Is a mobile version a prerequisite for a great website?

April 8, 2010

iphone picOver the last few days I was thinking about what makes a great website in 2010. Among many things, I thought about a mobile version of your website. Is a mobile version a prerequisite for a great website?

A great website meets the needs of the audience. Is your audience searching your website with mobile devices? To know the answer to this question you need to be measuring traffic to your site. (another thing that makes a great website)

I thought I would share some data from www.gettysburg.edu. Using Google Analytics I looked at mobile traffic in three segments listed below.

November 3, 2009 – December 31, 2009
6,313 visits

January 1, 2010 to Feb 28, 2010
7,520 visits

March 2010
4,364 visits

About 2/3 of the visits are from external addresses and 1/3 are from a campus address.

This data tells me that at least initially that mobile traffic is increasing to the site. However it still only represents about 1% of the total visits to the Gettysburg website. Is that enough to spend resources developing tools for users on mobile devices?

The truth is that I don’t know. Will we someday see 50% of the traffic to Gettysburg from a mobile device? Maybe. Maybe not. But here are a few facts to help you decide:

  • More than 300,000 iPads have been sold in America since last week’s launch
  • CNBC Mobile’s Web traffic has grown more than tenfold since its June launch. The site’s traffic went from 2.7 million monthly page views to more than 30 million monthly page views.
  • Last year, for the first time, notebooks outsold desktop computers

What do you think – are there other links and resources that you would suggest?


Data Analysis for student blogs

March 12, 2009

Dara Crowfoot asked a good question about what metrics or usage stats I have in a comment on my post Thinking Differently About Student Blogs.

I pulled together some data to share:

We promote the blogs right off our homepage with a news article. It promotes all three of the spring break blogs we are supporting. Each group that blogs might do separate promotion with alumni and parents which we suggest as well.

So far the news article has received about 600 unique pageviews which is excellent for our news stories. This is more than double our average story. Part of your assessment efforts for these type of blogs has to be comparing your numbers against what might be “normal traffic”.  We do detailed news comparisons each year so we can tell our average pageviews on stories and how many doubled the average etc… This type of data is very helpful when we are attempting to quantify our efforts on projects like this one.

Additionally we have had over 300 unique pageviews to each blog so far. Of course these are still going on and we will do more post trip promotion. Admissions will use them in e-communications and we will often feature them in an alumni magazine. In the fall we had a professor take one of our first-year seminar classes on Homelessness to DC for fall break. This blog ended with over 2,000 unique pageviews.


You don’t need a redesign you need a web strategy (Part One)

September 27, 2008

Each year higher ed spends more money, creates more positions, buys more products and services for the web but does your institution have a strategy behind these actions? Even if there is a strategy are there benchmarks and metrics in place to assess the strategy?

Over the course of the last 8 years that I have worked in higher ed I have found through my time in athletics, admissions, and now the web that we “throw” money at problems and challenges dealing with technology. Institutions would be better served to take 6 months and create a true strategy for their web efforts and then put the people in place to execute that strategy.

The website and in broader terms your institutions web presence is no longer just a medium for the school to communicate like the alumni magazine and e-newsletter but instead it represents the very essence of your school just like the buildings on your campus or the people who work at the school.

What does a strategy mean? Or better yet what does a strategy not mean. Simply redesigning a website in house is not a web strategy but instead a stop gap measure that might not even solve the challenges that institutions face. If a building needs to be upgraded it isn’t just done on a whim by the facilities department instead it often gets looked at as part of a broader campus master plan that had input from the campus community and was designed to meet the needs of campus from a facilities standpoint for the next 10, 15, or 20 years Why don’t we do the same thing with our web strategy?

Some would argue that it is too tough to create a strategy with technology since the technology changes so rapidly. That’s why you need a strategy in place that does not focus solely on the “latest and greatest” technologies but instead – focuses on your ability to adapt and respond working collaboratively and within teams. A strategy with this focus allows you to enhance and change as technology moves forward without losing site of your institutions mission and brand.

to be continued….


How data can help you show value…

September 24, 2008

You collect data all year long. You have google analyitics running on your site, and you can tell everyone how many hits your homepage gets in a week. Now is the time to put that data to use and help you show value. It’s budget time and the data you have collected can be a valuable asset when you are advocating for additional resources in the web area.

You will have a strong case if you are able to pull together a complete picture. Here are some examples:

  • just how many users the web is marketing to in a year
  • how with limited resources (because lets face it we never admit that we have enough) you were able to engage visitors to stay longer on the site because of your enhanced content or technology
  • a direct correlation to online donations or enrollment
  • the number of requests for help you got across campus
  • the number of “webmaster” emails you answered

Data can be used for more than just reporting or “backing up” your web decisions. Use it to your advantage.


Data Driven Decision Making

June 20, 2008

We talk a lot in the “web” world about Google analytics and some of the neat features that the tool provides. However having the tool is only half the battle. I wonder how many people are really using the tool to help make decisions? Part of the issue is of course staffing and how do we use tools to their full potential when we ourselves or our most of the time limited staff are already worked overtime.

Here are a few things to keep in mind and think about:

1. Make the time to start tracking
As tough as it may be you have to start looking at something. In my first year collecting data I decided to look at unique visitors and total visits. I just started tracking something.

2.  Start to report to who ever you can
Depending on who you report to you may be asked to provide weekly, monthly, or annual reports to your director, vice president, senior leadership team, or board of trustees. Start reporting. Make sure you have a caveat that says with out three to five years of comparison data year to year results are inconclusive. But your superiors will appreciate you trying to quantify your work.

3. Don’t be afraid when things don’t work
The first thing you learn when you start to look at data is that it does not always back up every decision you make. Be prepared for this. It’s not the end of the world.

4. The data is your friend
As you start to use data more and more it can help you make decisions, back up your intuitions, and even motivate staff on creative projects because they can start to see their results.


Assessment – near and dear to my heart

April 21, 2008

At the CASE Marketing, Communications, & Technology Conference last week – my partner (Andrew Careaga of Missouri University of Science and Technology and author of a blog called Higher Ed Marketing) and I talked about some of the basics of how and what to assess when it comes to your web/electronic communication efforts.  We talked about 4 areas that higher ed should think about:

1. User Data – metrics, hits, visitors, time on site and any other number of data points that any good analytics tool like Google Analytics or Webtrends might deliver.

2. Focus Groups – talking but more importantly listening to what your audience says is critical to the success of your efforts

3. Usability – this might be the toughest one for higher ed. Learning if your call to action is in the right place or your navigation makes sense is sometimes overlooked or removed from a redesign budget.

4. Other data – this is a catch all category I use for things that are related to the web but might have other factors that affect it as well. Things like your acceptance rate, alumni giving percentage, retention and graduation rates. This category all comes back to your strategy and what audiences you are trying to communicate with.

What are others doing in their web assessment efforts?


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