January 11, 1999
Measuring Internet success: You shouldn't rely on traffic alone
When you build a Web site, you can probably specify with a reasonable degree of accuracy how much it costs. But can you say how much it is worth?
Deployment costs are relatively easy to compute for most Web sites, because sites are usually launched on a fixed budget. Adding maintenance contracts, ISP charges, hosting fees, staffing, and the obligatory annual site redesign makes cost calculation more involved, but it's still feasible.
On the other hand, many technical Web managers can't even begin to measure the value of their site. How much revenue is your site producing relative to the investment it absorbed? And, if it's not profitable, by what criteria can you tell whether your site is a success?
These are questions for which the technical managers of Web sites will increasingly be accountable. If you can't provide the answers yourself, you will have to provide the data and reports to enable executives and business managers to answer the questions themselves.
Even if your company splits Web responsibilities between IT and marketing folks, as many companies do, it's not enough to let the marketing folks handle the business end of the site. To do so would be to cede decision-making power in a critical area of IT responsibility. Instead, you'll have to become familiar with your company's business metrics as well as the Web site's technical metrics.
Yet Web managers face a dilemma in the measurement arena. At the same time that Webmasters are being asked to deliver more business intelligence, Web sites are becoming more and more integrated into the core IT infrastructure of their companies.
That means the technical metrics pertaining to the Web sites (such as traffic, page views, data throughput, server availability, response time, and the like) are increasingly falling into the domain of network management.
The tools used for Web site traffic analysis reflect this divergent trend. On one hand, WebTrends Software's market-leading WebTrends 3.0, released last November, aims to meet the need for mission-critical, network management-style Web monitoring features. WebTrends boasts real-time monitoring of servers, devices, processes, and services. If your FTP server goes down, WebTrends can send a message to your page and can even execute recovery routines, such as restarting a Windows NT service or rebooting a server.
On the other hand, Marketwave is moving in the opposite direction with its Hit List line of Web traffic analysis software tools. Marketwave has incorporated more high-level marketing information and business decision support features into Hit List Live 4.0. This tool's "open" architecture, plug-ins, and VBScript extensions facilitate integration with existing business systems. Such integration isn't necessarily easy to accomplish -- particularly if no plug-in is available for your legacy system -- but it is possible. Once the integration is complete, business managers can produce and run their own reports remotely, integrating customer data from existing business information systems.
Expect these and other site traffic analysis vendors to continue wrestling with the problem of simultaneously meeting the need for business and technical information. But as they sort out what tools to provide, IT managers need to continue to deliver both mission-critical reliability and business intelligence for the Web sites in their care.
How do you measure your site's success? Write to me at email@example.com
or visit my online forum at www.infoworld.com/printlinks.
Dylan Tweney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
has been covering the Internet since 1993. He
edits InfoWorld's intranet and Internet-commerce
columns by Dylan Tweney
Back to the future: A look at I-commerce from 1998 to 2002
December 28, 1998
Comparison shopping: It is just as frustrating on the Internet as it is in the real world
December 21, 1998
Who should be named Netrepreneur of the year? Cast your vote
December 14, 1998
AOL-Netscape merger foreshadows dark days for independent media
December 7, 1998
Every column since August, 1997