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Customization lacking in Web site analytics

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After 11 years of management and technology consulting with Andersen Consulting and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Hurol Inan decided to try experimenting with his own career track. Inan started freelance e-business consulting last year while writing a book titled "Measuring the Success of Your Web Site," due out in November. In his spare time, he founded eBusinessResourceCenter.com, a Web site used by a niche group of approximately 700 consultants from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

Q. Which is a better way to measure site activity, with software or an application service provider?

A. If the focus of measurement is primarily user activities that take place on the site, these two techniques are equally viablewith ASP services often producing more favorable results since they can also count the activities responded by the ISP [Internet service provider] and browser caches. Otherwise, the data collection point is usually server log files, which are unaware of the requests fulfilled by various caches. However, if metrics cover data that come from the integration of the Web site with other corporate systems, there are technical challenges in integrating the user activity data with these data sources. For instance, you may want to not only see the page views for certain content categories on an information portal, but also establish a relationship between user profiles and content consumption. That could be an impossible task with an ASP.

Q. What are the shortcomings of current Web site analytics?

A. They focus on standard metrics, and they do not allow custom defining of new metrics. [Organizations] should define meaningful metrics that accurately reflect what it is that they are trying to achieve with their Web initiatives. Another issue is the lack of common definitions for basic user activity measurement units, such as sessions and page views. Different vendors use different definitions. For ASP models, differences in the data collection methods and cleansing rules also affect the results significantly. The measurements produced by different vendors on the same Web site are impossible to reconcile.

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