Monthly Archives: November 2010

Diving into Google Analytics with the Analysis Exchange

One of the main things the New Zealand Drug Foundation is trying to do with the DrugHelp and MethHelp websites is tailor content for the main audience we’re trying to reach.

This audience isn’t people merely interested in drugs in an academic sense, for school projects or with moral agendas. The websites are primarily for people using drugs who want to change. Reaching family members, friends, whanau and others supporting about a drug user is also very important.

If you visit the websites you’ll find the emphasis is on creating empathy and connection, rather than bald facts and figures.

Communicating with people in a convincing way takes way more than a one off effort. The website contents were informed by around 20 interviews with drug users and others. Pre-launch we ran a series of user tests, and our door is open to feedback. Early next year we’ll run a structured process to obtain feedback from people visiting the website.

So, we’ve got a a few ways of feeding into our refinement/ enhancement cycles.

The one area that remains untapped is using web analytics. We’re garnering useful information about visit numbers and frequency, length of stay, popular pages, and loads more. But we’re not yet finding out much about what particular groups of visitors are doing.

The sprawling and deep Google Analytics package offers many options but it is not immediately clear how to match what is offered to our particular needs.

As well as reading Google’s online help, Justin Cutroni’s new book (“Google Analytics: Understanding Visitor Behaviour)”, and blog posts on Occam’s Razor by analytics expert Avinash Kaushik, I participated in NTEN’s Analytics Extravanganza.

After hearing Eric T Peterson (founder of Web Analytics Demystified) simplify the analytics tangle, and show case the Analysis Exchange, I was emboldened to ask the Exchange for help.

NGOs are invited to submit web analytics challenges to the Analysis Exchange. After a vetting process, students and mentors volunteer to help.

As a result I’m now working with Michael D Healy from San Francisco as mentor and Pandu Truhandito from Jakarta as a student. Kicking off next Tuesday, Pandu will be looking into what we can learn from Google Analytics about how key audiences are using DrugHelp and MethHelp.

I’m a bit overwhelmed by the support available from the Analysis Exchange: it’s very organised with highly qualified, motivated people offering to help. Already I’m enjoying the interaction with the two team members.

When I next write about this, I’ll share some of what we’ve learned. It may not be possible to answer my challenge, but I know we’ll definitely learn a lot.

Resources

My web analytics links on Delicious

Workshopping by the seat of my (bike) pants

When I deliver a training package for the first time, I always expect a few wobbles along the way. Yesterday was no exception. I’m not entirely sure if I managed to demystify some of the processes on the Cycling Advocates Network (CAN) website or not.

My workshop on getting the most out the CAN website covered both the potential uses of the website, editorial policies and associated issues, along with practical guidance on how to use two key functions.

Running a website to support collaboration, outreach to the public and committee support (to name a few uses) is a big undertaking. CAN are a small grassroots organisation with national membership, so there is a lot to gain from having an active network.

During the workshop it was made pretty obvious the team responsible for the website is juggling alot, including invisible maintenance. As Stephen eloquently said, if people expect him to answer all the questions raised then he’ll be heading down the road.

Despite my uncertainty, I’m actually really pleased with how things went. Alongside the aim of giving people more knowledge and confidence so they can use the website, I wanted to promote an expanded self-help approach to support.

The “Sand pit” I set up for people to practice in will become a permanent resource for admins to use. It will also be a place to ask questions and share knowledge.

Creating a repository of answered support questions makes so much sense. If the same question comes up again, you can point to a pre-existing answer (as long as you can remember it’s already been answered).

Quite a few hands were raised when everyone was asked if they’d be willing to be involved in supporting other admins. We didn’t note down names, but I’m sure that will be coming.

The teaching resources I prepared included a simple screencast with a recording and video of me creating a new article. These can act as a model for creation of similar tools in the future.

Unless you’re aiming at really high production values, screencasts can be created quickly, using free tools (eg CamStudio) and hosted freely as videos (eg Vimeo, YouTube). These tools seem a pretty good match for meeting community group website support needs.

It also occurs to me that using screensharing (via Skype, Yuuguu, etc), would be pretty useful as a way of allowing more experienced users to walk through some of the content creation processes with new admins on the other end of the line.

Now that I’ve worked out the notifications (after spending hours trying to working out how to simply convey to set-up and managed these) it’s going to be easy for me to keep in touch with how  the website to continues to grow. I’m looking forward to seeing how things go.

Resources:

A screencast showing how to create content (on Vimeo)

Workshop presentation, from SlideShare available as slides, or from Vimeo as a video (including screencasts)