Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Get it right. Principle 2: Data

Welcome to Part 2 of my "Get it Right" mini-series detailing the principles I try to live by when running a web project. These principles are designed to help me save time, improve efficiencies and above all, protect investment.

My first instalment in this series looked at the method I use to secure and apportion investment.

This time I want to talk to you about data. More specifically, the types of data you can gather to aid you in your decision making. Don't switch of just yet. I promise I'll try and keep it light.

As ever, this is only one man's opinion. I'm open to feedback and will do my best to come back on any comments made.

So without further ado... Principle 2...

No 2 - Make data driven decisions

If you want your project to be a success, your development needs to be data driven wherever possible. This means building something that actually fulfils a need, rather than building something because YOU think it's the right move.

If you are improving an existing site the world is your oyster as you will hopefully have access to a wealth of historical information. And if not, don't worry, there's a quick and easy way you can get some new info.

  • Analytics - The first port of call for any web master, Analytics is second to none in helping you with your decision making. Look at journey paths, engagement statistics, events and goal completions. Do your visitors' actions match your site strategy and purpose? Are they acting as expected? If not why not? What are they looking for and is it something you wish to provide?
  • Web surveys - A little pop up on the page asking visitors for feedback is a great way of gleaning some useful information from your current audience. Just be sure to keep it light and have a decent mix of qualitative and quantitative feedback. A free type text box can really bring experiences to life.
  • Usability testing - Quick and dirty solutions like 5 Second Test can give you valuable insights into a visitor's first impressions of your page. Just do your best to ignore the sweary, angry developers you'll undoubtedly encounter.

If you are building a new site there is a whole range of activities you can complete to validate any decisions you are making as well as your business plan.

  • Interrogating (not really) - Got a list of emails for your target market? Then you're off to a cracking start. Survey them. Create a free online survey and ask them a few questions about your intended developments. What do they like? What do they hate? What would their ideal site look like? 
  • Mimicking - What are your competitors doing? What type of website do they have and what functionality have they developed? Is there anything missing? How do you feel when navigating their site? What opportunities or gaps in the market can you identify?
  • Reading (sigh) - There are countless reports and whitepapers out there - from companies like Sitepoint - offering up detailed industry information on everything from Email Marketing to eCommerce Best Practice. Read it. Learn it. Love it. Share it.
  • Spying (no... really!) - Again with the competitors. Find them on social. Look at what their customers are saying about them and their online offering. Is any of it juicy? Glean insights wherever you can. Knowledge is power after all.

Obviously this is only a handful of ideas and is by no means an exhaustive list. There are so many ways in which you can find data and information to help you in your decision making. I'd be interested in hearing you own experiences.

Check back in the next few weeks for Principle 3.