I work for one of the largest non-profits in the United States, Educational Testing Service, ETS for short. I work in the division of Digital Strategy and User Experience (DS&UX) as the Search Market and Web Metrics Analyst. Even though I am in the same division as our User Experience (UX) team, we report to different directors so all of work was for the most, separate. This lasted for years and all the time, I was wondering how the User Experience team was making informed decisions without actionable data. Eventually our Executive Director (who we share) came to me and asked me page counts of what our visitors were viewing. I gave him the counts for the specified time period and I asked him what he was going to with it. He said that he was going to hand it on the UX team so they could know what visitors were looking for. When I asked him, “How is that going to help them with page design?”, I knew I had just inadvertently gave myself much more work.
In our next meeting I explained to him that most of our traffic comes from search engines and by look at a pages report would not tell them what they were looking for on any specific page. Below is a screenshot showing Google results for “Praxis Register for a Test” (a common search phrase):
I explained to him that because visitors relied so heavily on search engines, they were going deep into our site on their first visit. While a pages report would give them overall what visitors were looking for, it would not give them an idea what people were looking for on any specific page.
I told him that I could give them a path analysis map which basically shows how a visitor:
- Got to a page
- Left a page
This sounded great to him but then I had to further explain to him that was not exactly the best thing I could give him. I explained that path analysis maps does the aforementioned very well when there is only one link to a new page but when there are multiple identical links on the same page, then it is impossible to discern which link they used:
We are looking into software that would provide us a solution but that is going through an RFP process now. In the interim, I came up with a more manual solution that uses our existing software, which allows the company to track which link visitors used on a specific page. WebTrends allows the coding of unique parameters at the end of URL. This parameter is sent to WebTrends where it organizes each time a link is clicked. The new previous scenario now looks like this:
After the temporary course was decided upon, I taught each of the web coders how to add this tracking. This new process has been applied to every new page that is coded. It also has been added to some of more popular pages. Now when user experience needs to design a new page, they will have statistics to back up their decisions, all because a simple parameter was added into the process of coding a new webpage.