Web Wednesday: WebTrends tracks Web traffic

Web Wednesday: WebTrends tracks Web traffic

From Information Resources and Technologies

The success of any Web site depends not on a given technology but on how that technology is applied to meet the needs of real people in the real world. In the end, good design is for and about people.

A good Web site should make gathering information and completing tasks simple and easy; at its best the information should be delivered with clarity and the interaction should be elegant. The overall effectiveness is measured by our audience achieving its intended goal when viewing our Web site with efficiency and satisfaction.

Web and Media Services, in partnership with departmental Web site managers, use a variety of methods to ensure UST's Web sites are designed with usability in mind through a process called Web Analytics. Web Analytics is the measurement of the behavior of visitors to a Web site. The most important factor in Web Analytics is accurate information. For that reason, we use different techniques to gather different types of information.

The methods we use at UST include Web traffic tracking, search optimization and findability, and conduct usability studies. These methods will be described in a series of upcoming articles over the next several weeks.

Web-traffic tracking: WebTrends
In the early days of the Web, visits to a Web site were recorded on the bottom of the page with a page counter. These counters recorded page hits and the data collected is now considered an unsophisticated measurement as there are now more complex tools available for tracking Web traffic. St. Thomas uses a product called WebTrends, which collects Web activity data beyond the 'hit' and analyzes it into broad trends.

Here is some of the information that WebTrends helps us collect:

  • The number of new and unique visitors
  • The number of repeat visitors 
  • Where the person comes from; a search engine, other Web site within or outside of UST
  • The operating system and browser a person uses
  • The length of stay, what they visited and where they went afterward

Some of the more complex Web-traffic tracking is gathered through monitoring conversion, (e.g., an action that signifies the completion of a specified activity). To accomplish this, Web site managers must do the hard work of asking, "What do we want our visitors to do?" or "What information do we want people to find?" When we answer those questions, we can create reports that demonstrate the success of a Web site and areas of the Web site we want to improve.

Below are some interesting facts about UST Web site traffic:

  • Visitors to our home page peak on Monday and slowly decrease though the week
  • Most of the visitors to our Tommie Blogs find them through search engines; we see an average of 22 visitors a day reading about the life of a Tommie
  • Bulletin Today is read by most readers between 8 and 9 a.m. with a few stragglers (.5 percent) still reading at midnight
  • Following the home page, the next most popular Web pages are: mail.stthomas.edu, Blackboard, life at UST and the libraries
  • More than 80 percent of our visitors come from Minnesota, followed by Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin at around 2 percent each. Texas and California stand out at more than 1 percent; we suspect these surfers are looking for the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif.
  • Over the last six months, the use of Internet Explorer has decreased approximately 5 percent, while Firefox use is up 37 percent and Apple’s Safari browser use is up 49 percent. The majority of these conversions appear to be coming from prior users of the Netscape browser. 
  • While the majority of our viewers are using Microsoft's Internet Explorer (80 percent) we are noticing a gradual shift toward Mozilla-based browsers.

We have been working with a pilot group to learn how to use the WebTrends tool in our environment and will be introducing it to other departmental Web sites over the academic year.

In the next Web Wednesday article, we will highlight search optimization and findability and we will answer the question: If Web visitors don't find what they're looking for, at what point do they move on?

Together, we can learn more about how to create the most usable Web site for our visitors. For more information about WebTrends' capabilities, visit the IRT Web site, contact your local technology consultant or the IRT Tech Desk, (651) 962-6230.