User behaviour Web metrics

A/B headline switching for museum content

Regular readers will know that I’ve been fascinated by the overlap between museum curatorial practice and journalism over the past while. Similarly I’ve also been very interested in the impact of behavioural data on these professions that is emerging at scale and in real-time on digital platforms.

So I was very excited to find that out of a Baltimore Hackcamp that a ‘headline tester’ plugin for WordPress has been released.

You will have noticed how the headlines on news websites change throughout the day for the same article. This has been the subject of several online projects like The Quick Brown that tracked changes in Fox News headlines, and News Sniffer that tracks full article edits in the UK.

This sort of A/B testing is usually the kind of activity that takes a lot of work, planning, and is hard to deploy at a daily level with the kind of resources that museums have available to them. In news journalism time is of the essence – readership fluctuations directly impact commercial model in a highly competitive environment – so it makes a lot of sense to have systems in place for journalists to track and edit their stories as they go. Museums don’t face these pressures but do face the same competition for attention.

What this plugin allows us to do is – like a news website – pose two different headlines for the same blog post, then, over time, the one that generates the most clicks becomes the one that sticks for that post. Visitors and readers effectively vote through their actions for the ‘best’ title.

We’ve just started to deploy this on the Photo of the Day blog and it will progressively roll out over the others as we go.

Today’s Photo of the Day post introduces a camera from our collection. So which out of these two headlines do you think would generate the most traffic?

Are you interested in hearing about our camera collection?
The Bessa 66 folding camera

Paula Bray who wrote the post expected the first headline would be most popular. And now we can test that hypothesis!

Surprisingly, right now it is the second more direct headline – ‘The Bessa 66 folding camera‘ – that is generating the most traffic by almost 2 to 1.

Over time we will be able to better refine our headlines that are written by curators and other staff who blog. And of course this feeds back into improving the effectiveness of the writing style of museum in these digital mediums.

User behaviour Web metrics

Testing an engagement metric and finding surprising results

As regular readers know I’ve been working on web metrics for a few years now and experimenting with different models for cultural institutions. So it was with interest I read the’s equation for online engagement over at Nieman Journalism Lab.

… two months ago,, home of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, began analyzing their web traffic with an “engagement index” — an equation that goes beyond pageviews and into the factors that differentiate a loyal, dedicated reader from a fly-by. It sums up seven different ways that users can show “engagement” with the site, and it looks like this: Σ(Ci + Di + Ri + Li + Bi + Ii + Pi)


One possibility they considered was measuring engagement simply through how many visitors left comments or shared content on a social media platform. But that method “would lose a lot of people,” Meares said. “A lot of our users don’t comment or share stories, but we have people — 45 percent — [who] come back more than once a day, and those people are very engaged.”

They ultimately decided on seven categories, each with a particular cutoff:

Ci — Click Index: visits must have at least 6 pageviews, not counting photo galleries
Di — Duration Index: visits must have spend a minimum of 5 minutes on the site
Ri — Recency Index: visits that return daily
Li — Loyalty Index: visits that either are registered at the site or visit it at least three times a week
Bi — Brand Index: visits that come directly to the site by either bookmark or directly typing or come through search engines with keywords like “” or “inquirer”
Ii — Interaction Index: visits that interact with the site via commenting, forums, etc.
Pi — Participation Index: visits that participate on the site via sharing, uploading pics, stories, videos, etc.

Philly’s equation draws heavily on Eric T. Peterson and Joseph Carrabis’ “Measuring the Unmeasurable: Visitor Engagement” (pdf) .

I started thinking about how to apply this equation to the Powerhouse’s web metrics.

Click (6 pages or more) and Duration (5 minutes or more) indexes are fine. However Recency set at daily visitation is simply not achievable for museums – especially where through the door museum visitors are likely to average out at around once a year – and our online content is never going to be as responsive as ‘news’ has to be. So in thinking about Recency I settled on a 90 day figure.

Here’s an eight quarter look at how we’ve been tracking against a variant of this metric – downplaying the interaction and participation indexes as our content type and site doesn’t work evenly for these.

I’ve added a column for Sydney-only visitors so you can get a sense of how geographically specific this engagement metrics is for a museum such as ours.

Philly-style High Value % Philly-style High Value Sydney %
Q3 2010 3.73% 8.10%
Q2 2010 3.20% 7.78%
Q1 2010 2.38% 7.69%
Q4 2009 1.60% 5.56%
Q3 2009 1.73% 5.14%
Q2 2009 1.75% 5.67%
Q1 2009 2.12% 7.24%
Q4 2008 1.45% 4.59%

Taking a closer look at Q3 2010 and the Sydney Philly-style high-value segment there are some interesting data.

This apparently highly-engaged segment that comprises 8.10% of all Sydney traffic to the Powerhouse website for the period. 71.25% of this segment are new visitors to the Powerhouse, looking at a remarkable average of 17.3 pages per visit and spending and average of 19:44 minutes on the site up until the final page of their visit. These are clearly a highly desirable group of web visitors.

So what do they do?

Interestingly it turns out that these are primarily what we used to call ‘traditional education visitors’. I’ve written about them before in my paper for Museums & the Web earlier in the year.

31.47% visit Australian Designers at Work, a resource built and last modified in 2004
15.45% visit Australia Innovates, a curriculum resource built in 2001
7.58% visit exhibition promotional pages
7.54% visit the online collection

Perhaps unsurprisingly for such committed, but traditional, web visitors, they also accounted for 50% of the online membership purchases during the period.

Exhibition technology Interactive Media User behaviour Young people & museums

The honeypot effect: more on WaterWorx, the Powerhouse Museum’s iPad interactive

Photography by Geoff Friend, Powerhouse Museum. CC-BY-NC-ND

Week one of our iPad interactive – WaterWorx – and the feedback has been great from visitors and teachers alike.

Just to prove how much of a honeypot the iPads are, here’s a time-lapse from the day that the exhibition was soft launched. You can see the early morning final touches being added to the space, followed by the flurry of the first school visitors, and so on.

You can see for yourself the significant dwell times and people coming back for another go. And that’s awesome.

We’ve been deploying minor fixes as we go and the OtterBox Defender cases that we have been adapted to protect the iPads are being pushed to their limits!

(If you missed our first post that describes the game itself then you need to travel back in time a few days)

Collection databases User behaviour Web metrics

Actual use data from integrating collection objects into Digital NZ

Two months ago the New Zealand cultural aggregator Digital NZ ingested metadata from roughly 250 NZ-related objects from the Powerhouse collection and started serving them through their network.

When our objects were ingested into Digital NZ they became accessible not just through the Digital NZ site but also through all manner of widgets, mashups and also institutional website that had integrated Digital NZ’s data feeds.

So, in order to strengthen the case for further content sharing in this way, we used Google Analytics’ campaign tracking functionality to quickly and easily see whether users of our content in Digital NZ actually came back to the Powerhouse Museum website for more information on the objects beyond their basic metadata.

Here’s the results for the last two months.

Total collection visits from Digital NZ – 98 (55 from New Zealand)
Total unique collection objects viewed – 66
Avg pages per visit – 2.87
True time on site per visit (excluding single page visits) – 11:57min
Repeat visits – 37%

From our perspective these 55 NZ visitors are entirely new visitors (well, except for the 8 visits we spotted from the National Library of NZ who run Digital NZ!) who probably would never have otherwise come across this content so that’s a good thing – and very much on keeping with our institutional goals of ‘findability’.

For the same period, here are the top 6 sources for NZ-only visitors to the museum’s collection (not the website as a whole) –

(click for larger)

Remember that the Digital NZ figure is for around only 250 discrete objects and so we are looking at just under 1 new NZ visitor a day to them via Digital NZ, whereas the other sources are for any of the ~80,000 collection objects.

However, I don’t have access to the overall usage data for Digital NZ so I can’t make a call on whether these figures are higher, lower, or average. But maybe one of the Digital NZ team can comment?

Conceptual User behaviour Web metrics

Museum implications of the Columbia report on metrics for digital journalism

Web analytics is a tricky game and often the different ways of measuring things confuse the very people they are there to help make better decisions.

For the museum sector, analytics seems even more foreign, largely because we’ve never had a very good way of generating such huge amounts of quantitative data about our visitors before.

We’re not alone in this.

As you’ve probably read in recent weeks there has been a fair bit of discussion, debate, and doomsday predictions coming out of the journalism world as it was revealed that, lo and behold, newspapers were using web analytics in their newsrooms.

This month, though, Lucas Graves, John Kelly and Marissa Gluck at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, have published an excellent report on the different types of traffic metrics that news websites are confronted with.

Provocatively titled Confusion Online: Faulty Metrics & the Future of Digital Journalism the report explains history and reasons for the widely divergent figures resulting from different types of reader measurement – panel and census-based approaches.

A lot of these reasons have to do with who the figures are being generated for, and the historical role that readership figures have played in the pricing and sale of advertising. So we need to take this into account when we in the museum sector work with the same types of measurement tools.

Indeed, the resistance to shifting from the historical panel-based measurement to site-based (or as the authors call it, census-based) measurement is largely to do with the enormous commercial implications for how advertising is priced and sold that would result. (Fortunately museums cannot afford the panel-based solutions so we’re already mostly committed to census-based site analytics.)

There are two telling sections –

This is the case at both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which sell most online inventory on a CPM [cost per thousand impressions] or sponsorship basis and do not participate in ad networks (other than Google’s AdSense, which the Times uses). “We sell brand, not click‐through,” declares the Journal’s Kate Downey flatly. “We’re selling our audience, not page counts.”

Marc Frons echoes the sentiment, pointing out that the Times can afford to take the high road. “For us as the New York Times, brand is important,” he says. “You really want to make the Internet a brand medium. To the extent CPC [cost per click] wins, thatʹs a bad thing.”


. . . the rise of behavioral targeting represents a distinct threat to publishers: By discriminating among users individually, behavioral targeting diminishes the importance of a site’s overall brand and audience profile. Suddenly the decisive information resides not with the publisher but in the databases of intermediaries such as advertising networks or profile brokers. A similar threat may be emerging in the domain of demographic targeting. As it becomes more possible to attach permanent demographic profiles to individual users as they travel the Web, the selection of outlets will matter less in running a campaign.

This is why online media outlets tend not to participate in third‐party ad networks if they can avoid it. “We donʹt want to be in a situation where someone can say, ‘I can get you somebody who reads the Wall Street Journal while theyʹre on another site that costs half as much,’” explains Kate Downey.

Museums and others in the cultural sector operate on the web as (mostly) ad-free publishers. We’ve traditionally thought of our websites as building the brand – in the broadest possible terms. In fact we don’t usually use the term ‘brand’ but replace it with terms like ‘trustworthiness’. Now we’re not ‘selling ad space’ but we are trying to build a loyal visitor base around our content – and that relies on building that ‘trustworthiness’ and that only happens over time and through successful engagement with our activities.

We invest in making and developing content other than the opening hours and what’s on information – the brochure parts of our web presences – because it builds this sense of trust and connection with visitors. This sense of trust and connection is what makes it possible to achieve the downstream end goals of supporting educational outcomes and the like.

But just as the base unit of news becomes the ‘article’, not the publication, we are also seeing the base unit of the ‘online museum experience’ reduce from the website (or web exhibit) to the objects, and in some cases to just being hyperlinked ‘supporting reference material’. This is where we need to figure out the right strategies and rationales for content aggregation, unless we do this is going to continue to cause consternation.

We also need to pay a lot more attention to the measurement approaches that best support the different needs we have to advertising supported publishers.

User behaviour Web metrics

Which social web platforms create the most return visitors to our website?

I’m in Europe right now doing a slew of web analytics health checks, workshops and evaluations to help various institutions are get the most out of the their digital initiatives in a rapidly constricting financial environment. Everyone is rushing to figure out which initiatives are performing better for them than others – especially as decisions need to be made as to which ‘experiments’ are worth continuing and which have been ‘learning experiences’.

In several workshops so far the ‘return visitor’ has been highlighted as a valuable key user of digital resources. Return visitors, the argument goes, are more likely to be engaged with the organisation (and the ‘brand’), and also more likely, where geographically possible, to engage with the institution offline as well as online. And, at a time where we are all tweaking our digital content strategies, design and interfaces, they are also the visitors with whom we can measure the relative effectiveness of techniques.

And so one of the questions raised more than once has been – “which, out of Flickr, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter” – is best at turning casual visitors into return visitors?

Now obviously the intentions of visitors who come in from these third-party sites is going to differ (not to mention the difficulties in accurately tracking visitors from Twitter), but we’re interested in the broad patterns.

I did some digging through six months (March to August) of Powerhouse data and this is what I found.

Unsurprisingly Organic search generates 72.34% of site visitation. 20.36% of this traffic are return visitors.

Direct traffic (browser bookmarks, typing the URL, etc) generates 13.88% of site visitation. 16.05% of this are return visitors. Interestingly this skews low because of the inclusion of several very popular educational resources in curriculum kits – students follow a very task-oriented link given by their teacher and don’t look around or come back.

Third party referring sites (people following links from other websites) as a whole generate 13.21% of site visitation. 20.36% of this are return visitors.

So let’s break down those top referring sites and look at traffic coming in from Wikipedia, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook. None of these are generating enormous volumes of traffic but there are significant differences between them.

Site % of total visits % repeat
Wikipedia 0.63% 11.95%
Flickr 0.28% 42.64%
Facebook 0.49% 32.74%
Twitter 0.18% 34.50%
All referrers 13.21% 20.36%
Overall (100%) 20.60%

Of the four sites we are interested in, Wikipedia delivers the most traffic. However it brings the lowest percentage of return visitors at only 11.95%. This is well below the site average and also well below the average for all referring sites.

Facebook is next and 32.74% of these are return visitors performing well above the site average. Flickr brings the most return visitors at 42.64% whilst Twitter brings also performs well at bringing return visitors at 34.50%.

So ranked in order of traffic volume Wikipedia is a clear winner but in terms of those valuable return visitors the list transforms with Flickr bringing the proportionally more returning visitors.

Flickr is delivering nearly 3.5x the return visitor proportions than Wikipedia and the two social communication platforms Facebook and Twitter, almost 3x as much.

Thinking about why Wikipedia performs so poorly as a source of return traffic, it is clear that there is a difference in the user intentions. A visitor coming in from Wikipedia is likely coming for additional information on a subject or topic. But it looks like there is minimal brand association with that information retrieval goal – they get the answer and don’t explore further at a later date. This is what I’d call the ‘trivia quiz’ visitor.

I looked at which Wikipedia articles were sending the most traffic and the top five were a little unexpected. Wikipedia articles in order of volume of traffic were on Thrust bearing, Easy edges, Powerhouse Museum, Crumpler, Liberty bodice and a long tail of several hundred others. Other than ‘Powerhouse Museum’ this traffic is the equivalent of the casual visit traffic we also receive via the long tail of search – but is less likely to return to the site later.

Informational websites deal increasingly with entirely commoditised content, and this throws up the issue of where to dedicate resources.

The effort expended in the more social web platforms – social communication platforms (Facebook, Twitter) and social object platforms like Flickr – is working to create more valuable return visitors than the informational sites like Wikipedia and organic long tail search.

I was a bit surprised by this result so I narrowed it down a bit and looked at only traffic from Sydney. Here’s the results.

Site % total Sydney visits % Sydney repeat
Wikipedia 0.35% 26.87%
Flickr 0.20% 32.31%
Facebook 0.82% 46.43%
Twitter 0.16% 37.34%
All referrers 12.81% 34.09%
Overall (100%) 34.18%

Sydney-only and Wikipedia performs much better in terms of generating return visitors – but is greatly outpaced as a traffic source by Facebook. Here we find that it is clearly the social communication platforms that are generating the repeat visitation as well as the volumes.

Of course the overall volumes here are very low so there is a fair degree of statistical error creeping in but this is something I’ll be keeping an eye on – I’m certainly interested in why Wikipedia is creating proportionally more repeat visitors in Sydney than globally and whether this correlates to some notion of ‘brand awareness’.

More questions than answers.

User behaviour Web 2.0

Our Ask A Curator Day 2010 experience

Last week was Ask A Curator Day and the Powerhouse was one of a bunch of Australian institutions that took part. Because of where we are in the global timezone, along with New Zealand we were one of the earliest to start Ask A Curator Day. This limited the exposure that Australian and NZ museums got from the event compared to European and American museums that received a boost from the frenzy of activity over the night – when #askacurator became the top trending topic on Twitter.

I spoke to Renae Mason last week about her preparations for the event and now the event is over I asked Renae and her curatorial champion Erika Dicker about how they event went.

F&N: How much response did we get?

Erika: We had 19 direct questions asked via our Facebook page. Many of these questions went on to become conversations as opposed to a brief Q & A..

Renae: The response was also really positive for us considering we didn’t promote our participation in the event through any mainstream media channels – it was all word of mouth and social media. We also picked up some new fans on the day who didn’t already know about our Facebook and Twitter profiles.

F&N: What were the internal outcomes of Ask A Curator Day in terms of the organisation?

E: Internally this was a great opportunity for the curatorial team to work closely with the web team, allowing curators to experience and experiment with social media in a safe environment. For the past few months curators have been participating in Facebook workshops, and developing their own ‘work’ profiles. These profiles allowed them not only to participate on the day, but will allow them to easily engage with our Facebook audience in the future.

Within the Curatorial Department we had 15 curators (out of 24) who actively participated with the project. I think this shows a high level of enthusiasm, and a definite shift in attitude towards using social media actively and productively in our everyday work.

R: This is a great outcome for us, as we work towards the goal of demonstrating the longer term benefits of social media for curatorial work. One of our curators, Min-Jung Kim was really hoping to meet some Korean speakers on the day who would ask about our extensive Asian collection here at the museum. She did end up meeting a local Art History graduate, who is not only a Korean speaker but also keen to gain curatorial experience. She may come on board as a volunteer curatorial assistant as a result of their meeting on Facebook. This experience really demonstrates the way social media can create very useful moments of synchronicity that have a direct impact on the museum research process, in this case, connecting to the right people that can help get the job done.

F&N: How did the public respond?

I was really surprised that the majority of questions we got were subjective ones. “What was your favourite exhibition to work on?”, “What is your dream exhibition?”, “What is the most difficult challenge for a curator?”. I loved that those who asked really did choose to ‘ask a curator’ on a personal level, rather than ask for valuations, identification of objects or opening times!

R: We also didn’t have any problems with spammers or trolls – no bad behaviour at all! I think that’s one thing that many people who aren’t on social media channels fear and it’s a real barrier to entry. You could tell that everyone involved was genuinely pleased with the tone of the conversations as they unfolded.

F&N: Having seen how it went overnight on Twitter, what do you feel worked better or worse on Facebook?

E: I think the project was a great way to get museums and galleries noticed and let the public know that we are here for them. However whilst I think Twitter is a great platform for curators to get involved with, and used to create professional networks, I don’t think it works very well as a platform that allows curators to engage with an audience. I also think this can’t be done well in 140 characters.

I strongly believe that deep levels of engagement come from personal connections, and to achieve this we have to make curators more accessible, approachable, and personable. I don’t think Twitter does this very well. Most of the answers I saw from other museums on Twitter came from an institutional account, with no acknowledgement of who was doing the answering. I found that quite impersonal.

Using a platform like Facebook allowed our curators to each create their own profile page, including a profile picture of themselves, and details of what areas they specialise in. When our curators answered questions on the PHM main page, our fans could then click on their profiles and see that a real person had answered their question, and begin to make a personal connection with the curator. Facebook also allowed for multiple answers to one question by different curators, and encouraged the discussion to continue past just a simple Q and A format. The results were available for all ‘fans’ to see in a clearly visible way.

R: I definitely agree with Erika on this – the Facebook profiles made it very clear which curator you were talking to at any given time. I also liked the way that more than one curator would jump in to answer a single question – providing a multitude of perspectives and insight that wasn’t limited to 140 characters. Because Facebook presents conversations as a thread, the complete conversation is still accessible to all.

What we lost by being the only institution on Facebook, and therefore being in a bit of a silo in regards to cross-promotion and marketing, we gained in usability and audience engagement outcomes.

(If you are interested in learning more about how the event went down on Twitter from the perspective of someone asking the questions, I recommend you read this post from the Museum Cultures blog.)

Also, it was exciting to see the #askacurator hashtag become a trending topic, until the inevitable happened and it became overrun by spambots. That did put a bit of a dampener on the event.

F&N: How might we do this sort of audience q&a more often? Especially given we don’t have a public Q&A facility on site.

E: I think all museums would agree that everyday is ‘Ask A Curator’ day. However traditional methods of public enquiries take the form of written letter, telephone call, or direct questions emailed through from our online collection database.

Curators spend a lot of their time responding to these sorts of enquiries, however the whole conversation is hidden from public view. Personally I would like to see us get a bit more ‘new school’ in how deal with enquiries, I think they are a hidden gem of content. Until that happens I know our curators really enjoyed using Facebook for ‘Ask a Curator’ Day and we will always be listening, and ready to answer your questions!

[Interestingly the Sydney Observatory Facebook page handles a lot of public enquiries on an ongoing basis – so maybe we will just add a link to the Powerhouse Facebook page on the Contact Us form]

R: Yes, we do already receive some questions for curators via our Facebook fan page and these are forwarded onto them. Their answers are then posted by myself or Erika on the page. Now that we have so many curators set up with Facebook profiles for work, it would be nice to have them personally answer any questions that come through, which would be a better experience for our fans, but would also share the responsibility for our Facebook fan page more evenly.

Erika kept up the conversation with one of the people who asked the curators questions and after the day sent her some questions to answer herself. Here’s her reply which I think more than demonstrates the value of Ask A Curator Day to institutions.

(I’ve kept this anonymous because of identification issues around Facebook)

Erika: Had you visited the Powerhouse Museum before?

A: I have been a regular visitor since I was a child, my visits might be fewer as an adult, but with big film based exhbitions, such as the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings exhibits, I was reminded of the brilliant permanent collection and came back more frequently.

E: Did you know the Museum was on Facebook before the event?

A: I did not, I was informed of the event by a friend who knew someone involved in the organising of the event and I was sent an invite.

E: Were you a ‘fan’ of the Powerhouse Museum on Facebook before the ‘Ask a Curator’ day event?

A: No I wasn’t.

E: Do you read any of the Powerhouse Museum blogs? (Photo of the Day, Object of the Week)

A: Occasionally I will look at the Object of the Week, I don’t often remember to look for it myself, but it is often sent to me if it is interesting.

E: What did you expect to happen when you posted a question?

A: I expected perhaps a single stock-standard response. I didn’t expect the genuine, enthusiastic and original answers of your curators. I received many various and interesting responses from all areas and saw some fantastic objects through their recommendations. I also did not expect the quick turn around on responses that I received.

E: How do you feel about the quality of answers you recieved to your questions?

A: As above, I was astounded by the quality of the answers I received, the answers were perfectly apt, and answered my questions without any kind of misdirection, people responded quickly and their responses were charming, informative and engaging. Not to mention interesting.

E: Are you more likely to visit us in person now, or access any of our other services eg. online collection, research library etc?

A: I am far more interested to come in more often, the online collection – while I am social media addicted is not quite my cup of tea. As soon as I see something in picture, I want to see it in person! I’d come in and ask you to pull it out. But I’m making plans to come in for the 80s exhibit in the next week with my partner.

E: How would you prefer to stay in contact in the future – email or social media channels like Twitter and Facebook? Why?

A: Facebook and Twitter work well for me, they feed into my phone and I see them regularly. Should I check my email. Which I do on average once a day for personal email. I’ll see any facebook or twitter notes I haven’t followed up on.

Mobile User behaviour User experience

Sydney Design has an iPhone app

Everyone is doing apps.

It might not be the decision of choice for us ‘web people’ – our friends at the Brooklyn have recently agonised over similar decisions – but in the end actual user behaviour wins out in the short term over what we might consider best practice. (Of course, modelling on actual user behaviour is best practice!)

So here’s the Powerhouse Museum’s free iPhone app for Sydney Design 2010.

The festival starts on Friday and the App is basically a pocket what’s on calendar and map with the ability to favourite events for your own calendar as well as quick aggregated access to the Sydney Design Twitter and Flickr feeds.

We agonised over whether to just build a mobile version of the website – that would have been the easy choice, especially as the festival site has, for the last 4 years, been built entirely on WordPress (with this year’s theme developed by Boccalatte) and adding a mobile theme would have been comparatively trivial. But in the end we went with the bulk of target users – whose mobile device of choice was overwhelming an iPhone – and whose preferred behaviour was an app over a mobile website for ease of access. There’s also now a sense of ‘expectation’ that these kinds of events ‘should have’ their own app – perhaps grounded in aspirational hype, but an expectation none the less.

MOB Labs built the app which uses the dataset directly from the WordPress backend. This means it can be periodically updated over the air without requiring a full app versioning process – essential given the approval process. This core bit of functionality wasn’t without its own problems and MOB worked hard to make sure that the way that the website uses tags and categories to provide the key navigational elements on the website were sufficiently able to translate to the app without requiring app-specific data.

First releases are never without their bugs and we’re using this time-limited trial as a means to gather the necessary learnings for some exciting upcoming things . . .

Mobile User behaviour User experience

A little mobile data

I’m a last minute addition to an AIMIA forum on Tuesday morning looking at the Digital Customer Experience. The forum is focussing primarily on mobile.

In prepping the slides looking at in-museum and out-museum mobile experiences, I’ve dug up a little data that you may be intrigued by. If anything it reflects the type of online visitor we are attracting.

– 2% of Sydney-based traffic to the Powerhouse site is on a mobile device

– Sydney mobile users spend half the time on our site to their desktop/laptop counterparts

– surprisingly, when compared to other Sydney users they are 30% less likely to arrive via search

– but when they do search they are far more likely to search for specific travel-related information like “powerhouse museum parking” and “powerhouse museum opening times”

– 85% of mobile traffic is from iPhones and, shockingly, there are more iPad visitors than Android and Blackberry!

– as far as telcos go, 37.4% come from Optus, 19.2% from Vodafone, and 12.3% from Telstra

As you may know, we’ve had a mobile-friendly site up for quite a while now. There’s a vanilla version as well as marginally nicer iPhone version. Both have stripped down architectures, reflecting the kind of interaction we’d expect from a mobile user (quick, task-oriented, information-focussed, visit-focussed).

Fortunately the usage data supports the stripped back interface, but it also is showing a willingness for mobile users to delve deeper into the non-mobile-optimised parts of our website too. 18% of Sydney mobile visitors venture into the rich content of The 80s Are Back section (it is also one of the primary exhibitions we have had on since December), 14% into the depths of the exhibition detail pages and 11% into additional detailed visit information. The high proportion of iPhone users means that the experience is not greatly degraded as a result of reaching unoptimised content.

Collection records – driven by our earlier QR and now, shortened URL experiments – represent about 4.1% of Sydney mobile views. Obviously for these to work beyond a core of aware-users they need significant in-gallery promotion and staff encouragement.

I’ll have more to say on Tuesday.

User behaviour Web metrics

Segmenting your ‘brand traffic’ in your web metrics

Here’s another web analytics 101 post for you.

One of the important segments for your web analytics are those visitors who come to your website intentionally because it is your website – not just because you have content for Texan monarchists on it.

If you are a museum then this segment is the one that is most influenced by your traditional marketing strategies as well as by what exhibitions and events you have on. In terms of Brownbill and Peacock (2007) these are your ‘visitors’ and ‘transactors’.

So how can you set up a filter to segment this group out in your analytics?

First, in setting up any segment you need to think about how this group might come to your site.

In this case there are five probable ways – directly to your URL, via a bookmark, via an online advertisement, via a third party link, or via a search containing your brand name as a keyword.

Next, you need to look at each of these and figure out how to measure them with the tools you have available.

Direct traffic – easy – they will already be a default segment.

Bookmark traffic – these will be captured as direct traffic and you won’t be able to separate them out as a percentage but that’s probably OK. If you are really hardcore then you might want to segment by landing page here so that those who have bookmarked your funny video of ‘cats in the museum’ get excluded (they’re there for the content, not the brand most probably).

Online advertising – easy. Use your campaign identifiers, track them, and pour in that traffic too.

Third party links – now things are getting harder because in our case the vast majority of third party link traffic (like all our site visitation) is content-related not brand-related. This content-related traffic comes from all sorts of websites, blogs, tweets, Facebook and other places that link directly to a piece of content not because of ‘us’ but because it is ‘good’, ‘funny’, etc. If there are some specific URLs you know have been doing work with then add them in too but I’d recommend not including Twitter, Facebook etc as they are often best addressed as a separate segment altogether.

Search – if you have a relatively unique brand then you can segment out the search traffic containing that brand keyword and add that in. If you are really serious about separating the wheat from the chaff then it might be wise to add another level of filtering which only counts search traffic for the keyword resulting in visits that look at more than one page. (The only problem here will be that you will potentially lose traffic that is coming for simple information like your address – especially if you have tailored a mobile version of your site optimised for mobile traffic.) If you have a generic brand like ‘Australian Museum’ then you are going to need to figure out particular combinations of keyword search as well as landing pages.

Then you want to look at the results further segmented by geography – ideally you’ll find that this segment matches the target geography of your advertising campaigns both online and offline.

If you’ve got a growing brand and you’ve done the segmentation correctly you should see an upward trend as well as significant difference in behaviour of this segment and that of ‘all visitors’.

Ideally this segment should make more conversions (whatever they might be), have a far lower bounce rate and, where relevant spend more time on your site and look at more pages. You also want to be checking that this segment goes to the parts of your site that have been specifically set up for them!

Fingers crossed, eh?

In case of the Powerhouse doing a simple 10 minute analysis on this segment revealed that it made up 15% of our traffic for the past 6 months. We have a site heavy on diverse content so this relatively low percentage is not unexpected – if I was a retailer or I had a museum website with predominantly ‘venue information’ then I’d be worried! Visitors in this segment spent 2x as much time on site, looked at 1.6x as many pages on average, and were 30% less likely to bounce. They were also 3x more likely to begin their visit at the home page and also far more interested in the exhibitions and visit information than the collection than other segments of visitor. They were also 50% more likely to be from Sydney. The time on site and page view ratios for that Sydney segment were even higher!