|InfoVis.net>Magazine>message nº 65||Published 2001-11-05|
|También disponible en Español|
The digital magazine of InfoVis.net
What the visitors of a web site do when surfing is vital information in order to take fundamental decisions on what to modify about the web's information architecture, where to place the most profitable banners and which strategy drives more people to the elements that yield more economical profit.
Nevertheless to know our users' behaviour is not an easy task. As in any other branch of knowledge, in order to understand what's happening we need:
Although the previous analysis is extremely basic, too many times I've seen decisions being taken without having established the appropriate channels to capture data and with a less than rigorous treatment of it. This typically leads to erroneous interpretations. To take decisions with ambiguous and fragmentary information is on many occasions an unavoidable art. Doing it without gathering data and interpreting it properly is a temerity.
Typically, the data gathering occurs in the logfile generated by the server.
The treatment of this data is the subject of specialised analysis software, like the many listed on the page on web-log analysis of the Open Directory Project .
Regarding the interpretation, if we base our research just on the logfile analysis, there is a series of important data that can't be known for sure. Among this data is
These facts can only be estimated, not truly known. Surprised?, see the thorough description of the interpretation problems that Stephen Turner, the Analog creator, provides.
So logfile analysis has been the starting point in order to begin to know what happens inside our websites. But it's completely insufficient. Although it's important to know how many pages we serve, which ones are the most consulted, etc. it doesn't tell us the most important things about the usability: what the users like and what they dislike, what pages are more attractive, how visitors move inside the website…
Pure logfile analysis is falling short. Next week we'll see how information visualisation could help us in this arena.
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