Web analytics

Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage.[1]

Web analytics is not just a tool for measuring website traffic but can be used as a tool for business research and market research. Web analytics applications can also help companies measure the results of traditional print advertising campaigns. It helps one to estimate how traffic to a website changes after the launch of a new advertising campaign. Web analytics provides information about the number of visitors to a website and the number of page views. It helps gauge traffic and popularity trends which is useful for market research.

There are two categories of web analytics; off-site and on-site web analytics.

Off-site web analytics refers to web measurement and analysis regardless of whether you own or maintain a website. It includes the measurement of a website’s potential audience (opportunity), share of voice (visibility), and buzz (comments) that is happening on the Internet as a whole.

On-site web analytics measure a visitor’s journey once on your website. This includes its drivers and conversions; for example, which landing pages encourage people to make a purchase. On-site web analytics measures the performance of your website in a commercial context. This data is typically compared against key performance indicators for performance, and used to improve a web site or marketing campaign’s audience response.

Historically, web analytics has referred to on-site visitor measurement. However in recent years this has blurred, mainly because vendors are producing tools that span both categories.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_analytics

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3 Key Skills for Web Analysts

Integrated marketing guru Don E. Schultz coined the phrase “marketing is static, but the consumer is dynamic” nearly two years ago. Businesses must rely on the expertise of their web analysts to tap into the invaluable data collected through their websites.

If anyone still has doubt about a career in web analytics, the recente Metrics Summit revealed just how hot the job market is. Attendees and exhibitors looking to hire wore a green dot on their badges, a simple and effective method that clearly demonstrated the huge demand for web analysts.

What should companies seeking web analysts be looking for?

  1. Experience: web analytics is not an entry-level position
  2. Multi-disciplinary background or training
  3. Attention to detail and ability to focus

“As an experiment, it was too successful,” says eMetrics Summit producer Jim Sterne. “We don’t want to scare away managers who are worried their employees will be poached at the next one in October, so this was one time only.”

Furthermore, results of a study by WebAnalyticsDemystified revealed that nearly 50 percent of those already in the web analytics field are considering looking for a new position. The Web Analytics Association job board lists dozens of available positions and Indeed.com, a job hunting aggregator, shows a 400 percent increase over the last two years for jobs containing the term “web analytics.”

Experience
Despite being in web analytics for fewer than five years (77 percent), and most of them fewer than 3 years (52 percent), nearly 60 percent of web analytics professionals consider their job to be “difficult.” It appears that most web analysts didn’t land in their current job on their first assignment; most of them have grown from other related fields.

Paul Holstein, project manager at CSC Financial, reviews the situation: “We searched for an analytics analyst for more than six months and finally gave up looking for an experienced person. We hired a bright and motivated analyst who we could train in web analytics. We benchmarked what attributes we were looking for and began our search for a curious, intelligent, driven sort of person.”

Surprisingly, fewer than 30 percent of companies have a dedicated resource for managing web analytics and more than 40 percent recognize they are not maximizing the potential of their current web analytics solution. This leads to the big question…

Multi-Disciplinary Background or Training
Web analyst expertise is multi-dimensional. Knowledge of interactive marketing and web design/usability, statistics, web technologies and internet concepts, as well as acute analysis and communication skills are just some of the competencies of the perfect web analyst. While most web analysts struggle to satisfy very diversified expectations, those who have the chance to be part of a multi-disciplinary team with the maturity of an analytical process and culture will benefit the most.

But what are web analysts really doing? What makes this job so difficult? A few months ago, web analytics guru Avinash Kaushik proposed that web analysts should spend their time on five major activities:

  1. Reporting, providing results from various metrics to find out about the “what and how much”;
  2. Analyzing acquisition strategies and basically everything that brings traffic to the site;
  3. Understanding the onsite customer experience and if the “persuasion scenarios” are working as expected;
  4. Plugging into the business context, keeping up with the operational and strategic changes that might affect the web;
  5. Exploring new strategic options, experimenting and improving the site, keeping up with the web and analytics evolution.

Attention to Detail and Ability to Focus
Taking attention for granted, the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect of work is the scarcest resource of all, with each task evaluated by mapping the attention type required to accomplish it. According to the AttentionScape methodology developed by Davenport & Beck in “The Attention Economy,” the most effective attention will go to items that are shown near the center of the chart. The survey of 36 web analytics practitioners mapped each task under three different dimensions:

  1. Front-of-mind vs. back-of-mind: The attention type of the music you listen to while working is back-of-mind, in that it doesn’t involve a focused attention. Front-of-mind attention is conscious, focused and explicit.
  2. Voluntary vs. captive: There are some activities you can’t avoid, and some others you deliberately choose to do because you want to learn or because you enjoy doing them.
  3. Attractive or aversive: Some tasks bring positive experiences, while we have to do others to avoid negative consequences.


The study revealed that all web analytics activities require a relatively high level of front-of-mind attention: concentration and focus is required. However, too many front-of-mind activities can lead to anxiety, stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Speaking with some analysts revealed that this is a common feeling among practitioners.

Where to go from here?
Some people might say the results of the study are not surprising, but in a way it is comforting to see that between the goal and the current state of affairs, web analysts live with similar challenges and struggle with the same hurdles. There is still a lot to do in order to bring the most valuable strategic insights to organizations deploying web analytics. The tools themselves are already providing a lot more functionality and information than anyone can handle, but as more educational resources become available and businesses come to realize the value of web analytics, the role of web analyst is likely to become critical not only to a successful internet presence, but maybe even to the success of entire organizations.

As Davenport, Cohen & Jacobson say in “Competing on Analytics,” “Employees hired for their expertise with numbers or trained to recognize their importance are armed with the best evidence and the best quantitative tools. As a result, they make the best decisions. In companies that compete on analytics, senior executives make it clear — from the top down — that analytics is central to strategy. Such organizations launch multiple initiatives involving complex data and statistical analysis, and quantitative activity is managed at the enterprise (not departmental) level.”

Summary
One of the best ways to find web analysts with the three most important key elements is to attend a local Web Analytics Wednesday meeting. These are held every month in most major cities worldwide. The WAA also has a job board where companies can post their interest.

Another option, one followed by CSC Financial, is to grow your own. Companies following this route will want to make sure their candidate takes part in the WAA’s UBC trainings and reads the WAA message boards as they’re a ripe source of relevant information for people with experience and those just entering the field.

Reference: http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/15446.asp

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3 Roles in Web Analytics

Despite slow economy many companies are hiring web analysts. A quick search on Simplyhired.com, a site that powers the Web Analytics job board on my blog, shows that there are currently 2,007 open positions and indeed.com, another job sites shows over 4800 open positions. That is a huge number.

However, many job seekers I have talked to feel frustrated because most of the jobs have a laundry list of requirements and they don’t feel that they are a right fit for most of these open positions. A lot of “Web Analytics” job openings ask for many of the following:

    • Experience in online marketing

 

    • Experience in Web Analytics

 

    • Experience in – Google analytics, Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics etc.

 

    • Experience in implementing Omniture, Google Analytics, WebTrends etc.

 

    • Experience in A/B and Multivariate testing

 

    • Experience in Search engine optimization

 

    • Experience in search engine marketing

 

    • Experience with SQL

 

    • Experience in email marketing

 

    • Experience in Social media

The mismatch in what a company really needs and what they are asking in the job requirements is a cause of frustration on both ends. The issue really stems from lack of understanding of what web analytics is and what role a web analyst need to play in the organization.

Most of the companies looking for a “web analysts” are in one of the following three stages of web analytics staffing

    1. They don’t have any tool but they realize the need and are looking for someone who can help them with “web analytics”.

 

    1. They just installed Google Analytics or were sold one of the other paid tool but are not getting much value from their web analytics tool. They need an analyst to help them do “web analytics”.

 

    1. They already have a web analytics tool installed and have a web analytics team. Since the company is now using web analytics to made business decision they need to hire one or more analysts to support the growing demand.

Companies falling in the third stage know what they are doing and usually narrow down the requirements. They are usually clear on what kind of person they are looking for.

Companies who fall in stage 1 and 2 above are the ones who are usually not clear on the role of a “web analyst” and hence create this laundry list of skills. Hiring manger looks at few job openings posted by other to get an idea of what a “web analyst’ should do. She then includes all the buzzwords and sends the requirements to HR or the recruiting company. HR screens the resume and if the keywords shown above do not appear on the resume the resume is rejected. As a result, companies loose several good candidates while candidates loose many good job opportunities.

3 Roles in Web Analytics

If you are a hiring manager, you need to understand and thoroughly evaluate your need before opening the job req. This will help you remove the noise from requirements and find the best candidate for the job. To make your job easier I have categories web analytics work into 3 job roles.

    1. Implementation Specialist/Engineer – If you are looking to implement a web analytics tool then you will need an Implementation Engineer. Implementation Engineer is usually the one who manages implementation of the web analytics tool and/or maintains ongoing implementation changes. This is a technical role. For this role you will need a person who has experience in implementation of the web analytics tool of you choice (Note: Tool Selection is a complex process and you should hire a 3rd party consulting company to help you with it if you have not already selected the tool). An implementation engineer generally takes the business requirements and converts them into technical requirements for the web development team to implement the code on the pages. Implementation Engineer works closely with “Web Analyst” (described below) web development and QA to ensure that correct data is collected. The right candidate for this role understands how internet technologies work. She needs to have a good grasp of JavaScript (most of the web analytics implementations require JavaScript tagging). She might also need to understand how to integrate various data sources together. For many companies, once the tool is implemented there might not be a daily need to make changes to the tool so it might make more sense to outsource this function to a web analytics vendor, agency building/maintaining your site or a web analytics consulting company instead of hiring a fulltime person.

 

    1. Reporting Analyst – If you are looking for someone to pull the data from your web analytics tools or other reporting application then you need to hire a reporting analysts. A lot of the companies confuse “web reporting” with “web analytics”(See my blog post titled Are you doing web reporting or web analytics). Reporting analysts usually understands the interface of the various tools and can pull the data that is required by other stakeholder. A reporting analyst might need to have SQL skills to pull the data from databases. Some organizations might need a person who can make pretty scorecard and charts. For this role, it is good to have a person who has experience with the tools of your choice but don’t make it a deal breaker. If the candidate has worked on any of the web analytics tools then she can usually get trained in other web analytics tools. Determine what other tools do you have and what skills might be required to pull the data from all these tools, that you might need for you reporting and then write the job requirements.

 

  1. Web Analyst – This is more of a business role and truly a web analyst’s role. This is a person who can make sense of the web data and drive insights to impact the bottom line. She will provide business requirements to the Implementation Engineer to work on and will use reporting analyst to get the data for analysis. Web analysts are inquisitive and analytical, they question the data to come up with the story that the data is telling. Web Analyst has the ability to understand and analyze various data pieces such as competitive, qualitative, web analytics, social media, financial etc and drive business changes. Web Analyst should also be able to run A/B and Multivariate tests to improve website performance. Depending on the size of your organization and A Web Analysts will not be afraid to stand in front of executives to explain and defend their findings. If you are looking to get actionable recommendation and drive business changes based on web analytics data then you need a Web Analyst.

Reference: http://webanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/08/3-roles-in-web-analytics.html#axzz1iaWf5eJI

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10 Free Wireframing Tools for Designers

Wireframing is a crucial step in web design and development as it allows for rapid prototyping and helps to pinpoint potential problems early in the process. It can be invaluable to have a visual representation of content, hierarchy and layout.

Wireframes make it easier to communicate ideas, reduce scope creep, cut down on project costs (due to fewer design revisions later), and enable greater upfront usability and functionality testing.

This post highlights 10 of the best free wireframing tools available, including standalone applications, web-based tools and browser add-ons.

If you’re partial to a particular wireframing tool available for free download, let us know in the comments.

1. Mockingbird


Mockingbird is a web-based beta software based on the Cappuccino framework to create, link together, preview and share wireframes of your website or application.

It’s a clean and user-friendly interface, with drag and drop UI, interactive page linking, smart text resizing and the ability to easily share mockups with clients or colleagues with a direct link, make Mockingbird one of the best wireframe tools available.

As it’s web-based, it means you can create and share mockups from anywhere. It will be interesting to see just how good Mockingbird is when it comes out of beta and the full version is released.

2. Lovely Charts


Lovely Charts is an online diagramming application, that allows you to create flowcharts, sitemaps, organization charts and wireframes.

One of the key features is the application’s ability to make assumptions based on the type of diagram you’re drawing, and thus streamline the drawing process. The History management feature is extremely useful, keeping 20 states of your diagram in memory should you wish to go back to an earlier version or undo any changes.

There is a powerful yet simple tool set provided, with an extensive library of crafted symbols to suit most requirements.

3. Cacoo


Cacoo is a user-friendly online drawing tool that allows you to create a variety of diagrams, such as sitemaps, wireframes and network charts.

The drag and drop UI means creating diagrams is relatively simple; there are also a number of stencils to utilize which could make the process even more efficient. Unlimited Undo is a neat feature with the history of all modifications saved, meaning you can undo right back to the start.

Numerous users can also work on and complete the same diagram simultaneously with the application supporting real-time collaboration.

4. Gliffy


Gliffy is a web-based application which allows you to create process flow diagrams, org charts, floor plans, business processes, network diagrams, technical drawings, website wireframes, and more. It uses a drag and drop UI with the ability to add boxes, buttons, and lines from the tool shape library to anywhere on the page. Then you can easily add text to create a clear, concise mockup.

You have access to a complete library of shapes and can even import your own images, like logos and backgrounds, to complement your diagrams. You can share and collaborate with anyone, on any platform, in any location, while having the ability to protect and track changes.

The Gliffy API (beta) also makes it possible for developers to add Gliffy diagramming features to their existing web-based applications based on a simple to use framework.

5. Lumzy


Lumzy is a mockup and prototype creation tool for websites and applications. You can add events to controls, place controls inside other containers and emulate your project with easy page navigation triggered by user actions.

Real-time collaboration is one of the key features, with tools for team editing, a chat engine for deliberating over designs and file versioning. Lumzy is also the only mockup tool with a real image editor built-in — simply grab any picture from your drive and edit it, apply hue, saturation, adjust contrast, and so on, and then add it to your project.

The Pro version is white label and can be integrated into an existing platform or hosted on your own server which may be of interest to companies working with confidential information.

6. Mockflow


Mockflow is a web app based on the Adobe Flash Platform. It has a clean, minimalistic, organized interface and the editing feature-set set is extensive.

You drag and drop components into a mockup to create the wireframe with the ability to add pages and map out an entire site and it’s structure. The built-in components are extensive, from charts and ads to menus and dropdowns. The ability to upload your own images to use, as well as the option to choose from a set of stickers of common site elements, such as social networking and e-commerce images, make the process of ‘building’ the mockup pretty efficient.

You can talk over the real-time chat and invite others as editors or viewers, depending on the level of editorial power you’d like each member to have. Editors have the ability to make changes to the wireframes, while viewers are limited to reviewing and commenting.

The MockStore is a wonderful add-on service that provides third party components and templates shared by the user community.

7. Pencil Project


The Pencil Project is an open source tool for making diagrams and GUI prototyping that everyone can use. It’s available as a Firefox add-on or as a standalone application (Linux and Windows only). Pencil essentially installs an entire drawing application into your Firefox browser and gives you the ability to display, save, and load an external canvas, together with a palette of shapes.

Of interest is the Stencil Generator which allows you to create your own collection of stencil shapes by pointing the generator to a folder of image files. The Clipart tool lets you search through the library at openclipart.org and directly drop the images right into your Pencil document. Pencil also supports the use of external objects; both raster and vector images can be imported using copy-paste or drag and drop.

The final prototype can be exported as a PNG image, web page, OpenOffice file, PDF or DOC file. If you’re a dedicated Firefox user, then Pencil could be an essential tool for visually expressing conceptual ideas on the fly. It even won the Mozilla award for ‘Best New Add-On’ in 2008.

8. SimpleDiagrams


SimpleDiagrams is a small desktop application that helps you express your ideas quickly and simply with just enough functionality to describe a thought or capture a process. It’s built on the Adobe AIR platform, so will run smoothly on Mac, Windows and Linux.

You can drag, drop and size symbols from libraries, add photos and post-notes and export your diagram to PNG.

It may not be a fully-fledged diagramming tool, but because SimpleDiagrams is so basic, you will be creating wireframes or diagrams within minutes.

9. Denim


Denim is a free multi-platform desktop app that supports sketching and allows design at various refinement levels. It’s an efficient tool for early stage brainstorming and wireframing.

Two main features within Denim are Components, which enable you to create widgets that can be reused and Conditionals, which allow you to create transitions between pages depending on the end-users’ actions, resulting in a more interactive experience.

It’s a simple yet effective tool and allows for easy annotation using editing gestures.

10. Website Wireframe


Website Wireframe is a very simple web-based tool for building wireframes in a matter of minutes. A link to view the wireframe can be sent through email, instant message, or mobile phone, and then the wireframe can be easily updated based on feedback, discussion, ideas and suggestions.

The key to this tool is the simplicity of usage, lending itself to speed, both in wireframe creation and sharing. It is free to register and use and works in most modern web browsers.

It may not be particularly sophisticated, however it’s simplicity and efficiency is perfect for those who want an alternative to tools with a higher learning curve.

Are you currently using any of these tools? If so, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Reference: http://mashable.com/2010/07/15/wireframing-tools/

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Wireframe

website wireframe, also known as a page schematic or screen blueprint, is a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website.[1] The wireframe depicts the page layout or arrangement of the website’s content, including interface elements and navigational systems, and how they work together.[2] The wireframe usually lacks typographic style, color, or graphics, since the main focus lies in functionality, behavior, and priority of content.[3] In other words, it focuses on “what a screen does, not what it looks like.”[4] Wireframes can be pencil drawings or sketches on a whiteboard, or produced by means of a broad array of free or commercial software applications.

Wireframes focus on

  • The kinds of information displayed
  • The range of functions available
  • The relative priorities of the information and functions
  • The rules for displaying certain kinds of information
  • The effect of different scenarios on the display[5]

The website wireframe connects the underlying conceptual structure, or information architecture, to the surface, or visual design of the website.[2] Wireframes help establish functionality, and the relationships between different screen templates of a website. An iterative process, creating wireframes is an effective way to make rapid prototypes of pages, while measuring the practicality of a design concept. Wireframing typically begins between “high-level structural work—like flowcharts or site maps—and screen designs.”[3] Within the process of building a website, wireframing is where thinking becomes tangible.[6]

Aside from websites, wireframes are utilized for the prototyping of mobile sites, computer applications, or other screen-based products that involve human-computer interaction.[7] Future technologies and media will force wireframes to adapt and evolve.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Website_wireframe

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RSS

RSS (originally RDF Site Summary, often dubbed Really Simple Syndication) is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such asblog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format.[2] An RSS document (which is called a “feed”, “web feed”,[3] or “channel”) includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship.

RSS feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. A standardized XML file format allows the information to be published once and viewed by many different programs. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favorite websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place.

RSS feeds can be read using software called an “RSS reader“, “feed reader”, or “aggregator“, which can be web-baseddesktop-based, or mobile-device-based. The user subscribes to a feed by entering into the reader the feed’s URI or by clicking a feed icon in a web browser that initiates the subscription process. The RSS reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new work, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds. RSS allows users to avoid manually inspecting all of the websites they are interested in, and instead subscribe to websites such that all new content is pushed onto their browsers when it becomes available.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS

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What is Personalisation?

Without personalisation, the Web is a ‘static’ environment where every user is presented with the same content and users will select which content to view based on navigation and search results. As a result without personalisation Web Experience Management is predominantly a low engagement ‘pull’ relationship that a user has with content. Personalisation changes this relationship into an environment where the web assists the user in their voyage of discovery by pushing content to the forefront in a manner that is specific to their ‘journey’ or interest. In this way the web content is deemed to be managed and the content provided in context to the user.

The background to personalisation

‘Personalisation’ is not a new term. It originally became popular in the mid 1990’s with products such as ATG and Broadvision as a means of elevating a website to a level of functionality that enhances the visitor experience. However, the first time around the complexity involved in deploying such technologies was such that only the ‘richest’ websites could afford to deploy and maintain the technologies required. Early pioneers of personalisation would be companies like Amazon and Ebay.

The current resurgence of personalisation is due to three main factors;

  • The cost of deploying it has dropped dramatically – and it has become easier to maintain as an ongoing website service. Gone are the days where to have personalisation required doubling the web team and 6 or 7 figure investments.
  • Mid tier WCMS solutions seeking to differentiate themselves from the huge number of competitors have extended the core web content management functionality they offer as a default to include personalisation tools that elevate their solution to provide ‘enterprise level’ capabilityas ‘out of the box’ functionality
  • There is now so much content available, that companies are struggling to get their visitors to see the correct content. Arguably the widespread use of WCMS solutions has exacerbated this situation as they have empowered non technical staff to be able to produce ever increasing amounts of content in a way that was not possible ten years ago � whilst there are many upsides to WCMS – one of the downsides is that websites can potentially be a lot larger than they were when they were managed by technical staff – which in turn reduces the ability of navigation alone to guide users to the correct content.

 

If ever there was a time for Personalisation to make a come back its right now. The fact that the Return On Investment is quicker to realise and enhances the user experience has resulted in a renewed interest in the way in which content can be delivered in context. Expect to hear WCMS vendors talking about ‘Web Experience Management’, ‘Segmentation’, ‘Content in Context’ as well as ‘Prescriptive and Adaptive Personalisation’.

Before we begin to look at the ways personalisation is implemented, it’s important to understand the fundamental difference between a personalised website and a non-personalised website. For clarification;

A non personalised website typically presents the same content to all users regardless of e.g. profile, personal preferences and clicking behaviour – as such it could be said to be a static experience in that all users get the same content. Such web experiences rely on navigation and search for users to extract information from the site. It can be argued that such websites are ‘pull oriented’ as it requires the visitor to select an item before it is presented to them. Equally if they use the search facility they are ‘pulling’ content based on their own provided search criteria. 

A personalised website is in many ways the exact opposite. True – it will still have a navigation structure for users to be able to move around the website – and true it will still usually have a search facility for users to ‘pull’ content – but the big difference is that the experience can be changed to be different to the visitor based on a number of factors. It can be argued that a personalised website is ‘push’ oriented – as content is far more controlled and can be specifically targeted at a visitor rather than relying on them finding it. 

Types of Personalisation

The two main types of personalisation available today break down into ‘Prescriptive Personalisation’ and ‘Adaptive Personalisation’.

Prescriptive Personalisation

This describes a type of personalisation that is rule based and triggered by interactions with a user. Insight into a user can come from a number of so called dimensions such as; customer profile & preferences, recent activity & history, current clicking behaviour, where the customer came from (e.g. search engine), context � time of day, seasonality etc, social preferences and interests, CRM driven knowledge. Essentially prescriptive personalisation details that we set up business logic within a website that when triggered by a users activity is used to change the ‘static’ display of content to one that matches the visitor. To simplify the process of building the business rules, visitors will often be broken down into blocks or ‘segments’ so this type of personalisation is also sometimes referred to as ‘segmentation’.

Prescriptive personalisation can essentially be further broken down into two main types:- Explicit Personalisation and Implicit Personalisation.

  • Explicit Personalisation in summary is where a visitor elects a profile – or is given a profile that determines they will see content in a manner that is specific to their requirements or choices.
  • Implicit Personalisation in summary is where the behaviour of a user as they navigate a website is monitored / tracked and content is presented to them based on a business logic that interprets their clicking pattern into a most appropriate delivery of content (to match the users behaviour).

A) Explicit Personalisation

A profile is a setting or collection of settings that tell a website to give a defined set of pages (or objects or applications) to a visitor based on the fact that we know who they are. Once we (as the website owner) know who they are – we can either allow them to make their own choices as to what they would like to see (Passive Explicit Personalisation) – or allocate content choices based on a logic layer that we have applied as appropriate to that profile for that given user (Segmented Explicit Personalisation).

—-Passive Explicit Personalisation (PEP)

Any situation in which the end user is given the capability to customise / tailor / select the features (such as pages, applications, services) provided, or how information is delivered to them can be considered to be a Passive Explicit experience – its passive in the sense they may or may not elect to personalise their view.

Typical examples of such aspects could be ‘my favourite links’, or whether or not to see ‘recently visited pages’ – or whether to see the local weather content – Yahoo being one of the earliest pioneers of this type of interface selection.

PEP is often the easiest type of personalisation to deploy – as from a web administration point of view the user is essentially given the same view as everyone else to start with – but then creates their own preferences and stores them against a log in or cookie. The administrator simply determines which aspects will be presented as options for the visitor to select or deselect. The PEP experience can be something that is tailored afresh every time a user visits a site – but in most cases its ‘stored’ against a cookie or a user name and password.

PEP may have been ‘bleeding edge’ and attractive to a visitor five years ago – but its popularity peaked and has declined in many cases due to the fact that users have to remember too many log ins and as a result don’t go back to their logged in profile but simply use the default for speed – or put another way the benefits fail to excite the user to the point they are willing to return to the profile they have created. It could be argued this is a failure on the part of the website owner to make the PEP experience compelling enough – or it could just reflect the generic ‘fickleness’ of a web audience.

—-Segmented Explicit Personalisation (AEP)

Any situation where a user is given a profile – and the profile is used to determine what content will be shown to them would come under the banner of Segmented Explicit Personalisation. It is often referred to as Segmentation – based on the fact that content is being broken down or ‘segmented’ and allocated to users or groups of users – but in essence its major difference from Passive Explicit is that the choice of content presented is made by the website owner and not the visitor.

For websites that have a lot of content, SEP can often be one of the most effective ways of overcoming information overload. Instead of presenting the entire entire content repository to them and relying on them searching or navigating to the correct content, profiles can be created for groups or users that remove content that is not appropriate to their needs and only display relevant information. They can still navigate once they are logged in to their profile and pull content in the traditional way – but the ‘on screen real estate’ can be packed with aspects that are relevant to their needs.

The creation of SEPs also allows for content to be targeted to user groups from a Marketing perspective. If I know that a visitor has a certain profile then I can display e.g. banner adverts that are targeted to that profile. If there are ‘offers’ for a certain product that I wish to be seen, then these can be channelled to the appropriate profile.

SEP is also one of the most effective ways to generate an Extranet environment. In the same way that I can use a profile to target content to a visitor, I can also use it to deny access to a visitor. In this way e.g. Profile A might see designated sections, pages, services within a website – whereas Profile B might see totally different content.

SEP is certainly more involved to administer than PEP – first and foremost because the moment you create a managed profile, you as the website owner are making assumptions about which content to present to which user or profile. If you get this right it can be a very powerful way of separating your audience and ensuring that the most appropriate content is displayed. If you get it wrong you could have sensitive content in the wrong hands – or a user experience that turns visitors away.

It would be true to say that for this reason – the number of SEP profiles created by most customers deploying this type of personalisation is usually small to start with and can be as simple as public facing content profile and an extranet profile that gives access to less public content.

With both Segmented and Passive Explicit Personalisation – the very fact that a user is having to provide details about themselves (to be able to determine the most appropriate content or provide a username against which to store the personalised view) becomes often one of the biggest reasons for rejection on the part of the user. There is an ever growing ‘swell’ of users reluctant to provide personal details, which makes it hard to use explicit personalisation in certain situations..

There are companies trying to set themselves up as a ‘profile’ centre for users- on the basis they give their demographic details once and then refer to this when requesting a login profile to another website – but this has so far yet to make inroads to the vast majority of Internet users – which it would need to do to become a successful alternative.

One option involves using a combination of implicit (tracked) personalisation together with explicit to log users into a segmented (SEP) experience without them giving personal details which will be covered in Implicit Personalisation options.

B) Implicit Personalisation

Implicit Personalisation could be seen as the ‘goal’ of every personalised website – in that unlike its counterpart (Explicit Personalisation), Implicit does not require a user to log in or provide any details.

Sometimes called ‘Behavioural Tracking’, the concept behind Implicit Personalisation is that users visit a website and their clicking activity is then monitored and tracked. Each incremental click is then used to determine what content to show the user surrounding the item they selected. Amazon was one of the early pioneers of this sort of tracking – and if you visit their site and select a book or film, it tells you that other people that looked at the item you are looking at also looked at these other items.

Call it a cross sell – or a soft sell – what implicit personalisation allows you to do is follow the behaviour of your visitor and then based on where they go in the site dynamically alter the presented content to ever increasingly mirror their clicking activity. Furthermore – implicit personalisation can be used to not only filter the display of content at the web page level, it can be used to filter the content displayed from other applications. In this way third party content sources rather than being static displays can adapt to display content that reflects the continued journey of a user through a site.

Banner adverts can be rotated to reflect the clicking behaviour of a user and display the adverts that are most appropriate to the user. A visitor could be coming to your website having clicked on an advert on another website and could be logged on to a segmented explicit experience under the guise of a campaign ID or an advert source and then have them implicitly managed through the rest of the experience.

Underlying what can be an endless list of examples of how implicit personalisation can be used is a business logic layer – and it would be fair to say that of all the types of personalisation that exist, implicit is the most involved to implement. You need to have a very good understanding of your visitor paths, and a clear understanding of what content you would like to drive to what path under which circumstances. Typically this is not something that is available to most web sites – so often implicit can only be deployed after a defined period of time has past where non managed routes through a website are monitored to be able to understand the free’ path a user chooses and then determine how to manage that same experience.

However in spite of the overhead of managing it – done correctly implicit personalisation can provide a true high value return on investment – as demonstrated by the Amazon model. If it did not work they would have removed it long ago – but the fact is that it�s a very powerful way of getting users to see content you want them to see – which more importantly is still relevant to their behaviour – should be evidence of how high value the experience is to users.

Combining Explicit and Implicit Personalisation

It should not be understood from the above examples that the types of personalisation cannot be used in one user experience at the same time. Each type can be combined � so that a Passive Explicit Personalised Visitor may have implicit tracking applied to content in their own selected window of items – and a profile created for a group or user under Segmented Explicit Personalisation may also have further implicit tracking applied.

You might elect to implicitly track the behaviour of a user then when they get to a certain point invite them to create a passive explicit experience or register for an auto selected segmented explicit experience (based on their tracked clicks) – and store the implicit journey against the same login.

Adaptive Personalisation

Arguably, the overhead of managing and setting up the explicit and implicit personalisation logic has led to the emergence of so called ‘Adapative Personalisation’. Unlike its predecessors, adaptive is essentially characterised by the fact that it does not require ‘setting up’. Vendors such as Baynote who promote this type of technology would assert that the system itself takes care of the process of creating the logic required to determine which content to display.

Incremental behaviour of website users is analysed to model a ‘user’ or ‘user type’ and the system uses this knowledge gained to personalise content displayed automatically. This makes it extremely appealing to organisations who have the size of website and amount of content that would benefit from personalisation – but lack the inhouse resource to be able to deploy the more traditional types of personalised content.

Adapative personalisation also predicts the content and experience the customer is looking for before and during an interaction takes place. As a result rather than segments defined and then applied the adaptive method appies a continually evolving set of business rules that are self managed and evolve as the customers evolve or their patterns change.

As one of the limitations of segmentation is that you have to set up business logic for every segment or block of users you wish to target, adaptive allows a site to move away from content for the majority to content for the minority.

This technology is in its infancy but given its advantages it is sure to make headway into the WCMS space in the coming years.

Conclusion

Personalisation can provide a website with the compelling user experience that makes the difference between a website that is simply ‘out there’ and a website that gets bookmarked and revisited – and more importantly incentivises the visitor to complete actions that are considered to be of value by your organisation.

It can help your visitors maximise their experience whilst on your site and ensure they re-visit in a way that is simply not possible with a ‘non personalised website’.

Is personalisation for every organisation? Probably not. If your website does not have enough content to personalise then there is little point in trying to fragment it into profiles or tracked experiences and change how content is diplayed as the technical and business overhead and cost of managing content in this fashion would simply outway the benefit – but if your site is large and you are struggling to ensure users get presented with appropriate content – then it would be one very powerful way to improve the user experience.

Reference: http://www.contentmanager.eu.com/personalisation.htm

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