Design Stasis: a state of not accomplishing anything, induced by over thinking everything.

In the analytics realm you need to have a plan.  Whether kicking off an implementation, validating your web data against internal systems, or embarking on an analysis of some sort, you better know what you’re doing.

That being said, all things in business and in life should come in moderation, and web analytics is no different.

Design Stasis in (in)Action

Let me give you a real life example of design stasis.  Last year, I started working with a new client that was embarking on an effort to validate their web data against some internal systems to determine what degree of confidence could be instilled in their data, and improve it where they could (something I wholeheartedly agree with).

While we were popping the hood to tune the engine, they wanted to redo their page names in order to provide themselves (and their end users) with more relevant and contextual names for the content on their site.

The site was fairly shallow and consisted of less than 100 pages.  Those pages were spread across 2-3 subdomains that were considered different sites.  Each site had a few sections for trying, buying, learning, etc.  Finally, they had localized versions of the site in 7-8 different languages, and wanted the language reflected in the page names as well.  I took all this and laid out for them a fairly simple structure of country:site:section:page that was extensible through all the different countries and sites.  

Up to this point, I had spent just a few hours gathering requirements and validating the strategy against different scenarios they could come up with to see how well it handled exceptions.  It held up and I explained as long as they followed this structure they would be just fine.

Then it all went sideways.  For the next 2 months I fielded questions like: what should exact name for page Such-And-Such be?  Should we use 2 or three letter country codes?  Should we capitalize the Country Codes?  Should we use upper-case? Lower-case? Camel-case?  Our sites have short names, should we use the short one or the long one?  Should we use spaces or hyphens between words in the Page Name?

Diagnosis

Design Stasis is not an execution problem.  It’s indecisiveness – fear of making a decision because it might be wrong.

Design Stasis is the older sibling of Analysis Paralysis (it comes first after all) and this client had a classic case.  They got hung up tiny details that were tangential to the purpose for the project in the first place.  And they didn’t get hung up while doing the work, they got hung up while thinking about the work.  Design Stasis claims another victim.

In my experience, there are two major components to the problem, and one or both may apply.  Understanding why we’re being indecisive is the first step to overcoming however, so for your consideration I offer my diagnosis of these potential causes.

We want to create the perfect solution.  We want to impress our team, our boss, and our HiPPOs, and if we create the perfect solution to the problem we can achieve this goal.  All ambiguity will be removed and everyone will be happy.

We need consensus.  This is related to the above, but often times, there are a lot of cooks in the web analytics kitchen.  Lots of people have ideas about how things should work and you’ve got to sort everything out.

We are just plain scared.  Problems are not always clearly defined and it can be hard to feel comfortable about a solution.  In addition, I’ve seen a lot of the people out there doing online analytics have an inner feeling of being in over their heads, of not quite “getting it”.  They may (or may not) have an understanding of the big picture and the overall goal, but when it comes to executing on a plan, they just plain don’t know what to do.

Treatment

To be clear, I’m not advocating that you shouldn’t do your due diligence or that you should leap before you look.  I’m merely telling you that if you’re waiting for a perfect solution before you do anything, then you’re never going to get anything done.  Do your due diligence, explore the alternatives available within the limitations you face, choose the best alternative and move on.  Action beats inaction every time.

If you’ve fallen victim to design stasis, then I offer this.  The first thing you have to do is admit you have a problem.

Come to grips with the fact that there is no perfect solution.  There is no magic bullet that will solve all problems and involve no trade-offs.  You just have to do the best you can and get moving.  In these cases, Perfect is an unreachable ideal, you have to figure out what is Good Enough and run with it. Seth Godin just wrote about a very similar topic and concluded “…no matter what, don’t do nothing.”

You must have a master chef.  If you want to be successful, there needs to be someone who can make the final decision.  Read Brent Dykes post about executive sponsors or search the Omniture Blogs for a whole bunch of information on this topic.

Fear is a little harder because fear is a psychological thing.  Everybody has different reactions to it and different ways of dealing with it, but deal with it you must.  If inexperience or lack of expertise is causing you some discomfort, then there are dozens of resources to help you get what you need.

Free Resources

1) Connect with the web analytics community online by using the #omniture and #measure hashtags.  Be a lurker or join Twitter (if you’re not there already) and be active participant.

2) Follow @omniturecare on Twitter.  He’s one smartest Omniture guys around.  If you pay attention to who he talks to a lot, you’ll find a whole bunch of smart Omniture customers from around the world.

3) I’m not even going to try to make a list of really smart people blogging about web analytics, but there are dozens of them.  Use Google and Twitter and go find them.

4) Subscribe to the Beyond Web Analytics podcast (<- iTunes link) and visit the site while you’re at it.

5) Join the Yahoo Web Analytics Group: A group of web analytics professionals.  You can search the archives or ask your own questions.

6) Attend your nearest Web Analytics Wednesday.  Get to know people and ask for help.

7) Sign up for the Analytics Exchange.  You can join as a student to get a real problem that a real business is having and have a mentor help you through the analysis.  Learn all you can in the process, this is a fantastic resource.

Paid Resources

1) Omniture University: Official classes offered by Omniture to turn you into a ninja.  Classes are usually product-centric and will teach you the ins and outs of Omniture tools .

2) Sign up for the Web Analytics Association’s ef="http://www.tech.ubc.ca/webanalytics">online courses offered through the University of British Columbia.  These classes cover web analytics topics in general and are not Omniture specific.

1 comments
Rudi Shumpert
Rudi Shumpert

Ben, Nice article and thanks for the shout-out for the Beyond Web Analytics Podcast! -Rudi (@rrs_atl)