How traffic stats help you make decisions

by Martin Reed on 28 September 2007 in Articles

Use website traffic stats to make decisions

I come across many people posting on forums asking questions such as:

- Should I used fixed width or a fluid layout for my website?
- Should I design for a 1024×768 or a 1280×1024 screen resolution?
- Should I go for some great looking Flash, or keep things lean and fast loading?

There really should be no need for an established website developer to be asking other developers these questions – all the answers are in your traffic logs and what is more, those answers are tailored and customised for your site.

Your site may not be part of ‘the norm’

Just because people are telling you that the majority of Web users are now using a screen resolution of 1024×768, it doesn’t necessarily mean the majority of your site’s users are. Just because people are telling you that most people are on broadband now so image optimisation is less important, it doesn’t mean that most visitors to your site enjoy a broadband connection.

I am not saying you should ignore Web trends – of course you should be aware of how the online world is developing in order to ensure you don’t fall behind. What you mustn’t lose sight of though, is the fact that you are developing your site for your visitors – not necessarily for the ‘average’ user.

Keep your visitors happy – nobody else matters

Community websites rely on retaining visitors and converting them into long term members. Sure, you want (and need) to attract new users so you should be aware of current Web trends when it comes to user tastes and capabilities. This should never be at the expense of your current, loyal member base, though.

At the end of the day, all your decisions should be based on keeping your visitors happy. Visitors to other websites don’t matter. You need to ensure you cater to the majority of users that come to your website. The only way of finding this out for certain is to pay attention to your own traffic stats.

There is no excuse nowadays for not having a decent understanding of your visitors. If your server doesn’t have a stats package, sign up for Google Analytics – it’s free, and it’ll provide you with a remarkable amount of data to study.

So before you ask someone a question about generalised Web trends, see if you can work it out for yourself! The answer you come up with from looking at your own traffic stats will be far more accurate and far more valuable.

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Roxi September 30, 2007 at 8:42 pm

thax Martin for that excellent information.

I must sign up to google analytics

Hirsutism October 1, 2007 at 1:46 pm

I believe in only one thing that there should be traffic to your site. How you get it is not the issue if you get it by changing your resolution, so be it then. Or you get traffic by making your site look flashy so make it flashy. Bottom line is traffic and a good response to your site. And believe me if you have good and useful content and have done some good seo work to get the site on top there is no reason why you should not have traffic to your site.
The site should satisfy the search of your visitor and you are done.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 1, 2007 at 6:04 pm

Roxi – I’m glad you enjoyed the article, let me know what you think of Google Analytics when you get around to setting it up on your site.

Hirsutism – Of course, traffic is important! However I would never subscribe to the concept of ‘traffic at any cost’ – it is important you spend time attracting only targeted traffic. Anything else is a waste of both your time, and the time of the visitor who arrives at a site that is of absolutely no interest to them! Once you have targeted visitors, you can learn more about them through your stats and tailor your site to them.

Roxi October 1, 2007 at 7:16 pm

yeah its very descriptive.
Far better than sitemeter which I was using earlier.

Thax Martin.

recording studio October 1, 2007 at 7:40 pm

I could not agree more. The point of the whole exercise is to get a visitor/client/customer and keep him/her. To judge that all you need is the stats. If it is low, figure out why and take remedial measures till you get a satisfactory level of visits. Nothing else matters.

Roxi October 1, 2007 at 7:54 pm

Yes you are right,
but that stats should be descriptive enough to get the correct information.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 1, 2007 at 8:20 pm

Roxi – I knew you would love Google Analytics. The amount of information you are provided with is absolutely incredible!

recording studio – You’re right; it’s hard to work on retaining visitors if you don’t know how they act when they are at your site, or how they access your website.

It’s a continuous process – evaluate, tweak, evaluate, tweak. If you don’t have the right information though, you are just playing a guessing game – hardly an efficient use of your time, and liable to confuse and alienate your visitors!

Burtons October 5, 2007 at 7:09 pm

Google wants to control everything about you.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2007 at 1:37 pm

Burtons – There are many people out there who would agree with you!

Eva White September 9, 2008 at 4:26 am

Its so interesting to go back and read old articles. Hindsight is always 20/20. Though you were absolutely right about Google Analytics.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Eva – Glad you are enjoying the dusty articles!