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)