Questions? (877) 643-7244
FutureNow Post
Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 at 5:46 am

Too Much Data Vs. Actionable Insight

By Jeff Sexton
January 5th, 2009

“There’s no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”

- Elaine in the movie Airplane

Does looking at an instrumentation panel like this (picture on the left) create feelings of information overload? It does for most non-pilots I know.

Pilots on the other hand, quickly identify the primary flight gauges and navigation equipment.  They know what’s immediately important for flying the plane, and can scan across multiple gauges (rather than fixating on one or two of them) to develop a “big picture” of what the plane is actually doing.

Even more importantly, when they make a control input (like adding power), they know where to look to verify its intended effect (e.g., altimeter and airspeed).

Web Optimization is a lot like that.

Emotionally, many business owners experience that exact sense of information overload when looking at traditional Web Analytics.  No one has taught them how to assemble a composite picture of visitor behavior – what measurements to look for first, what to look at in combination, and how to verify that website changes worked as expected.

Flying blind becomes the inevitable result.

Yet rather than looking for a pilot or investing in flying lessons, many business owners buy into optimization efforts based on sophisticated data gathering capabilities and overly complex testing methodologies.

Why would they do that when they need more actionable insight and situational awareness, and not more gauges to look at?

Because flight instructors are in short supply.  And because this kind of sense making, as a so-called “soft skill,” has always been a more difficult sell than hard-core data collection and taguchi testing.

But those interesting in learning to fly their web optimization efforts have a viable option:  Follow Bryan Eisenberg’s free Webinars and get free flight lessons each month.

On January 15th, Bryan and Jim Sterne (considered the godfather of web analytics) will cover specific techniques to get a composite picture of visitor flow and the importance of looking at analytics through the lens of visitor intent.  Consider it a first, free flight lesson that can be followed up with Bryan’s recorded Webinars.

And for those that want more, I’d invite you to check out FutureNow’s OnTarget product as an affordable way to hire an “on demand” flight instructor for your web optimization efforts.

Add Your Comments

Comments (19)

  1. Nice analogy – and to continue in vogue – many crash and burn when flying blind

  2. Most businesses see their site metrics from one perspective – how did we do compared to last month? If unique visitors is increasing and shopping cart conversion (or some other simple metric) is going in the right direction, the conversation is over and it’s on to the next issue – like how to update the company photo on the ‘about us’ page.

  3. I completely agree that it’s very easy to get overwhelmed into inaction by too much data. Continuing with the analogy, I think it’s also important to point out that optimization can’t be put on autopilot. The best optimizers are the ones who stay engaged and prepared for results that may be unexpected.

  4. Mark,

    True enough, but those companies don’t usually see their Key Performance Indicators go in the right direction for very long. And when the numbers don’t look good – or if the (wrongly picked) numbers (like traffic) do look good but sales/conversions drop – the question becomes “Why? What’s happening?”

    That’s when these people start looking at all the other data/metrics that their analytics provides and start suffering from information overload. They have all sorts of numbers and gauges and data, but no way to sort through them and create a “big picture” of what their site visitors are doing and where the site is failing them.

    And it’s it that point that they are (or should be) ready for some flight lessons – or to hire a pilot!

  5. Great post. That’s right. Data overload isn’t insightful. Actionable data comes with more focused analysis, especially through cross-segmentation.

  6. [...] Jeff Sexton, FutureNow: Too Much Data Vs. Actionable Insight [...]

  7. You are right. Web analytics can suck your time dry if you don’t know how to identify KPIs and most importantly applying them properly.

  8. [...] written about this before, but new reports keep reinforcing the point that most organizations don’t know what to make [...]

  9. [...] written about this before, but new reports keep reinforcing the point that most organizations don’t know what to make [...]

  10. Yet rather than looking for a pilot or investing in flying lessons, many business owners buy into optimization efforts based on sophisticated data gathering capabilities and overly complex testing methodologies.

    Good Luck

  11. I have often wondered if all those gauges were REALLY needed. =) I like the analogy.

  12. what happen? rp problem??

  13. I know from my own research that situational awareness is a significant factor.

  14. Its a balancing act for sure!

  15. Great post. Having too much data can really overload you.

  16. I couldn’t understand certain parts of this post, but I assume I only need to learn a bit more regarding this, because it certainly sounds interesting and kind of though-proviking! By the way, how did you first get started with this?

  17. That’s when these people start looking at all the other data/metrics that their analytics provides and start suffering from information overload. They have all sorts of numbers and gauges and data, but no way to sort through them and create a “big picture” of what their site visitors are doing and where the site is failing them.

  18. Mark,

    True enough, but those companies don’t usually see their Key Performance Indicators go in the right direction for very long. And when the numbers don’t look good – or if the (wrongly picked) numbers (like traffic) do look good but sales/conversions drop – the question becomes “Why? What’s happening?”

    That’s when these people start looking at all the other data/metrics that their analytics provides and start suffering from information overload. They have all sorts of numbers and gauges and data, but no way to sort through them and create a “big picture” of what their site visitors are doing and where the site is failing them.

    And it’s it that point that they are (or should be) ready for some flight lessons – or to hire a pilot!

  19. You are right. Web analytics can suck your time dry if you don’t know how to identify KPIs and most importantly applying them properly.

Add Your Comments

 

Print this Article
Share

Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

More articles from Jeff Sexton

Marketing Optimization Blog
FREE Newsletter Sign-Up
send it once every: