Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Increasing Effectiveness of Web Analytics Reports

Increasing Effectiveness of Web Analytics Reports
                Our Optimizing Online Business group met yesterday to outline our final project and make assignments to complete the final report.  One of the most interesting issues that arose as a result of our discussion was not in the thesis of the project, or the specific tasks, but in the level of detail, and writing style associated with the work.  We believed that our report should be written as if it were going to be delivered to executives of the company whose website we are analyzing.  This posed additional questions: What level of understanding do we assume?  What level of detail is necessary for comprehension?  How do we emphasize the key points clearly without adding in unnecessary confusing technical information?  We want to ensure that our project outlines meaningful results for the company whose website we are researching, in a clear  and impactful way.  The following are some guidelines on writing Web Analytics reports.
                One of the most simple ways to improve a technical, or analytical report is to make sure it has a clear, sound structure[1].  If the reader is a technical novice trying to understand some dense material and he or she also has to try and decipher a complicated or muddled report layout the chances of comprehension decrease significantly.  The author can ensure good structure in their written work by outlining the report before writing commences.  Especially in group projects, this step will ensure that all members are clear as to their role in the writing.  This step is particularly essential in writing technical reports because you will likely have to build the foundational knowledge of a particular subject (such as web analytics,) in the beginning of the report so that understanding of the entire document is ensured. 
                Another important element to consider in technical report writing is to simplify your sentences. According to Allanalytics.com, "When you've been pouring your life into a project, you can become so familiar with it that it's easy to forget how much others don't know."  Writing complex, explanatory sentences in technical jargon is easy when you are knee-deep in technical research, however, you will likely lose your audience.   Keeping your sentences simple, and only introducing one new idea in each sentence will ensure your audience understands your material. 
                One last important aspect to include with a technical, web analytics report to ensure understanding is multimedia and visual elements[2].   It is easy to compile meaningful and impactful visuals using Google Analytics and Site Catalyst.  These graphics will help demonstrate your main points, and in some cases may be the only piece of your report that an executive looks at.  Most web analytics reports will be rooted in Google Analytics or Site Catalyst data, and both programs offer stunning visual representations of their reports, it is a simple and effective way to convey data in your report to include their visuals. 
                Taking these steps will help ensure your report is read, understood and put to use.  Our group plans to use these steps in increasing the efficacy of our final report for Optimizing Online Business.
 -Marian Bonar

[1] http://www.allanalytics.com/author.asp?section_id=2587&doc_id=257849&
[2] http://odtl.dcu.ie/wp/1999/odtl-1999-03.html