Data gleaned from log files can make for tedious and cryptic reading, especially if you just want plain-English information about what works and what doesn’t on your Web site. If you’re tired of statistics that don’t necessarily tell you what you need to know, then ClickTracks Analyzer 3.0 may be the right choice.

ClickTracks Analyzer will import your log files and present information about users in an easy-to-understand, graphical interface. ClickTracks Analyzer is an intuitive tool for gaining a better understanding of how visitors use your site, and it can even lead to design improvements on your site.

To help you decide if this is the tool you need to track user behavior on your site, here’s a look at how ClickTracks Analyzer translates log file data into useful information

Installation and overview
One of the most attractive features of ClickTracks Analyzer is that it doesn’t require you to do anything special to your Web site or your Web server to be able to track user behavior. All you have to do is download and install the program. ClickTracks Analyzer uses a wizard to step you through the process of providing it with everything it needs to accurately and effectively digest and display information about your Web site.

Two key details that ClickTracks Analyzer requires (as shown in Figure A and Figure B) are the URL of your Web site and the type of scripting used on your server.

Figure A

Figure B

Once you’ve stepped through the ClickTracks Analyzer wizard, all you have to do is import a log file and review the data for your site. ClickTracks Analyzer imports files with .log and .gz extensions, and the program includes an FTP tool for downloading logs from the Web server. ClickTracks Analyzer can read log files generated from the following Web servers:

  • IIS 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0
  • Apache
  • Netscape/iPlanet

In addition, ClickTracks Analyzer requires that the following fields be present in the log file you import:

  • Date and time on every line
  • Client IP address
  • HTTP method
  • Requested file
  • Query
  • User agent
  • Referrer

Instead of simply spitting out tables of statistics on page-views and click-throughs, ClickTracks Analyzer displays your Web site as users see it and shows statistics with each page. Each page displays the percentage of site visitors who viewed the current page. Naturally, most users will see your home page, but how many actually see subsequent pages? ClickTracks Analyzer lets you know in terms of percentage of visits to your site. Say, for example, that 100 percent of users see your home page, but only 2 percent see a page that presents detailed information about your flagship product. This prompts you to begin asking questions about why users aren’t getting to information you want them to see.

You may discover that not all of your visitors actually see the home page, depending on how your site is laid out and indexed. If a user performs a search on a particular topic, the results may land them on a different page. This knowledge could have an influence on the information you choose to display on the home page and on subsequent pages.

In the sample shown in Figure C, you can see that ClickTracks Analyzer presents other important information as well, including the percentage of users who actually entered your site at the page you’re viewing and the average length of time users spent at the page.

Figure C

The interface for ClickTracks Analyzer is quite intuitive. It acts as a browser, displaying your Web site pages just as users see them along with data on user behavior. To find out how visitors see and use your site, all you have to do is click through the very same links the users see on your pages. You can find out how users find your site (as shown in Figure D), which pages they visit most often, how long they spend there, and where and when they exit the site.

Figure D

The Projux experience
Projux, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based ASP that hosts a project tracking service, opted for ClickTracks Analyzer to analyze traffic on its site. What ClickTracks Analyzer revealed prompted Projux to redesign its Web site so that users could more easily find important information.

Prior to purchasing ClickTracks Analyzer, said S. Paul Childs, marketing director for Projux Online Inc., Projux outsourced its Web site analysis to another company, which would generate spreadsheets from log files. Childs said the problem with the data in the spreadsheets was that it wasn’t easy to interpret in clear terms of user behavior on the site.

“It was a little difficult to understand what was going on,” said Childs, “because each element displayed had its own tactical name in system terms. So it takes a leap to actually understand what that description is in terms of a page or a link or an image.”

Once Projux purchased ClickTracks Analyzer, it no longer had to pay an outside consultant by the hour to translate its log files into usable Web site data, because it could do the analysis itself.

“What ClickTracks presents to you,” said Childs, “is your Web site as it looks, and overlaying on top of it are percentages showing how individuals have visited and navigated the site, the percentage who visited each page, each link, each image.”

Childs said ClickTracks Analyzer can show site activity for a specific day, week, or month and that Projux was specifically interested in ensuring that people who visit the site obtain the information that it wanted to present.

“What we had before was a very busy site with many links,” said Childs, “and we found that the number of people who visited the features section that actually told what our product did was quite low.”

Childs said ClickTracks Analyzer also revealed that many visitors to the site left immediately after accessing without actually reading the information on the accessed page or visiting additional pages.

“ClickTracks helped us realize [the site’s problems] by showing us pictorially what was going on,” said Childs.

After realizing that visitors weren’t able to easily obtain Projux’s product information, Projux substantially redesigned its site. The home page, said Childs, is much more straightforward and simple than it used to be, and the links are designed to lead visitors to the product features so they can understand what it does. Childs said the site layout also better promotes the free trial of the product.

Projux has saved a lot of money by going with ClickTracks Analyzer, Childs said, because it is no longer paying the consulting company $400-$500 every two to three months to analyze its log file data. Childs also believes that the site redesign will ultimately lead to more business for Projux because visitors to the site can more quickly determine what services it offers.

The final word
ClickTracks Analyzer is a useful tool for determining how visitors use your Web site. Because it uses a browser-like interface, it’s an intuitive program that displays information in an accessible manner that allows you to quickly see and understand where the strengths and weaknesses of your Web site lie.

You can purchase ClickTracks Analyzer for $495 at the Web site, and if you want to try before you buy, you can also download the free trial.