Now Webtrends Sees It

On from Analytics Culture, Data Visualization, Web Analytics

With today’s launch of v9, webtrends totally revisited how it presents analysis results. First, I must say that I was never a fan of how the company used data visualization. Through all the versions over the years, I thought that their use of graphs was always the same, i.e. useless (oh! those pie charts!). If you were a heavy user of the application, I bet you had the same habit as mine: always scrolling down the page over the graphs to see the actual results. In fact, I usually configure the template not to show the graphs when I implement it.

With 9, visualization has been completely revisited. It is in fact the bulk of the new version. I believe the company has made great efforts to apply what are now recognized as better practices in the world of data visualization, notably under Stephen Few’s influence. It would be too long to detail what this means, but let’s say that basically, we’re done with most of the eye-candy effects we had in previous versions that didn’t add much insight.


One thing that struck me when I first was shown the new UI, was the immediate availability of results. No more clicking to get to the profile list, clicking on the profile name, and getting to the Overview. Now, a lot of information is available right there, at the profile list level. The idea is to connect the users with their data as quickly as possible.

Also, webtrends got rid of the old gaudy color scheme; no more shadowy semi-transparent 3D column graphs with 20 different colors. It has now opted for a black/grey palette that is way smoother to the eye, and does not distract from the story:

It could be nice to be able to change the color scheme, though. Following Few too much can lead to a colorless grey world. I think it would be good to have the ability to choose a color theme. I would also like to be able to change the color of some graph elements in order to bring the reader’s attention to them.

Now, numbers nicely co-exist with their visuals. No more scrolling!! I mean, only this little improvement will spare me a lot of carpian canal pain on heavy analysis days! Selecting a value will of course immediately change the graph. The grey bars represent weekends, and webtrends has done a great job at making sure they align correctly when one compares different periods. Note the emphasis on the values in a new nice font.

Now, all available reports are beneath the result presentation area, making it quick to select another one. I just don’t know yet if we’ll still be able to use custom template here (I always rename the report sections, because I find the default ones to be rather meaningless to most marketing managers).

Oh, but wait! Look at the numbers in the picture. See? Yes! Bounce Rate!! FINALLY!!! It’s here now, but at this point, it’s hard to commend webtrends for having a KPI that’s been understood by the market for years. But, hey, we got it now. However, it would have definitely been nice, and really useful, to have BR all over the place, like we get it in GA: looking at search engine keyphrases, entry pages, top pages, referrers, etc., will still present the old measures, with no BR in sight. “Hits” are still there for Pete’s sake!

Another little problem is the need to scroll sideways to get to the full view of the measures. We understand that good dashboard principles require that all the data be available at a glance, allowing for a complete view or results. OK, not everybody agrees on this one, and it is certainly one of the most difficult rules to apply when conceiving a dashboard. I wonder if a solution here would be to allow for screen resizing.

Data in Context

I haven’t played with it yet, but webtrends now offers the possibility to integrate RSS feeds and add them to the graph in order to give some context to the trends. This is a very interesting example of how the company wants to make it easier for us to “Connect” with other applications by now allowing data in, and making it even easier to get data out (via their API I won’t comment today).

It seems that this kind of integration in the reports is also possible with radian6, the product webtrends whitelables for their social media measurement (more on radian6 in a future post). I would really love to see that, because it would certainly make it easier to see the actual impact (or lack thereof) of SM on a site! Needless to say that this is something that remains to be seen in general with Social Media. I must confess that I can’t see the rabbit yet.

Say What?

A cool new feature is a function that takes some results and constructs a narrative by actually writing a paragraph, which could be simply copied and pasted in an email

It remains to be seen whether this functionality can be used with other Overview Dashboards using different indicators. But I still find the idea pretty neat. This reminds us that an analysis is a form of narrative, a story that must *tell* something useful. At the end, it’s all language.

The Future

The new visualization definitely belonged to the list of top things to do. I believe that changes are not simply cosmetics, but are a genuine effort to make result display more efficient, which means more insightful. However, webtrends 9 is still Webtrends Analytics, and the true renewal is still to come. The application will have to make it much easier to explore, slice and dice, check hypothesis on the fly, and one good way I think would be to get out of the Custom Reports logic. I mean by that there should be more possibilities to cross-tab dimensions without having to create a custom report for every question not answered by the default reports.

As someone who often has very little time to come up with insightful analysis of large set of web activity data, doing quick exploration, now, becomes critical. And with all their drawbacks, some other applications make that job easier.

Would a solution be merging Analytics and Marketing Warehouse/VI into a single product line (if even feasible)?

NOTE: I should have mentioned that the team behind the new UI had only 3 months to do all that. Impressive!



Tags: webtrends, webtrends+9

8 responses to “Now Webtrends Sees It

  1. I agree with you on the color bit: Apple is neat and all, but let’s not keep stealing their design for every site and tool in the world. Color themes would be much appreciated, that way the Apple fans can have their black/gray/gray/gray/gray and white, and everyone else can have some fun.

    As of now I’m just waiting for my profiles to collect some data (we literally just moved back to on demand) so I can see some of the new stuff, though having participated in earlier discussions, I’ve seen some of this impressive stuff before.

    I know the users who just want to jump in and see easy to follow results for themselves instead of having someone build a report will probably appreciate this most of all.

  2. You mean there are reports other than Custom Reports?

    Gee, I almost forgot…;)

    You’re right, the whole “standard reports” idea really needs to be buried, not just in WT but in the other apps as well. I’m not smart enough to know what the solution is, but it probably smells like WT Score, at least for WT.

    Let’s reduce the dataset that needs to be displayed / cross-tabbed / correlated into events, and then perhaps it would be a lot easier to have hypothesis on-the-fly capability.

    In truth, that’s why I actually prefer working with logs, because I’m not nearly as concerned with “accuracy” as I am with analytical flexibility. Raw numbers I can get any number of ways, what I need is to understand what is happening and then “what-if” myself into the why.

  3. RE: “Would a solution be merging Analytics and Marketing Warehouse/VI into a single product line (if even feasible)?”

    This makes an incredible amount of sense. The true power of more modern analytics comes from the ability to segment data in a robust and dynamic manner and do on the fly analysis. In addition, stats like bounce rate are calculated stats that were not previously achievable in the old analytics product due to the restrictions of the data warehouse that backed the standard product (at least that is my understanding of why WebTrends is late to the BR party.)

    I believe that Omniture has made this leap with their base package which makes it appear more robust at a very competitive price tag.

    I believe that, in addition to the way the data is handled to allow for on-the-fly segmentation and analysis — WebTrends should take a long look at the way reports are configured. When compared to other products, their report config/setup seems a little out dated.

  4. Jacques –

    Thanks for the comments and I hope you are enjoying Hawaii 😉

    The exciting part of Analytics 9 is that it is a proof point in our commitment to deliver frequent release cycles of customer/market driven ehnhancements and new capabilities. Much of what you like in Analytics 9 was not even a thought going into our initial paper prototypes 3 months ago. So keep the feedback and thoughts coming, we welcome it, we embrace it, and we’ll deliver on it.


  5. @ Bryan

    I actually like the new color scheme a lot, but I have done projects (dashboard, for example) where we would use one hue at 95%. We don’t need to stay in all grey, and webtrends should (and will I guess) offer other colors for potential themes.

    @ Jim

    I should have be more nuanced. I meant being able to more easily cross-tab existing dimensions to facilitate exploration. But I certainly don’t think it means getting rid of Custom Reports! They are usually where the only, truly interesting stuff about a site is found!

    And I’m with you: if it were all up to me, I’d get rid of all the packaged reports, in any application, and work only from what I need to analyze, even if it’s three report. Working from a clean slate, in other words.

    @ Matt

    Well, I don’t know. To me Omniture is pretty darn complex, and yes they offer BR, but barely. Should be more prevalent in all apps.

    @ Casey

    Casey, I should have mentioned that all that new stuff was all done in 3 months!! What a feat, frankly. I think you guys are on the right path with this new visualization, and there are a lot of WT lovers like me out there waiting to see what you will come up with next!

    Keep on the great work!

  6. Regarding the colors, I’ve been told that everything’s based on style sheets and that sooner or later we’ll be able to change or supply new style sheets. Whether this can easily happen in On Demand, I dunno.

  7. Hi Jacques,

    I was also very excited when I saw first demo back in May and even more yesterday when I got my access to “play” with it.

    It is sure that WebTrends made a BIG move and finally got rid of their “old & aged” interface. Bye bye Java applets (OH THANK YOU WEBTRENDS).

    The account overview and the profile dashboard are great – easy to read. The compare options is great and all other things you mentioned.


    The Insight UI is NOT meant to replace the standard UI (for the moment). It is another vizualisation method.

    Everyone seems to get all excited by the profile dashboard but in the end it displays only standard metrics (visits, page views, bounce rate…). What about other metrics? I hope it will be customizable.

    Having direct access to the full list of reports? Ok but I am a big fan of templates because you can organize reports in logical structure based on your audience. What if you have 50 reports (standards & customs)? You will have to scan through the list each time to find the reports you want? Templates allows to organize reports in a logical way that makes browsing more easy – especially for non-frequent users (and hide all those unnecessary standard reports).

    Graphs are gone. Ok many are useless but what about trend graphs? These are for me a must have. I mean if I look at a report for a period, I only get figures for the whole period. We use trend graphs a lot for example to follow the launch of a new model and see how traffic evolves over the last month or the traffic evolution for a campaign…

    Graphs will be probably added in next release (I hope so) and current one is just a first step. A very good one, do not get me wrong (doing all this is such short timeframe). I am still happy with the move WebTrends did. But somehow, I hoped for more.

    Oh, one other great feature is the REST export! That is really cool and no need to have WebTrends Exporter client installed anymore. Top class! I will be happy to have this on Software.

    I wish that rend graph data would be exportable one data pleaaaaase! (like when you switch to data table mode in the profile dashboard view).


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