Summary: Down with Page Views, Hurray with the tabula rasa Analytics?
Avinash Kaushik has been talking about the death of “page centricity”. As more websites become applications, the “website as a series of page” metaphor is obsolete and needs to be replaced by the need for measuring “business events“.
This represents major challenges in how we define analytics data and “business events”, but more importantly frees us from focusing on how to fit in “pageviews” and “clicktstream” data as correlating with business-related KPIs.
Instead, we are presented with a tabula rasa, where each analytics tool will be custom tailored for each website. Set-up will be more intense and a case-by-case effort, but in the end we’ll be allowed maximum flexibility in getting the data we need.
We’ll see, perhaps I’m being optimistic on this…but at the very leasts, this would open up a large consulting opportunity in setting up such an analytics system for each client.
Ever witty and insightful Avinash Kaushik writes on 5 challenges of Web Analytics Vendors, among them the “#2 Reliance on ‘page centricity’”:
No matter how you look at it at the moment every single vendor relies on a â€œpageâ€ to exist on a site in order for the analytics to function. The page can be defined by a unique url or url stem or a combination of parameters in the url or a url and a piece of data stuffed back into the application (think gmail, the url is always the same but when I hit reply I am sure Google Analytics is being passed a piece of data that is telling it I am now viewing the â€œreply pageâ€).
The current solutions rely on a page to know what you are doing, how long you have been on the site, how deep did you get, what â€œgroup of content you have seenâ€, was your visit a success etc etc.
Still none of the vendors have stepped forward to change their fundamental data collection and key metric computation models to move into the new world. Even when metrics are suggested for the new world and data capture methods are suggested they still rely on stuffing data/values into the â€œpage centricâ€ places in the tools to solve problems. (emphasis mine)
Indeed, the web was originally about information management and knowledge share (Check out the original WWW proposal). But if anything can be taken from the current “Web 2.0″ phase, it is that we are now in an age where websites now also function as interactive applications (from Writely and even NetFlix). A website as a “series of web pages” metaphor no longer works.
How Will We Measure? Business Events v. Pageviews and Clicksteams
I asked Avinash Kauskik what he thoughts were on resovling this issue, here’s an excerpt:
We are migrating to â€œbusiness activityâ€ on the web and there will be â€œbusiness eventsâ€ that occur and outcomes as a result of these events. In a world where pages donâ€™t exist I think we will measure
1) the effectiveness of the sub-experiences as a whole and
2) deeply stress outcomes (qualitative or quantitative) and judge value of sub-experiences much harder on what the outcomes are (vs. today where it is so easy to get a count of page views that we report that rather than deeper outcomes impacting analysis)
A “tabula rasa” Appraoch to Analytics?
At first the first task of the “New Analytics” looks daunting: define the very type of data you need to track for a particular website, incorporating the website’s business goals, function etc. (That in itself is a great consulting opportunity for anyone wishing to advance in the Analytics community).
So while the setup process is high – working with marketers, technical, usability, BI folks etc – to define what and how to measure, a “New Analytics” approach would present a tabula rasa – where we can define exactly it is what we want to measure from the get go. Every event, transaction – defined as what it is – not by asking ourselves “what kind of pageview or clickstream would represent KPI X or KPI Y?”
Yes, this viewpoint sounds counterintuitive – more work in defining varibles, no standard templates for measurement but rather a case-by-case basis. But with these challenges comes great flexibility and potential. Essentially, each web analytic tool would be unique for each website.
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