Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Making Sense of the Data

This week I've had the privilege of attending and speaking at the HOW Interactive Design Conference. Rounding out a program that included many fascinating topics presented by a fantastic, talented group of people, I focused on what, comparatively, is the boring side of interactive design: making sense of the data.

For those of you who couldn't make it out in person, this article will compose everything I shared, just moments ago, at a bit more.

What You'll Learn

  • How to start regularly gathering data that provides enlightening, qualitative insights
  • How to meaningfully connect metrics from analytics tools
  • How to gather data from real, live people

Ready? Let's get started...


Christopher Butler | November 10, 2011 8:51 AM
Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I'm just getting back into the office, so I apologize for the delay in response.

Ellen and Michael: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

Theresa: That's a great question, and one I anticipated when I wrote the article on how to do basic website usability testing back in April. I'll quote from there:
"By January, 2011, just a year after launching our redesign, we began to sense that there were still some things about the site that needed to change. We knew there were some new things we wanted to do that would require some work, but we also knew that there were probably just a few minor things that needed to be tweaked that we didn't even know about. After all, we use the site every single day; the chances that we'd notice the flaws that new visitors are experiencing are now very low, if not zero.

On that note, I'd like to pause for just a moment to make an important point about the web:There are no perfect launches. It's appropriate that we refer to launching a new website as "going live"; a "live" website begins to change radically and rapidly once it starts being used, which demands ongoing maintenance: bug fixes, design tweaks, functionality changes, and the like. Though we were anticipating a focused round of work a year after launch-what we often refer to as a "Phase 2"-we had been consistently maintaining our site since its relaunch, discovering things that we just would not have been able to anticipate until it began to be used. I say all of this to answer what I can imagine might be anyone's response to the kinds of things usability tests reveal: "Why didn't you build it that way in the first place?" The answer is simpler to say than it is to experience, but I assure you that the reality is sound. You can build a website with all the intelligence, care, earnestness and good intentions possible, but you will find that some of your decisions were good guesses that proved wrong.

One of the wonderful things about the web is that it is interwoven with the people who create and use it, making it an organic entity and environment that is just as unpredictable as the rest of our lives so clearly are. Our job is to continually adapt what we do and how we do it as we learn new things by observation-it's all a work in progress. So, moving on: usability tests will reveal better ways of doing things that you've already spent time and money doing differently. It's ok; that's exactly what they're for."
I hope that helps!

JP: Thanks, thanks, and thanks!

Amador: You're right—an image gallery would probably be a better fit, especially for the Google Analytics screens sequence. Unfortunately, I had to make due with the animated GIF with the time I had before publishing this. I'll see what I can do to improve that moving forward.

Marcus and Octavian: Thanks for reading!
octavian p | November 6, 2011 12:00 PM
10x for this amazing read.
Marcus Lindberg | November 6, 2011 10:15 AM
Great stuff, thanks!
Amador | November 5, 2011 10:02 PM
Hi, really nice article!!! :)

i like the content and the focus that you give to measurement.
It's a good insider for measurement and i think it gave me the initial steps to start.

I just want to suggest you to change the animated GIF for some kind of image gallery, where i can go forward and backward any time i want and when i want. The problem with the actual GIF is that it changes maybe to fast without letting me read all the content of the slide and neither letting me know which is the first or the last slide.

JP | November 5, 2011 8:16 PM
First of all, love the animated GIFs. They actually make sense here given that you're taking a live presentation to the "page."

Second, love that you're connecting analytics and usability testing under the umbrella of "measuring." Haven't seen this before and it makes perfect sense.

Third, and most important, love that you're making all of this simple enough to start doing right away. No big technical hurdles, no fussiness.

One of the most helpful things I've seen in a long time.
Theresa | November 4, 2011 1:05 PM
Chris, I think I overheard you answering this yesterday after the panel, but how would you advise someone to make a case for user testing after a project has been launched? How do you avoid upsetting the client who will now hear that what's been designed isn't right?

I really appreciated and enjoyed your talk!
Michael Milo | November 4, 2011 11:41 AM
Thanks for the wonderful and clear presentation. It is not often that something as indepth is able to keep user attention. Fantastic work!
Ellen | November 4, 2011 1:49 AM
Phenomenal presentation today, Chris! Your points around the 10-second testing just really nailed the whole connection between design and interactive. Thanks so much!

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