There’s a change happening in the world of web analytics – there’s a new kid on the block that’s changing the game in subtle ways: real-time data. Where the previously predominant model of data tracking came from once-daily reporting of data, a new breed of analytics is emerging thanks in part to the likes of tools like Woopra.
Woopra is a “real-time web tracking and analysis application”. The service is free, although currently in a private invitation beta. After inserting a snippet of code into your site and then downloading a desktop client, you can monitor the traffic on your site all in real-time. Other than the cool factor, a tool like this has some very practical uses.
Real-Time Web Stats Shortens the Reporting Lifecycle
The value of Woopra comes from its real-time reporting capabilities vs. other web stats tools like Google Analytics, Webalizer, WP-Stats which deliver once-daily data. This is particularly relevant for sites when:
- Your website has a well-defined funnels/paths and you want to improve the “conversion rate”, AND
- You want to improve this conversion rate under a shortened design/development lifecycle
1st Key Concept: Clickthrough Paths and Conversion Rates
The first key concept here is this idea of a clickthrough path or conversion rate. At its most basic: different sites have different goals, when the visitor completes that defined goal, it counts as a “conversion” for the site. For example:
Conversion Rates for Online Communities
In an online community, conversion could be any one of:
- signing up a user account and creating a profile
- adding a post to a discussion board
- adding “friends” to your profile
Conversion Rates for Blogs or News sites
Blogs or news/magazine-oriented websites may consider conversion as being the act of:
- adding a comment to a post
- signing up to receive email updates
- subscribing to an RSS feed
Conversion Rates for e-Commerce sites
- all the above
- filling a shopping cart and “checking out” / completing a purchase
2nd Key Concept: The Iterative Lifecycle
What constitutes a conversion is ultimately based on the primary goals of the site. But no matter what the final goals are, there are different paths people can take when visiting the site to ultimately end up at that final action – the more often your visitors complete that last step, the higher your conversion rate, and the more likely you are achieving the goals you’ve set for your site. So one of the primary reasons you would monitor webstats is to make informed changes to your site that improves the conversion rate.
Th second key concept here is the idea of the iterative lifecycle of data reporting/research -> design/development or to think of it another way: measuring performance -> improving performance: once you’ve gathered data reporting back on the performance of your current website, you can then make changes to your site to improve its performance. Most web analytics tools will provide a means to monitor the funnel to conversion – and while each tool may provide different ways of visualizing it, just about all will be providing the same core data.
The largest benefit offered by Woopra is that it shortens the reporting lifecycle. Traditional stats tools update the data one a day or periodically throughout the day. So if you make a change in response to that data, you need to wait at least one more day before you can see the impact. Woopra shortens this lifecycle by letting you immediately see the impact of making the changes, along with presumably giving you more data on variability throughout the day (vs. end-of-day totals).
Other Benefits and Uses for Woopra
Real-time data provides a whole new set of possibilities to web professionals.
For example, if you work in a web team that adopts an agile methodology to your development work, Woopra could be used to run quick tests of your work in progress. Guerilla usability tests could also be facilitated through Woopra – set it up on a staging server where you load up wireframes or run an A-B test and use the real-time data to get a dashboard view of how your users are running through the tests.
There are lots of possibilities with what you could do with real-time web analytics, and the key here like with many other aspects of working in the web is to be flexible, adaptable, and creative.