WordPress is going to be my BFF

wordpress-logoFor the last year I’ve been somewhat of a regular blogger on WordPress. I was tossed into the blogosphere back in January 2012 when I was required to post on specific topics each week per course requirements.



A year later, I’ve had a few thousand hits to my blog and some semi-interesting content for readers to explore. While I’m not a WordPress expert, I’m becoming more comfortable with the tool and its ability to become a pretty powerful Content Management System. However, this semester I will become a master at WordPress and learn how to customize the tools and system. As much as I’m excited about this new journey, I’m terrified about the PHP, HTML, and CSS involved. Thankfully, I have Lynda.com and great instructors this semester who will help me through this process and within a few months I should be a WordPress master! A girl can dream…


Web Analytics: A Closer Look

ImageWeb analytics, like SEO, is something I have little knowledge of. So I was happy to see that is the topic of this week’s research methods class. I’m not completely unaware of this subject. I have heard of robots crawling pages and collecting data, but I never understood how important the measurement, collection, and analysis of Internet information is in making a website effective. This week’s reading was a primer on how Google discovers, crawls, and returns searches of web pages.

Basically, Google finds new pages by using robots that scan, or crawl, previous crawl pages which reveals newer ones that have appeared since its last crawl. The information is then indexed, using words and tags. This information then allows Google to match a user’s search terms with the most appropriate websites. For example, if I search “Naseem Ferdowsi”, my name, I will get a return of about 2,000 search results. Indeed, they are not all appropriate and often times unrelated to me. However, there are several that are accurate and directly relate to me. Some of these include my LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ accounts. This means that Google robots have performed a crawl on these pages, indexed my information, and stored it so that anyone who types in my name will receive a return with the applicable websites, plus a few random ones for good measure.

There is certainly a lot more to web analytics than what I have described, but for now this will do. I think a salient question would have to do with privacy. What pages should be up for crawling? And who gets to choose this? For instance, my Google+ updates are published for the entire world to see. However, I do not remember this being something I signed up for. Nor is there a way for me to undo this. Another question is how can a page that has been indexed be removed from the data base? Today, it seems that anyone with access to an Internet connection can find out too much information about any given person. This has its advantages and disadvantages but for some it is more the latter.

Defining Split Testing and Multivariate Testing, and Revealing Their Many Benefits

Multivariate testing diagram

There is a lot more to running a website than getting the code right. To make sure your website is getting the views it deserves, you need to understand who exactly you need to reach and how to target them. This can be achieved by using several tools.

To be frank, this is entirely new territory for me. Indeed, I have heard of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, but I was not aware of the many tools that fall under this domain. The two in particular that I looked at this week are split tests and multivariate tests.

You might be wondering what split testing and multivariate testing are. I certainly did. Thankfully, the required class reading filled me in on these very interesting mechanisms that optimize websites.

Split Testing

First, split testing allows different visitors of a webpage to see different versions of one of the individual webpages. Through this technology, a designer can test out changes to their webpage before rolling it out full-scale. For instance, half of visitors will see an existing headline for a homepage, while the other half will see the new headline for a webpage. Now you are probably wondering how anything is actually “tested”.  This part, I cannot explain in detail but what I do know is that software keeps track of which version of a page generates the most positive responses or conversions over a period of time. A conversion is an industry term that can mean anything that the website is aiming to do—have customers place an order, click somewhere, register, or sign up, etc. So now you are probably wondering how this is helpful. Ultimately, you can test two different versions of a webpage and find out which one is more successful, thereby allowing your website to better reach its objectives.

Multivariate Testing

Next, is multivariate testing, which is basically the same as split testing but taken a step further. Split testing can take time to be completed depending on how often a website receives conversions. This is where multivariate testing comes into play. With this technology, you can conduct several tests on different pages versions at once. So if you need to test two different buttons along with different conversions, this is possible.

Example of Google Website Optimizer data

Thankfully, for novice web designers or for people who are on a shoestring budget, testing can be free through Google Analytics, which can perform split testing or Google Website Optimizer, which can conduct split testing and multivariate testing. However, people with larger budgets can pay for more advanced multivariate testing services. These can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to a few hundred dollars to set-up testing and maintain it.

After delving into this topic I have a few lingering questions. What percentage of websites use split testing or multivariate testing? How accurate is it? When could you justify paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on these testing mechanisms? Would these tests be worthwhile for a portfolio website?

Since I will be taking a second stab at designing and coding my online portfolio per course requirements, I will definitely consider these testing mechanisms. I look forward to learning more and implementing these optimization tools in future designs.