Designing Data – Part 1: The Mindset

We’re asked about our design all the time – usually in an incredibly kind way full of high fives and “how’d you do that?!”s but sometimes in a “ugh, did you even think about talking to a customer??” kind of way. So, we decided to give you a week-long deep dive into our design process in this “Designing Data” series. Stay tuned every day this week for a next step in our design process – and let us know what you think about every one of them.

Design is pretty important to us.

We have one job: Taking a crazy amount of data and turning it into something meaningful, so people on the front-line – people who don’t always have time for numbers – know exactly what to do and when to do it.

Without good design that’s just not possible. If it takes them 10 minutes to figure out what the numbers stacked in front of them mean, let alone what they should do with them, that data might as well not exist.

But it’s not just about pretty. Design is way more than the visual. Design is a process of understanding. Where do people want to be and how can we make it stupid easy for them to get there?

When we say design we mean everything: from the look of things when your traffic spikes to why you want to know that in the first place. Design is a holistic process that’s about people and solving their problems – and making it beautiful while we’re at it.

So we start, unsurprisingly, by talking to these people, watching these people. We don’t lock ourselves in a room and run through scenario after scenario with fictional, ideal users and refrain from putting anything out there until it’s completely finished. We actually get out there and find out what kind of problems people are facing and solve those first.

But we don’t stop there. After we’ve got a solid idea and confirmed that it works with a handful of our users we do something that’s a little bit riskier…

We iterate in public.

We put out stuff that isn’t done, and sometimes we’re not even totally confident in it. Because we – and our early testers – don’t have all the answers.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Tomorrow, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the user research portion of the design process and explain all of this launch-into-the-wild stuff later this week.

Your Site, the Socialite: Introducing Social View & iOS Tracking Beta

The world outside your website is tough to manage. You have die-hard fans extolling you in 140 characters. You have newbies who aren’t quite your target stumbling upon you via, er, StumbleUpon. And your regular guys constantly checking up on you through their iPhone apps.

For a long time people have looked at the social audience, in particular, as its own discrete segment living in a vacuum to be treated totally differently from the rest of your audience. But really, they affect your site traffic and engage with your content like everyone else, don’t they? Shouldn’t you know just how much they’re affecting your site? We sure think so.

So within the new Social View on your Chartbeat dashboard, you’ll see the whole world of your social visitors. There’s a ton of easy-to-digest information about what’s going on with your site as seen through the social web.

In a single view, you can see what people are saying about you, how many of your current visitors came from social channels, and what pages are powerhouses on social networks.

Social traffic can make the difference between an ordinary day and an extraordinary day. It’s important that you can now dig through that list of your most social pages and figure out what makes them different, so you can get the same kind of oomph out of the rest of your pages.

If you see a big spike in traffic at the same time as you’re blowing up on Twitter, embrace it – see what people are saying, engage in conversation, retweet. People want to interact with you – make it easy for them to know there’s a real person behind all that HTML…

…and behind all that iOS code.

Your iPhone and iPad app is kind of like an entirely different site. It reaches a potentially totally new audience for you. It’s important to track the differences between your site and your apps.

So, we’re beta testing an iOS app tracking feature, too. If you have an iPhone or iPad app, install away through your dashboard sites page and let us know what you think. (Remember: the key word is “beta,” so we’re looking for your feedback and understanding that it’s not done yet).

And don’t forget to sign up for the Chartcorps virtual workshop to get a more in-depth look at social, iOS tracking and everything in between.

Give into the Pressure. Introducing Peer Stats & Notable Pages

We hate to break it to you, but you’re not in a monogamous relationship. Your audience has been seeing other sites.

While your site is amazing at some stuff, it probably needs some TLC in other areas. But which ones? Is your audience ending up with your competitors because their search results are amazing while loving you because you’re killer at social?

It’s time you knew how you stack up against sites like you. As part of the Chartbeat network, you’re one of thousands of sites we monitor every day.

Peer Stats

We’ve anonymized (so no one knows your site is compared to theirs and you won’t know exactly who is in your Peer Group either) and aggregated our network of data, filtered it through some intense algorithms and will now be delivering it in context for you in a new feature called Peer Stats.

Peer Stats let you see information about sites that are similar to yours. What does similar mean, you ask? Great question. Right now it’s based on a bunch of stuff like your daily traffic pattern, size of your site, and your industry. This last part we need your help with.

The first time you log into your dashboard, we’ll give you a quick survey asking you what kind of site you have, so we can make sure you’re matched up with the right competitors.

Big sites are different from small sites, and your tech blog is different from that guy’s Tumblr with pictures of dogs standing on things. You treat yourselves differently, and so do we.

Notable Pages

In fact, because we know your site is different from all the others, we’ve also given you new ways to learn about your own content. Until now you’ve seen top pages content – only those pages with the most traffic.

Now, we’re introducing Notable Pages, which highlight the most interesting aspects of your site, regardless of the amount of traffic they’re receiving.

Say you have a page that’s suddenly getting 99% of all traffic from Social sources. Whoa. Huge. Important to know why that’s the case when the rest of your site is averaging around 20% of its traffic from Social, right? Maybe you can learn from this page and apply those insights across your site immediately.

Or there’s a page that’s suddenly surging with new user visits vs. the returning users that it normally gets. You should probably create some new content or related links or the like to make sure you treat these new users carefully to convert them into loyal members.

Notable Pages and Peer Stats give you a bit more context to the story of your site. They give you an instant answer to how your site’s doing today.

Remember, our Chartcorps team is hosting a weekly virtual workshop for you to get the full rundown of all the new dashboard can do. Sign up!

Chartbeat Is Engaged! Introducing Engaged Time

Engagement: That elusive beast.

Everyone wants it, no one knows just how to pin it down. So we’ve all been stuck with our second choice, the back up, plan B — the page view. Ick.

Who cares that people are loading your page? We need to know how they’re interacting – with what and for how long. As we’ve already ranted and raged about back in January, that’s the only real measure of great content.

Well, it’s your lucky day/week/forever, friend. We’ve wooed engagement out of her secret hiding place and pinned her down for all to use.

So let’s show off your newest metric Engaged Time:


Engaged Time is dissected in a few ways:

  1. Total amount of time your visitors are have spent actively browsing your site – in human terms: days, weeks, months or years. Not billions of absolutes because, well, what the hell would you do with those massive numbers?

Think about it this way: Total Engaged Time is how long you’ve had your users’ undivided attention today. If 2,000 people have been interacting with your site for an hour each today, that means you’ve had about three months of attention on your site in one day. Three months is how long it takes Mercury to orbit the Sun. Your site engagement being that long is pretty nuts.

Oh, also, since today is Monday, we also let you compare today’s total to Monday last week, the week before, and so on for the past month. You can gauge how your site is doing and see if your sparkly new content is making the difference you’re hoping it does. It shows if you’ve had a good day compared to your usual days.

  1. Average amount of time your visitors are spending on each page.  There’s more to understanding a page than just seeing how many people are there – let average engaged minutes help you understand how much they really like it – like, this very second.

Oh, and there’s more! Check out the Content View in your dashboard. See that list of pages? Below each one, you’ll see how many visitors are on that page (like you always could), but now zero in on that nifty little click icon on the right.

That’s the average engaged time for that page – and you can compare and contrast to see which of your pages are doing well at keeping people’s attention.

See a page that’s getting a ton of engagement? Click on that.

This is your Page View that has detailed information on its traffic and engagement. Right under your usual traffic timeline, you get a timeline of average engagement over the course of the day. And that number on the right? That’s the total amount of engaged time it’s gotten today.

Now do something about it

You know what everything is, so let’s talk about how you should put it into action.

Picture a page on your site with particularly low traffic. It happens to all of us. But then you notice that this page has ridiculously high engagement compared to your other pages. People are into this page, way into this page. The people who come to it aren’t just bouncing off, but actually sticking around to check out the content you’ve crafted.

A page with high engagement but low traffic

You made this, so give yourself a pat on the back. But then get back to work.

You need to make sure other people see this page too, so send it to everyone you know: put it on Facebook and Twitter, and make sure people notice it on your homepage. Figure out what it is about this page that’s keeping people engaged and apply that genius to the rest of the content.

Oh, but you work isn’t done with that one page. Not when you notice something about another one of your pages – that one that you’ve known to have a ton of traffic, so you generally left it alone.

The flip side: high traffic with low engagement

But, now that you have Engaged Time, you see it has really low engagement. So, there’s something about it that’s drawing people in – maybe a good title, an interesting topic, or you got lucky with a link from Reddit. But the low engagement stats are showing you that it just isn’t keeping people’s attention. Is it the writing? Do you need to spice it up? If your traffic is coming from a link, do you need something that’s more interesting to visitors from that other site?

The possibilities to awesome-up your pages are endless. In fact, our Chartcorps team is hosting a weekly virtual workshop for you to get the full rundown of all the new dashboard can do. Sign up!

How are you hoping to/already using Engaged Time as the ultimate kick-ass metric?

Chartbeat: The Next Generation

Three years ago this month, Chartbeat launched at the web 2.0 summit. Today Chartbeat is beating under the hood of sites across 37 countries and takes the pulse of around 5 million visitors across the web at any one moment. Fantastic clients like ESPN, Fox News, The New York Times, Forbes, Fab.com, and Gilt Groupe have partnered with us and helped us to understand the contours of this new world of data.

Today, I’m excited to announce the next chapter in Chartbeat’s history: a new round of funding, new look, new dashboard, and a whole bunch of new features. That’s a lot to get through, but I promise to be brief.

A New Round and A New Partner

We’ve just closed a $9.5m Series B round of funding led by Josh Stein at Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Saul Klein at Index Ventures, and they’re joined by some of our favorite Angel investors.

Saul has been a constant friend and guide over the last three years and helped us take the time to find the right partner that will continuously help us push Chartbeat and the real-time revolution forward. We found that partner in Josh Stein. Josh took the time to get to know us over the course of a year, has incredible experience of building great SaaS companies like Box and SugarCRM. Most importantly, Josh just plain got it. Thanks Saul, thanks Josh, we’re going to make you proud.

A New Look

The first thing you’ll notice when you hit Chartbeat.com today is a very different look. We’re growing up. And growing up means making sure we’re as good looking on the outside as our dashboards are on the inside.

We’re also making things simpler. Newsbeat has become Chartbeat Publishing: the command center for all serious publishers of media and content.

A New Dashboard

We’re also rolling out a brand new dashboard with advanced functionality to all Chartbeat users over the next few days. When you get your hands on it, you’ll see a few key elements that we’ve focused on:

1. Real engagement

Common understandings of engagement have always relied upon explicit actions (a like or a share) taken by a few people or traditionally inaccurate guesstimetrics like “time-on-site.” At Chartbeat, we wanted to accurately understand how engaged each person who visits your site is, not just the people who hit the like button.

So we built Engaged Time. Window open in another tab? Doesn’t count. The visitor isn’t actively viewing, reading, commenting on the page? Doesn’t count. With Chartbeat’s unique way of measuring, Engaged Time counts the amount of time someone spends actively interacting with your site and enables you to see your site from a completely different perspective.

For the very first time, you can finally go beyond eyeballs and clicks and understand which content is making an impact, what’s engaging people’s heads and hearts.

2. Data in context

When you’re looking at your data – whether Chartbeat or otherwise – I bet the first question you ask yourself is “Is this good?”. You generally know if you’re doing well compared to yourself, but what about your competitors — those that are fighting for the same eyes and hearts that you are?

We’re introducing Peer Stats, which does just that.

Now, you can see your data, put in context with the anonymized, aggregated stats of your sites like yours all in real time.

Are we getting as much social traffic as we should? Is our page load speed fast enough? For the first time you’ll have a frame to understand your performance in the context of the wider web, so you know where to focus and when to celebrate.

3. Your data wherever you are

When something important happens, you want to know about it — whether it’s on your site, your iPhone or iPad app or across the social web. So why should you only see real-time stats of who’s on your site? You shouldn’t.

Chartbeat is going beyond the site. From now on you’ll be able to get real-time data from your iPhone or iPad app as well as your site. This feature is currently in beta so we’re going to need your feedback, but we’re super excited about it.

We’ve also launched a new Social View that brings the social data you need into one dashboard. You’ll get loads of insight into not just who’s talking about you where, but how that’s affecting your site traffic.

We hope you like all the new things we’ve been working on. The only thing we ask of you in return is your feedback. Let us know what you think about your new dashboard as you’re rolled into it over the next few days.

We can’t thank you enough for the love and support thus far. We’re excited to get to work and take this thing to an even higher level.

Your Social Traffic is Higher Than You Think

Direct traffic. It’s a nebulous beast. Most web analytics products toss any visitor without referrer information into this category. That means any number of people like those who have:

  • Typed in the exact URL
  • Bookmarked the URL
  • Come from a URL using HTTPS
  • Clicked on a link from a non-browser-based application (e.g., email, Twitter, IM)

That last point is the tricky bit, right? We live in the social web now, and we have for quite some time. For your team to not know how important email, Twitter, or IM is to your site traffic because it’s being thrown into some Direct Traffic black hole isn’t productive – it’s hindering and frankly inexcusable at this point.

Our Newsbeat crew wasn’t having it. So we decided to fix it.

We met with some of our alpha partners, had a few chats, and came to the conclusion that users generally only type in the exact URL or bookmark a link if it’s a key landing page (e.g., forbes.com or forbes.com/opinions/).

That makes sense, right? For new and transient articles, it’s highly unlikely anyone going to type the direct path to the page. (e.g., “http://gizmodo.com/5884660/mattel-is-finally-making-the-back-to-the-future-hoverboard”. ) It’s pretty clear that people without referrer information who visit articles like that will have received the link from someone else via a social app like Tweetdeck or Yahoo Mail and shouldn’t be counted as Direct Traffic.

So within Newsbeat, our data scientists – with the typical magic and fairy dust you’ve come to expect from their algorithm genius – programmatically classify these kinds of pages into two types: articles and landing pages.

We feel confident that those long, complicated linked articles can be pulled out of the Direct Traffic bucket and can live under Social with a referrer of “Email, Apps, IM.” Traffic with unknown referral data for landing pages, the shorter, simpler links will stay as Direct, and we label them with an “L” for landing page.

Basically, we just took some time to really understand and identify the purpose of each page from your user’s point of view. That led us to understand what Direct Traffic means on a more intelligent level. And that allows you, in turn, to understand your users on a more intelligent level.

What does all this mean in the end? It means you should go buy your social team a beer – they’re doing a lot more than most people give them credit for.

Newsbeat: Introducing Benchmarking for stories

Real-time analytics like Newsbeat enables you to understand what’s happening on your site right now, but it can still be hard to understand whether an article is performing better or worse than it should be. Today, we’re trying to make that easier by introducing benchmarking for articles. Our algorithms model the typical path of a story published at that time on your site over the first 12 hours of its life cycle and give you an instant understanding of whether your article is performing above or below that typical path. Simply go to the performance tab and click on an article (our algorithms automatically ignore landing pages) and you’ll get a sense of how that article is doing.

In the example above,  the red line showing actual performance is just under what would be typical performance for a story on that site published at that time; it is underperforming against the benchmark. In the example below, the red line showing actual article performance is beating the benchmark of typical article performance; it’s a great story!

When looking at your top 10 stories you should expect them to beat typical performance by quite a bit; that’s why they are your top ten stories! However, as you delve into stories below the top rank you’ll see their performance converge with typical and instantly be able to see when an unexpected event like a link from Drudge or spike from social moves you away from that typical performance. Once you’ve published a story, come back to our dashboard and see if it is out performing your standard articles. If it’s falling short, make sure you’re taking every opportunity to promote it through your site and social media. When a story is exceeding expectations, then it might be time to give it some homepage love, or understand how you can apply this success to all your other content.

We’re constantly working on improving the models, incorporating more factors, and providing more context around the data to ensure that you can extract as much value from our product as possible. Please email us anytime at: support@chartbeat.com, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Better Know a Chartbeat – Engagement Module

In the first installment of our “Better Know a Chartbeat*” series, I’d like to take a look at one of the powerful modules that is unique to chartbeat, the “Engagement Module.” 

Historically, most people define “Engagement” at a site level using traditional analytics metrics like Session Duration, Page Views Per Session, Bounce Rates and others.  And they’re right to focus on these metrics.  Long-term improvements in these core measurements are and should be extremely important to site editors.

However, there are many important and timely page-specific engagement questions that traditional analytics tools and metrics prove largely incapable of answering (and due to the limitations of the ways they get their measurements, won’t be able to answer).

  • Are people sufficiently engaged with a page or is it just sitting idle on their browsers?
  • How much of the page do people actually look at?
  • Are people coming to the page and leaving quickly?
  • Are people spending as much time on the page as I think they should?

The chartbeat “Engagement” module, by design, provides site editors with the numbers needed to get greater page-specific insight.  After pivoting on a page (by clicking on one of the articles in the “Top Pages” module), the engagement module that pops up on the left is broken up into three sections: Reading/Writing/Idle, Minutes on Page, and Scroll Depth.

Reading/Writing/Idle
These dials enable site editors to see what visitors are actually doing on the page; specifically, has there been any kind of activity that would suggest engagement such as mouse movement or scrolling, typing, or just letting the page remain idle or in a different tab.  Knowing this can be very powerful:

  • High percentages of engaged (reading + writing) users, but fewer total viewers may mean that page is a great candidate for promotion or change of title
    • You’re hiding a great story under a bad headline or bad visibility
  • Lots of people writing could indicate that the page’s content resonates particularly strongly with visitors
  • Higher percentages of idle users might mean that the story isn’t as engaging as you originally thought

Minutes on Page
The next section provides a histogram of how long the visitors currently on the page have been there, broken out by their level of interaction.  With this breakdown, site editors should be thinking:

  • How long are visitors actually engaged on this page?
  • Are people spending as long as they should on this page?
  • Are people leaving the page too quickly (i.e. not sticking around after the 1st minute)?

Scroll Depth
This section provides a vertical histogram indicating how far down people are scrolling on the particular page with brighter colors indicating a higher concentration of users in that region (it’s also annotated with the number of visitors in that bucket).  Take a close look at the numbers:

  • Are visitors seeing the whole article?
  • Are visitors getting to important links and videos?
  • What’s the best place to put ads?

Getting a feel for these numbers, and recognizing when they are indicating unusual and actionable levels of engagement (positive or negative), should help editors figure out what they can do to take advantage of or fix “Engagement” abnormalities (and measure the results of those actions).  Of course, there are many other quesitons to think about in addition to the ones we posed above and many other key insights to be extracted from the engagement module.

But the most important point we wanted to drive home is that “Engagement” should not be thought of as purely a site-level concept, but that by using and understanding the power of chartbeat, it is possible and easy to understand “Engagement” at the page-level.

Are you using the engagement module in interesting and exciting ways?  We’d love to hear from you.  Shoot us an email at blog@chartbeat.com

P.S. For another interesting view of engagement, try clicking on the engagement module.

* Our homage to Mr. Colbert