Ok, I admit that I am a designer that likes new products, but remains skeptical about spending money on useless software or upgrades, especially for my clients. I tend to stick with the web software I know--my designer grab bag of essentials includes Photoshop, ImageReady, Illustrator, Homesite, and occasionally Flash. With these products I have unlimited options to create useable websites, but what I lack is a great way to evaluate the results. Currently the only way to gauge effectiveness is to use a stats application that is either an extremely overpriced custom solution or a severely under-performing hack job that lacks any substance. Give me effective software without the glitzy facade, at a price that is affordable for my clients and me. What I want is something hearty and useful.
ClickTracks Analyzer is a different kind of website tool. It gives you the satisfaction of visually seeing the trail of clicks that your users provide. It's a no-nonsense approach to revealing information that is truly useful, as opposed to seeing an endless list of numbers, words and charts. The beauty of ClickTracks is that it has a built-in browser that superimposes the behavior information right on top of your website as you click through your pages. The first session reveals cool new useful trends from your users. - -Why wasn't this offered along time ago?
But Wait There's More
As you become more familiar with ClickTracks Analyzer, it gets even better. Ever wonder what all those people from Google do when they reach your site? With ClickTracks Analyzer, you can identify each user from Google and track their path. Want to know how these users compare with Yahoo? Within a minute you can have side-by-side statistics of each user group visually displayed on top of your website. This is revolutionary. If this isnt enough, flag more user groups and easily compare your top five referrers as you click trough your site.
Another encouraging factor is that it takes only the time required to suck down that first morning cup of Joe. It took me less than ten minutes, and I didn't have to add one speck of code to any of the pages in the site. There it is. My website, but with a bunch of information hovering over the top of it. Coffee in one hand, bagel resting precariously on the edge of the desk.
The True Test: Client Showdown
A recent project with a long-term client afforded me the chance to really put ClickTracks through its paces. I didn't design the client's original site. If I had, I'd have never over-navigated and loaded it down with as many pages as the original designer did, but I have been 'maintaining' it for some time. It's been a battle I'm sure you're familiar with; balancing the 'client is always right' attitude with your professional opinion on what's best for the site.
So the client was ready for a redesign, adding a new logo, other new graphics and some new content. What better time to revisit the idea of fixing the horrific nav structure and taking out some of the confusing pages whose only visitor is most likely my client himself? Of course this redesign didn't come with a blank check. I just couldn't do all the stuff he wanted to do all at one time. I had to suggest the main areas that needed work and concentrate on those first, but even before that, we'd need to agree on what those main areas were.
Before making those suggestions, I knew I needed some hard proof. I grabbed the log file and ran it through ClickTracks Analyzer. Guess what? One glance at the screen showed, right next to each hyperlink, exactly how few people were navigating to those deeper pages, as well as the high numbers of people exiting. Almost 1/3 of all of his visitors were leaving the site from the home page. I'd need to recommend he take a look at his keywords and meta tags in order to ensure he was accurately portraying the content available on his site.
I also noticed that his home page's load time was a very acceptable 7 seconds. Whatever graphic elements we might end up implementing, I'd reiterate the importance of this quick load time.
Further investigation revealed that one of the deepest pages, and coincidentally one of the pages the client was most interested in people seeing, had the lowest percentage of visitors actually sticking with the site long enough to get there. There was only one link from one of the site's interior pages that led to this section, which appeared to be part of the problem. A little more than 6% of the site's visitors happened upon this page.
Here was the evidence I'd been searching for. I printed out the ClickTracks data and took it with me to our redesign planning meeting. After months of sounding like a broken record, the client took a look at the printouts and had no alternative. He could see it. We decided to focus on reining in the navigation and pages and holding off on some of the other, less important changes until later.
Score: Client: 1 Bryan: 1 Bad site navigation and unnecessary pages: 0
As a web designer, I find a great deal of satisfaction using the application. It's a pretty handy tool to have stashed away in the web building toolbox. I add true value to what I give my clients not only because I have the information, but I can provide that information to them in a way they can understand. And quite honestly, the price is right. I earned the total cost back in one project, and provided more value to my clients. If you download the 30-day trial version, I'd be willing to bet you'll find some way to pull together the cash at the end.
Info: ClickTracks Analyzer, $495, www.clicktracks.com