In the first part of this article series, I mentioned how some people are critical of SiteCatalyst’s menu structure that it has too many reports or options. The good news is that your company has the ability to modify and tailor its SiteCatalyst menu layout to its unique business needs. A customized SiteCatalyst menu can play a key role in helping to drive adoption of SiteCatalyst within your organization — beyond your web analytics team and power users.

Key considerations for menu customization

Before you jump into customizing your SiteCatalyst menus, you need to evaluate a number of key considerations that can impact your approach:

  1. Number of active users: If you’ve just recently implemented or are in the process of implementing SiteCatalyst, changing the interface will have little or no impact because you haven’t yet established a group of active users. However, if you have a small or large group of users who have been using SiteCatalyst for several years, you will need to seek their buy-in before making any changes. You don’t want to alienate your current user base. It’s important to not perform your menu changes in a vacuum so include your users in the redesign process. In addition, once the changes are made, you’ll need to document the modifications and train your data consumers on the new menu structure. You don’t want them to stop using reports simply because they’ve been moved to a different location in the menu.
  2. Diversity of end users: When you roll out a new menu layout for a particular report suite, it will be the same for all users. As such you need to consider the needs of your entire user base. It may be helpful to segment your user base and build the new menu in a way that accommodates the unique needs of each stakeholder group. The folder structure and custom reports can be very helpful in this regard (e.g., specific folders for the marketing, merchandising, editorial, executives, etc.).
  3. Level of complexity: There are a number of factors that can impact the complexity of menu customization: quantity of report suites, diversity of menus, menu complexity, etc. The perfect storm would be a high number of diverse menus that require a high level of customization. In some cases, creating a highly-customized menu layout for a single report suite may be harder than having to apply a simple menu template to hundreds of report suites.

Whether or not your menu customization project is simple or difficult, it will require some forethought, planning, and communication with existing stakeholder groups.

Best practices for menu customization

As the common saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. If you decide to significantly change your SiteCatalyst menus, it’s a best practice to design the new menus in an Excel spreadsheet first. Within the spreadsheet, you’ll want to document the names, folder hierarchy, associated metrics, report settings, report notes, etc. of your new menu structure. If future changes are needed, this spreadsheet can serve as a valuable reference.

Before you begin the process of menu customization, you’ll want to save a back-up copy of your current menu by creating a copy of the report suite in the Admin Console. Even though you have the option to Restore Defaults, doing so actually takes your menu all the way back to the original defaults rather than the last point prior to when you saved the menu. With this approach, if the new menu doesn’t work out, you can always revert to what you had prior to any of the changes.

Another alternative approach is to place the entire standard menu into its own folder so that users have the option of using the old structure or the new structure. Because you can’t duplicate default reports, you would use custom reports to recreate reports in the new menu structure. In addition, having the standard menus available in a separate folder may come in handy when you’re working with our ClientCare organization on an issue. Note: In order to accommodate the four-folder depth limit, you will need to up-level a few sub-folders within the Site Metrics (Custom Events 1-20), Visitor Profile (Sales Cycle), and Paths (Page Analysis, Entries & Exits) folders.

When you think of menu customization, you might be contemplating a major overhaul of your current SiteCatalyst menu layout, involving a card sorting exercise with representatives from your key stakeholder groups. However, optimizing your SiteCatalyst menu may be as simple as just removing annoying aspects of your current reports to prevent unnecessary questions or internal support issues. You can replace default reports with custom reports with the same name, which have been modified to streamline or improve the overall report experience. For example, you can remove a confusing “None” line item in your reports by filtering the report (“-none”) and saving it as a custom report. Other useful modifications may include adding more appropriate metrics, sorting the data on a specific metric, and applying other filters. Note: If you hide a default report, it will disappear as a breakdown in other reports (correlations and subrelations). However, if you move the default reports into a separate folder as mentioned above, you won’t lose the breakdowns.

You may want to relocate various custom variable reports (sprops, evars, and custom events) to different folders in your new menu layout. When you’re labeling these custom variables it may be a good idea to include the prop, evar, or event number in the report name (e.g., “Internal Search Terms (prop23)”). When you’re debugging tagging issues, having the variable number in the report name helps with knowing which report is tied to which variable tag.

Menu customization limitations

Although I’m very big on SiteCatalyst’s menu customization feature, there are some limitations. One limitation that Adam Greco brought to my attention is when you have classifications in your menu structure, you can’t hide the source report of the classifications because you won’t be able to do any break downs on that classification (e.g., traffic correlations). As a workaround solution, I would demote the source report to the bottom of the sub-folder and potentially rename it (e.g., “US States Unclassified”). Not ideal but passable.

If you need to customize menus for a large number of report suites (100+), another limitation is the need to break up your report suites into more manageable batches. Rather than testing the limits of what the Admin Console can handle, I would recommend performing the menu customization for no more than 100 report suites at one time.

Unfortunately, if you have both SiteCatalyst and Discover, whatever cool menu customization you develop on the SiteCatalyst side does not currently port over to Discover’s menus. I’d love to see the menu customization mirrored in Discover so that both products share the same menu layout. While I’m on the topic of feature requests for menu customization, I’d love to see menus that are customizable by user group/type. Instead of having separate folders for each user group in my SiteCatalyst menu, you could create menus that are customized for different user groups (e.g., marketing users). Note: I’ve confirmed that our product team is considering both of these options as part of their efforts to improve the usability and adoption of SiteCatalyst/Discover.

Final words

A number of people have found menu customization and custom reports to be an underused feature of SiteCatalyst. Commenting on the complaint that SiteCatalyst isn’t “user-friendly” out of the box, Ben Gaines stated, “The problem is that ‘user-friendly’ means different things to different organizations; what might be an intuitive UI for one company may make no sense at all to another. Menu customization overcomes any such complaints. It is a great way to ensure that ANY organization’s users can find information quickly and easily.” SiteCatalyst menus that are quick and easy to use will help drive user adoption, which is one of the main goals of any data-driven organization.

If you need help with a menu customization project at your company, please contact your assigned account manager or consultant. Our consulting team would love to help take your SiteCatalyst menus to the masses.