If Only It Were Bigger…

August 26, 2008

I get all sorts of spam in my e-mail about making things bigger, but none of them are for the one thing I really want bigger: the interface for Omniture Excel Client.

It took me some time to get used to the Excel Client that Omniture offers.  Mostly it was because I was not sure what reports I needed or how I wanted the data.  That makes looking for an easy way to get the data difficult.  After a few weeks working with Omniture I was comfortable enough to begin using Omniture Excel Client (OEC) on a regular basis.  Life is filled with peaks and valleys from there on out.

Because the interface is connecting to Omniture it is inherently slow to do pretty much anything.  Now it is not horrible (most of the time) but when working in Excel changes are instant – think changing the font – and working in this slower interface takes some getting used to.  I will dedicate some future post to the issues and gleeful moments I have with the OEC but for now lets get back to the size issue.

OEC does not allow you to re-size the interface that you are working in.  So, for instance, if I am using the “Pages” or “Most Popular Pages” report and I see a list of page names, part of the names get cut off.  There is no side scrolling option to be found.  You just have to sit there and wonder what the full page name really is.  I will point out that this may not be an issue for lots of people, but if your site is large enough page names can get pretty long.  Also, I am a fan of descriptive page names so that when you see just the page name it is informative.  Names such as “Brand” “Item” “Size” or “Gender” “Size” “Shirt Type” are much better than a product number for page names.

So the real question here is why is the interface of OEC set up this way?  Did they not do QA testing on this?  I don’t have the answers.  All I know is that adding a side scrolling bar – not my favorite option but better than nothing – cannot be all that difficult to add into the interface.  Never mind that this issue persists in the newest version of OEC. Long page names are a reality and while you can use the search or advanced search to narrow your results it is a pain to have to do. Plus, OEC doesn’t save your advanced search so if you get results and need to edit it – such as exclude an additional word or phrase – be prepared to re-enter the entire search. Lots of NOT fun here too.

I am not sure what it will take for Omniture to fix this.  Apparently they have not got the notice that size matters.

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What A Picture is Worth

August 25, 2008

It is hard to value a picture of your family on vacation, of your friends at a party, or of your website 3 weeks ago.  As touching as the first two options are, this post will focus on the last of the three: a picture of your website.

Now for many people, this is not a big deal.  If you are running a blog or some other site that has a primary focus of serving content your website may not change much in appearance over the course of a few weeks.  But for the people that work with sites that have a focus of selling things with crisp pictures and captivating copy, things are  changing all the time – and analysts may or may not know about it.

As a beginner in web analytics, and in fact to marketing in general, it has become clear very early on that knowing why trends are changing in your data is nearly as important as the data itself.  What people want from an analyst is not “what is changing” but rather “why is that changing”.  Answering the first part will get their attention but very few people are content knowing that traffic is up 15% without knowing why.

Keeping a log of changes either manually or by writing a simple script – currently beyond my abilities, but a co-worker of mine whipped something up – is of great value.  Now we have a copy of what pages looked like on any day we want.  If the creative changes or a sub-zone on a division tab moves we have that change recorded.  With copies saved off, you are the owner.  Better yet, when someone asks for some analysis on your site’s homepage or division page you can not only show them the data and a cool graph, but an image of a pre-change and post-change look at the site.

It would be great if these things just happened or if the web analysts always knew what changes were happening when, but the reality is that that is not always the case.  If you manage the copies saved off you can always be sure you will capture the change, no matter if you are informed about it ahead of time or not.  If there is a question about content change, you can now look for yourself and deliver your analysis in a more timely and – more importantly – a more informed manner.

I’m not sure what a picture is worth, but a picture can turn data into information and information is priceless.

UPDATE: Just found a great example of this in an article written by Bryan Eisenberg.  You can find it here.  It deals with how people interact with Google search and how it has changed overtime.  Short, simple analysis but cool.