The Future of Analytics and the Fate of Page Centricity

Summary: Down with Page Views, Hurray with the tabula rasa Analytics?

Avinash Kaushik has been talking about the death of “page centricity”. As more websites become applications, the “website as a series of page” metaphor is obsolete and needs to be replaced by the need for measuring “business events“.

This represents major challenges in how we define analytics data and “business events”, but more importantly frees us from focusing on how to fit in “pageviews” and “clicktstream” data as correlating with business-related KPIs.

Instead, we are presented with a tabula rasa, where each analytics tool will be custom tailored for each website. Set-up will be more intense and a case-by-case effort, but in the end we’ll be allowed maximum flexibility in getting the data we need.

We’ll see, perhaps I’m being optimistic on this…but at the very leasts, this would open up a large consulting opportunity in setting up such an analytics system for each client.
Introduction
Ever witty and insightful Avinash Kaushik writes on 5 challenges of Web Analytics Vendors, among them the “#2 Reliance on ‘page centricity’”:

No matter how you look at it at the moment every single vendor relies on a “page” to exist on a site in order for the analytics to function. The page can be defined by a unique url or url stem or a combination of parameters in the url or a url and a piece of data stuffed back into the application (think gmail, the url is always the same but when I hit reply I am sure Google Analytics is being passed a piece of data that is telling it I am now viewing the “reply page”).

The current solutions rely on a page to know what you are doing, how long you have been on the site, how deep did you get, what “group of content you have seen”, was your visit a success etc etc.


Still none of the vendors have stepped forward to change their fundamental data collection and key metric computation models to move into the new world. Even when metrics are suggested for the new world and data capture methods are suggested they still rely on stuffing data/values into the “page centric” places in the tools to solve problems. (emphasis mine)

Indeed, the web was originally about information management and knowledge share (Check out the original WWW proposal). But if anything can be taken from the current “Web 2.0” phase, it is that we are now in an age where websites now also function as interactive applications (from Writely and even NetFlix). A website as a “series of web pages” metaphor no longer works.

How Will We Measure? Business Events v. Pageviews and Clicksteams
I asked Avinash Kauskik what he thoughts were on resovling this issue, here’s an excerpt:

We are migrating to “business activity” on the web and there will be “business events” that occur and outcomes as a result of these events. In a world where pages don’t exist I think we will measure

1) the effectiveness of the sub-experiences as a whole and

2) deeply stress outcomes (qualitative or quantitative) and judge value of sub-experiences much harder on what the outcomes are (vs. today where it is so easy to get a count of page views that we report that rather than deeper outcomes impacting analysis)

A “tabula rasa” Appraoch to Analytics?

At first the first task of the “New Analytics” looks daunting: define the very type of data you need to track for a particular website, incorporating the website’s business goals, function etc. (That in itself is a great consulting opportunity for anyone wishing to advance in the Analytics community).

Yet today, we are essentially dropping in JavaScript tags, collect pageviews and clickstream data and fiddling with the “page” metaphor to get the data we really want, which we need to help us gauge “how effective is my website” and not “how much has my pageview increased”.

So while the setup process is high – working with marketers, technical, usability, BI folks etc – to define what and how to measure, a “New Analytics” approach would present a tabula rasa – where we can define exactly it is what we want to measure from the get go. Every event, transaction – defined as what it is – not by asking ourselves “what kind of pageview or clickstream would represent KPI X or KPI Y?”

Yes, this viewpoint sounds counterintuitive – more work in defining varibles, no standard templates for measurement but rather a case-by-case basis. But with these challenges comes great flexibility and potential. Essentially, each web analytic tool would be unique for each website.


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8 responses to “The Future of Analytics and the Fate of Page Centricity”

  1. Avinash Kaushik Avatar

    Daniel: This is a great post and extends the conversation with some excellent thoughts from you. Thanks.

    I love the phrase “tabula rasa” and I completely agree that it defines the way the new world will have to operate. A great side effect of involving the key folks up front is that there will be more skin in the game and a higher likelihood that people will use the data.

    I know this sounds silly but one of the reason that people don’t use data is that so much of it is out there and they don’t understand it and they don’t have skin in the game. The approach you describe should fix that.

    Thanks again,

    Avinash.

  2. […] The Future of Analytics and the Fate of Page Centricity – 2006-09-08 […]

  3. graywolf Avatar

    >Instead, we are presented with a tabula rasa, where each analytics tool will be custom tailored for each website. Set-up will be more intense and a case-by-case effort, but in the end we’ll be allowed maximum flexibility in getting the data we need.

    Um yeah I’m sure a lot of companies will want to build software that works once with very little reuseable code, that should be really easy to scale and make back your money on. I’m sure customers will want to pay through the nose for something that works only as long as they don’t change a single thing.

  4. Daniel R Avatar
    Daniel R

    GrayWolf,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You’re right, this form of analytics will be messy (and so analytics consultants will make even more money).

    But, I believe there will be solutions found in reusable component-based coding for Analytics Software. For example Google Analytics (along with others), have ways to specially “tag” links and assign actions or goals to them: downloads, add to shopping cart, registration, clicks on certain content areas etc.

    Assuming there will be a space for websites to be more interactive, more “desktop application” in function than “text with links on it” – analytics will have to adapt away from pageviews. It’ll still be important, but it cant be the final or only measurement.

  5. […] Emergence Media – The Future of Analytics and the Fate of Page Centricity […]

  6. The Page View Isn’t Going Anywhere…

    The page view will not die, not for a LONG time anyway. I love Steve Rubel, but sometimes I think he has just lost his marbles and drank the wrong koolaide. On December 1st Steve wrote a very interesting blog…

  7. […] One question to ask while reading the process he goes through in creating the engagement metrics for his website is: is this something that can prepackaged or will it be under some form of “tabula rasa” analytics (see “The Future of Analytics and the Fate of Page Centricity“), where each website has to be specially configured? […]

  8. […] Daniel Riveong of Emergence Media wrote a forward looking post on this topic in 2006.  See “The Future of Analytics and the Fate of Page Centrality“. […]

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