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Tony keeps talking about how the library homepage should be amended by looking at the usage data, and whilst usage data is important I’m not convinced that it’s the be all and end all of things.All this focus on usage data reminds me of the joke:

What’s the similarity between statistics and a bikini?

What they reveal is interesting, but they conceal the vital bits!

For one I’m not convinced by the Google Analytics click-through data as it seems to me that it only looks at the sub-domain of the links and so any clicks to a base url get amalgamated together. And just looking on the homepage there are the following base urls:  http://library.open.ac.uk; http://www.open.ac.uk; http://www.open2.net; http://intranet.open.ac.uk; http://voyager.open.ac.uk. So not being able to distinguish between people who leave the site to go to the catalogue and those who go to another institutional page or an external site makes it very difficult to then use this data as our primary decision-making tool.

Secondly, we get other feedback direct from our users that we need to take into account – either as a result of surveys and user testing, or unsolicited comments. These are often insightful and show what people are thinking of the site when they use it – what they are trying to do and what problems they have doing it.

Lastly, we within the Library have a view on how we think the website should be used and what we want to push to our users to help them use our resources. We may not be right, and that’s where site analytics are invaluable in seeing how the site is used, but they can’t be used in isolation.

Tony is right though: we do need to get better at using the data we gather to inform our decision-making. We gather alot of information (not just web analytics) and need to be more proactive in working out what we want from this and then using it. Tony’s been talking about using the website usage data as the basis for a re-design of the library homepage for over a year, and given how many staff I know read his blog it’s quite embarassing that it’s taken so long for us to do anything about it. But our new front page will be launched on the 1st Sept and the usage data (among other things) has been used to come up with the design.