Project Management

Tracking tool provides results in a Flash

Looking for a way to track how visitors use your Web site? This article focuses on one outsourcer who can help, even if you want to track click-through rates on Flash animation files.


Using Web analytic tools to track how your customers use your Web site is key to success. But installing a tool that monitors page views, server hits, and click stream patterns can tax your IT team.

If you aren’t already tracking Web traffic, chances are that you will be soon. According to Gartner, an IT research firm, Web analytics will become a key e-business integration point among business, technical, and service provider managers by 2005.

WebSideStory’s Hitbox Enterprise product Version 6.5 takes some of the headache out of analyzing the behavior of your site’s visitors. The tool creates real-time statistical reports, which marketing teams can generate without IT’s assistance, saving you and your team the time it takes to produce and organize analytical reports.

TechRepublic offered a well-received review of Hitbox Enterprise Version 6.0 in November. Version 6.5 offers improved tracking capabilities, particularly with Flash animation files, which have been problematic tracking points in the past.

Flashy Internet tracking
One of V6.5’s most powerful tools is the ability to follow a click stream path in a Flash-generated animation file. “It’s been a big black box for a lot of people that can’t measure the interaction within [a Flash animation],” said Erik Bratt, media relations manager for WebSideStory.

Flash files create a unique tracking problem because they behave differently than HTML pages, according to Michael Christian, senior vice president for WebSideStory.

Christian explained that Flash files are stored in a browser. When a visitor clicks through a Flash file, the server powering the Web page does not receive new hits or requests for information. “With regular HTML Web pages, when you click you are really generating a request to the publishing server to get the next page,” Christian said.

“We didn’t know what the demand for it would be until we began to hear from Web developers who said that in some cases companies were refusing to use Flash because they couldn’t track it,” Christian said. “They just assumed that there was nothing you could do about it.”

Before selecting a Web analysis tool
In a report on analytical Web tools, Gartner offers a number of items that managers should look for in an analysis service. Before selecting a provider, make sure it can provide:
  • ·        The IP address of visitors.
  • ·        The time a visitor spends on the site.
  • ·        The type of browser a visitor uses.
  • ·        The country a visitor comes from.
  • ·        The path a visitor navigates through a site.
For a complete list of Gartner's criteria for Web analysis solutions, download the report, "Web Site Traffic Analysis: Perspective."


How it works
Tracking HTML Web pages and Flash animation requires that a piece of code be added to each page that an organization wants HitBox Enterprise Version 6.5 to recognize.

Any IT shop can implement the Flash animation tracking code before or after a Web page is created and begin immediate tracking of data. Data is obtained from Internet browsers, a process that allows managers to generate real-time numbers on the popularity of a new Web initiative or campaign.

The next step is to use the product in a way that best benefits your organization. V6.5 offers many different tracking categories, although some categories may not be applicable to your organization’s tracking plan.

“You only want to generate the pieces of information that make sense to your business. Otherwise it becomes an exercise in futility. And you’re not getting a lot of things that are fascinating to look at but have no impact on future probability,” said Bob O’Brien, the chief technology officer for yack.com, a guide to online programs and events and a WebSideStory customer.

First-hand visuals
O’Brien is referring to the many statistics available through WebSideStory’s service. The Hitbox Enterprise family of services uses data visualization to display a site’s analytical results.

Hitbox Enterprise V6.5 collects information into easy-to-read charts and graphs, as shown in Figure A. HitBox also offers their clients a mouse-over feature that provides a more detailed look at site traffic data.

Figure A


HitBox Enterprise V6.5 is an application service provider (ASP) that obtains data directly from Internet browsers and analyzes it in real time, a capability that lets executive management generate immediate numbers on the popularity of a new Web initiative or campaign. It includes outsourced functions to track multiple types of Web site data, including the following:
  • ·        Number of first-time visitors
  • ·        Most-requested content
  • ·        Download activity
  • ·        Number of repeat visitors
  • ·        The connection speed used by visitors
  • ·        How many visitors mark your Web site as a home page
  • ·        Exit pages, the page a visitors is viewing when they exit your site

Less IT involvement
HitBox Enterprise V6.5 makes Web tracking easier on the marketing and IT departments.

“Instead of hiring people or spending IT resources to generate reports and crunch log file numbers, an executive can look at the numbers for themselves,” said Bratt.

Christian also said the product keeps the marketing department away from an IT shop.

“They don’t care whether it’s Flash or HTML; what they want to know is how is the content performing, how people click around on these pages, and what paths lead to purchases,” he said.

Do you use analytical Web tools?
Do you track visitor behavior on your Web site? Is it a smooth process for your shop or is it a time-consuming hindrance? Tell us about it. Send us an e-mail or start a discussion below.

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