Understanding website users

March 19, 2007

I have just been looking at Steve Carson’s blog at the OpenFiction Project. In particular a post on Toward an Effective Understanding of Website Users a paper by Diane Harley. I felt both the paper and the blog entry made very good points and so I wanted to make a comment, but in the end failed. Looking back I was not the first to have failed as Stephen Downes had had some trouble commenting on an earlier post. I have therefore followed Stephen’s example and made the comment here on my blog. Not such a famous place so not sure it will ever get read!

Hi Steve,
Thank you very much for this post which pointed me towards a very interesting paper. On the openlearn site (http://www.open.ac.uk/openlearn) I have been reluctant to push a questionnaire because it won’t tell us about many in our audience. However just recently we used the access statistics to help us find some of those who had made significant use of the site. When people register we also ask if they are prepared to be approached for research purposes. So we used these in combination to select a deliberately biased sample who were asked to complete the questionnaire. These users will not be typical of the site but we certainly managed to get informative and useful replies from them. I guess this supports your statement “No, the survey results don’t represent all of the traffic to the site, but I’m not sure that information is worth having anyway.”

Patrick.

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One Response to “Understanding website users”

  1. steve Says:

    Patrick,

    Sorry, the comment did make it though and it is up on the site. It just gets queued for approval to prevent spamming. I know it’s a bit of a turn off, but I’ve just had too much spam on the site. I don’t do any editorializing, just manual spam filtering. Usually only takes me an hour or so to notice a posted comment, unless it comes in overnight.

    The information you’ll get from core users is absolutely useful in understanding what works and what doesn’t on the site and what improvements you might make, which is likely what you really need at this point. It’ll be trickier to get a measure of the aggregate benefit produced by the project, which is where extrapolating survey results to overall traffic usually occurs, and Diane’s work is most relevant. I’d love to eventually see some of the data you are generating. Again sorry for the delay in getting the comment up–a regrettable transaction cost.

    Best,

    Steve

    Steve


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