting and scary!

Going forward I hope to engage more people in higher education in a conversation around web analytics. As I’ve mentioned many times, web analytics is more than my passion.

To me, web analytics is about responsibility to our users, our students. It’s time to make it a priority.

Cat Treats and Sticky Notes

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I have two cats, Hogan and Haley. Haley loves food. She can’t get enough. She acts like I have been starving her for the past 10 years. She loves treats. So, I always give in, walk out to the kitchen, open up the treats and give her a few. Then I try to close the “resealable, stay fresh package.” For some reason it won’t reseal!

I spend a good five minutes and the darn thing won’t close! So, the package touts that it’s stay fresh and resealable, but it doesn’t state you need to be patient for the ten minutes it may take you to actually close the bag. <sigh>

Let’s move on.
(more…)

Instantly Actionable – Internal Site Search

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Internal site search can give you so many great insights. Remember, this is how your users are searching your site. I can see you reading this saying, “Duh. Thank you, miss obvious!” Think about it, though. What does that tell you? What does it scream?

Pay attention! That’s what it tells you. Internal site search is like a mini usability test. Instead of formally asking users what they are looking for on your website, they’re telling you … in their own words … without you asking them!

Let me expand. (more…)

Holy cow! Where the heck do we start?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about usability and web analytics and how you can’t have one without the other. When talking about recommendations from your usability testing, surveys, or website analytics, though, it can be overwhelming.

In higher education (as in a lot of fields), sometimes the reluctance to use web analytics correctly or test users might not be because website owners don’t think it’s useful, but rather because it may uncover too many issues. People are busy. Budgets are low. Where do we start?
(more…)

Web Analytics Resources

Monday, August 25th, 2008

There are so many great resources out there for every level of expertise in web analytics. I certainly won’t get to them all in this post – I probably won’t even scratch the surface. In this post I’ll go over what, in my opinion, are the “must have’s” to get started with web analytics – especially for those of you in higher education.

Although you can buy many books (there are quite a few out there now that are phenomenal), you don’t have to spend one cent if you don’t want to (or can’t!). There are so many free resources that could keep you busy researching for years.
(more…)

Eating Crow and Staying Up Late

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

For those of you following along this August, some bloggers here at Penn State have been writing a post a day. Cole and Anne gave their thoughts in posts yesterday so I’d like to reflect on the Post a Day challenge as well.

It’s interesting that I’ve had similar *and* completely different thoughts and feelings about taking part in the post a day challenge.

And today, I’ll be eating some crow. I’ll get to that later, though.

(more…)

Design and Function – Equally Essential

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Let me take a little break from analytics for a minute.

I’m currently reading a fantastic book called, A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future,” by Daniel Pink. When I’m finished with the book I plan to write an entire post about it, but I had to share some thoughts I had now.

Even though I’m only halfway through, I immediately saw an analogy to higher education websites.
(more…)

Instantly Actionable – The 404 Page

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

If you do nothing else with your web analytics, please do this: create a custom 404 (page not found) page, tag it, and review it at least monthly. This report helps you in a couple ways:

  1. It gives you instant insights that are instantly actionable.
  2. It is user-friendly, giving the user options other than the back button (leaving them on the same page with the same bad link! Ugh!)

First thing is first. Do you have a custom 404 page? If not, set one up. Recently, June Dershewitz wrote a great post about the importance of 404 pages, most notably, custom 404 pages. To figure out if you have a custom 404 page, type www.yourdomain.com/foo into your browser. Do you see something like this? Or, does your 404 look like this:
(more…)

The technology stinks and besides, I don’t have time!

Monday, August 18th, 2008

I always have conversations that go something like this:

Me. “Hey, do you use any web analytics tools on your website?”
Them. “Yeah, [enter vendor name and tool here] is awesome. it can do [long list of features here].”

Me. “Cool, have you tried [enter other vendor name and tool here]?
Them. “Yeah, it’s terrible, it can’t do [long list of features lacking here].”

Me. (completely dejected) “Oh … uh … ok.”
(more…)

Analytics for the Intranet

Friday, August 15th, 2008

In this post, instead of talking about specific reports that will help track a department or unit Intranet, I will be focusing on how Intranets differ from most public-facing websites and how you look at your analytics will also be different.

Department Intranets are very different from your public-facing sites. For one thing, most of them are behind some type of authentication, which can add some complexity. Some intranets may also include AJAX or other types of technology that are not the standard static html pages.
(more…)