Sunday, April 13, 2008

Making Web Analytics easier: food for thought

I finished reading Made to Stick a few days ago; "why some ideas survive and others die". Being an entrepreneur & speaker myself, this book will join my well furnished bookshelf, along with Blink, The Tipping Point, The Attention Economy and several others.

Here are some tidbits of wisdom I gathered from the book

The curse of knowledge

The curse of knowledge is "a natural psychological tendency that consistently confounds our ability to create ideas." Research in psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we not only become lousy communicators, it also become harder to be more imaginative. This is empathy. Putting ourselves in the shoes of a beginner or non-expert is important.

As web analysts, we know much more about the web then most people. It's true when we design a site or want to improve it, it's also true when we need to communicate the results of our analysis. It's true when we want to communicate a complex subject in simple terms or when we face the difficult task of bringing web analytics to the corporate culture and need to simplify the process.


WIIFY "What's In It For You", and the other one I really like is "ETDBW" which stands for "Easy To Do Business With" (well presented in The Agenda by Michael Hammer). Let go self interest, you don't build a site for yourself...

One of my great work experience was for Our boss was constantly hammering the ETDBW mantra, pushing us to find new ways to improve our B2B site for dealers. In about 2 years we went from 0% to 80% and even 98% conversion rates for some of the most critical transactions. It worked because we were not doing it for us, we didn't think WIIFMe, we thought WIIFY all the time.

Attention, honesty & trust

Some people have the authority to demand attention. Even if I turned 40 this year, my mother still have some of that authority! The policemen who stopped me on the highway had the authority and all my attention too... Most of the time, though, we can't demand attention; we must attract it.

Web analysts often suffer from "attention deficit"... they struggle to get attention from their peers and managers. Increasing attention relates to honesty - such as when communicating bad news - and trustworthiness of our sources, in this case the web analytics tool we use. Attention, honesty and trust complements each other to increase our authority.

Details & stories

I found many quotes that perfectly relates to analytics in Made to Stick. Novices perceives concrete details just as such: concrete details. "Experts perceive concrete details as symbols of patterns and insights that they have learned through years of experience". We've all seen it: pages and pages of data, graphs and charts. It's often too much details, what we need is the insight. "It's more important for people to remember the relationship than the number. Statistics aren't inherently helpful; it's the scale and context that make them so." But "don't make up your mind and then go looking for the numbers to support yourself"...

I keep saying that it's not about the number, it's about the story. The problem is "ethically challenged people with lots of analytical smarts can, with enough contortions, make almost any case from a given set of statistics". It goes back to the honesty and trustworthy concept.

Solve problems when they need to be solved

The last thing I wanted to share comes from Common Craft. "If you're about to start something new, don't spend weeks trying to make the first attempt perfect. Get started as quickly as possible and learn as you go. Tinker, experiment and look for the big things you can tackle as you go. Solve problems when they need to be solved and you won't feel as overwhelmed by all the things that could be fixed." I like that!