The second challenge that people face is one that's a carry-over from Web 1.0—determining exactly what they should track and what those metrics actually mean, said Brent Dykes, principal consultant in Web analytics provider Omniture's consulting group.
“We need to go back and define success,” he said. “What are we trying to drive here? Leads? Are we trying to close sales? Whatever the success events are still apply, which is difficult when you move from a world of Lego blocks—a page view approach—to a world of Play-Doh when you can mix applications like colors on a single page.”
Indeed, how applications are placed together on a page can affect how long a user stays and whether or not they are interested in what you're offering in terms of site content, Dykes said. “You really need to understand not just the individual elements but the interaction,” he said.
This is where Web analytics experts are particularly valuable, said Brian Induni, president of consulting firm Induni NorthWest. However, he said, there are too few such experts. “We're facing a shortage of people who are trained and know enough about analytics to be helpful with this aspect—figuring out what to measure—as well as with the integration of the data [into] the business. Many companies are going to do best by working with consultants and firms until there's enough people who know what they are doing.”
No matter how people solve these challenges, most experts agreed that for most companies, analytics isn't going to be enough to figure out whether or not a Web application works and how usable it actually is.
“Focus groups and surveys are a good way to get information and monitor whether the audience is responding well to a particular Web 2.0 element,” Tomz said. “You can start slowly and go element by element so you can be ready to make changes.”
You can use analytics to figure out where to start, though, choosing the elements or pages that get the most traffic. You can also use these data to select where you should put the newest elements and compare your site usage with different audience segments, said Dan Robbins, director of marketing at Lyris, a marketing software company, because certain referring sites may have better informed users or those who are more likely to prefer next-generation applications.
“This is going to be important when you're looking for conversions,” Robbins said. “You can see—if someone is coming in from YouTube—what exactly they did on your site. How much time did they spend there? Did they convert? They might like 2.0 technology more than someone who finds you from a search engine.” M