Do you see numbers or people?


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I recently attended  a training course where we were taught how to interpret figures in web analytics software. We learnt about the different reports to use in specific situations and where to look for trends and behaviours. All massively valuable and seen in Google Analytics, Omniture and WebTrends amongst others.


Remember – the figures are only a part of the solution
Something strikes me about this software, and web analytics in general. The knowledge of using the system and synthesising the data is really only the beginning of the work (and perhaps the job roles that are needed to be employed).

You then need to communicate findings and come up with a solution. The solution generation crosses the boundaries of data gathering and interpretation and goes into the hypothesising and creation of creative ideas to address the problem.


The importance of a knowledge leader
Marketing people are key in the role of managing website optimisation. They know the message they wish to communicate, they know the business goals and have a strategy that they are keen to fulfil.

The analyst needs to be aware of how to take these goals and build the data around their wishes. It takes analysts and UX people to combine the data and the marketing mission, to present a test scenario that can give results that are meaningful.

We know that people are unpredictable but designers also know what makes people react, which design communicates best, which interactive elements on a form enable the smoothest processing for the user.




Getting the team in place
I believe that an optimisation team consists of the data analyst, a developer, a designer, a marketing person, a UX person and (importantly) a project manager to ensure the work is synchronised.

Not having one of these roles will be problematic and risk a bad test run, poor data and wasted budget. Before embarking on a project, even if you can’t guarantee a person in each of the roles at least ensure that the team is aware of the end goal.

The best analysts see the numbers and the people. The best optimisation work is carried out by a team, and not an individual. Getting the mix right, as always, will define the success of the work.


Recipe for success
It is important to remember that  the analytics tools we use are only  a small part of a much larger piece of work. The companies selling these products may tell you otherwise, but the most intelligent part of the software, are the users of the system.

The people who will make the improved user experience and give the website the conversions it craves are the most important ingredient here. Like other parts of web development, getting the right people in place with appropriate tools will determine the success of optimisation.

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