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I'm keen to determine the an absolute list of fundamental metrics to gather for Data Driven design.

I realise this can be a somewhat broad subject given the differing types of sites and web apps out there, but for arguments sake lets base this on a content based website / blog, producing regular content - Where content is the key aspect of the site.

Based upon my own experiences (together with research), I have put together a small list of my own, but I'm sure there are some key elements that I have missed.

  • What web browsers are most commonly used to view site content?
  • What percentage of traffic to the site does so from a mobile device?
  • What are the most common browser window dimensions?
  • What are the Common areas of homepage interest? (Content positioning etc)
  • How does the user proceed to content from the homepage?
  • How long does it take a user to begin reading an article?
  • Does the user finish reading the article?
  • Does the user proceed past the article? (i.e To view/participate in post comments)
  • Does the user progress onto further recommended articles?
  • Does the user share content upon Social networks? If so, which?

What Metrics should be added to the list? Are there any that just aren't necessary?

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What is your site about? The site would decide the metric. For example the metric for an ecommerce site would differ from that of an blog –  Mervin Johnsingh Oct 9 '12 at 16:08
    
Thanks @mervinj, I realize this can be a broad subject. That's why I say in the post we should perhaps base this on a content based website/blog like TechCrunch, or The Washington Post etc. –  Daniel Meade Oct 9 '12 at 16:11
    
Sorry you need to be more specific, Techcrunch is a blog but the Washington post is a newspaper, both of them have different conversion metrics and you would get much focused answers if your question is more precise –  Mervin Johnsingh Oct 9 '12 at 16:17
    
Okay, perhaps The Washington Post wasn't such a a great example, but the metrics aren't far off in terms of alignment. For a content heavy website, producing article after article of content (let's say the content gets outdated quickly) what metrics would be best to capture so as to aid design refinement? –  Daniel Meade Oct 9 '12 at 16:34
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A lot of the examples seem to be data for data's sake. Good to have, but not really useful unless there's an objective to go with it. –  DA01 Oct 9 '12 at 20:09

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are no absolute 'fundamental' metrics. All metrics should be decided on a per-project basis, and be grounded in explicit business objectives. That way, designers will have explicit priorities and clients will understand the compromises we make to achieve them.

So, for example, to look at some items of your list:

What web browsers are most commonly used to view site content?

% use alone doesn't matter. The real question is: what browsers will my most profitable user segment rely upon? If mobile users are converting more readily than desktop users, I need to raise the priority of mobile compatibility even if mobile users are not the majority of browsers. And what if certain browsers aren't being used much because I don't yet provide a good experience on them?

Does the user finish reading the article?

Does it matter? For some kinds of content, this isn't important. Users might legitimately jump off before they've finished and still be satisfied. This is especially the case for sites handling reference material, where a user might come to only check one specific fact then leave.

Does the user proceed past the article? (i.e To view/participate in post comments)

Again, does my business actually benefit from that sort of engagement? Is it appropriate to the content type? Could comments allow users to post disruptive material, and is it worth my time as a business to moderate that content?

Does the user share content upon Social networks? If so, which?

Does my business benefit from being shared on Facebook and the like? Some businesses like to project a sense of exclusivity and discretion, so social sharing would be inappropriate. Others may get their business from other channels.

Rather than starting with a 'template' of common metrics, I would suggest starting with the question: What user behaviours are most profitable for my business, and how can I best support them?

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Thanks Jimmy! I hadn't really thought about conversion rates and profitability when writing this question, but you're certainly right. Answering a question such as the one you present there provides us with some really valuable data. With regards to your other points, I think it really depends on your business objectives. When under contract to deliver a certain amount of traffic and prove user engagement then each of these become a metric of considerable importance. I really like your starting suggestion, I'll put that into practice in an upcoming project for sure. –  Daniel Meade Oct 9 '12 at 19:49
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@DanielMeade - certainly, if a contract explicitly names a KPI, then that's obviously something to strive for, but I think in a lot of projects it can be productive to sometimes push back a little. So if a client says that engagement is important, it can be valuable to identify exactly why that's important and what sorts of engagement actually bring the most value. That way, you never end up designing around the wrong KPIs. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Oct 9 '12 at 21:20
    
My only argument against the finding user behaviours that are most profitable is that you might end down the path of optimizing the site for a small number of users and missing out on the potential to bring in more audience. It depends on if the goal is to take a little bit from more people, or to take more from less people. –  Michael Lai Sep 6 '13 at 0:21

A few other question ideas:

  1. How frequently users come to the site (several times a day?). Once a week?
  2. What percentage of users contribute the content?
  3. Do contributors usually contribute to one topic or is there a lot of variety? (e.g. Jack adds comments only to posts related to environment, Kate comments to posts about cognitive science and gardening).
  4. Which topics get the most reads?
  5. Which topics are recommended more often?

There could be a lot of other questions depending what you are trying to answer. We did a study of Wikipedia and the frequency of visits was quite interesting (there are "wikiholics").

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Any references you can provide for the Wikipedia study? How were you able to relate the metric to user behaviour? –  Michael Lai Sep 6 '13 at 0:22
    
Here it is annarouben.com/papers/WikipediaProject.pdf –  Anna Rouben Sep 6 '13 at 19:02

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