CATEGORY: Web Analytics & Web Services

REVIEWER: Chris Grant, senior data analyst at Fry Multimedia.

BACKGROUND: Fry, Inc. helps organizations conduct business transactions, disseminate information and build customer relationships electronically. The firm designs, builds, hosts and manages Web-based applications that, in 2002, generated nearly $1 billion for its customers.

PLATFORMS: Windows 2000 Server on dual- processor SCSI machines running at 2+GHz.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Fry has always approached its Web sites from the perspective of the visitor experience, mainly using the expertise of our information architects and usability specialists. A couple of years ago, we started adding site traffic and visitor behavior data to the mix in order to make more insightful recommendations. We did the best we could with several tools, including earlier generations of WebTrends products as well as statistics programs. However, our thinking was always ahead of what the tools could produce, and the everyday users of the reports were overwhelmed by the mass of output. We needed a tool that had more power for our analysts yet was easier for entry-level users. We particularly wanted something that would allow solid before-after or side-by-side comparisons of different groups or segments. WebTrends Reporting Center 6.0 (WRC 6.0) from NetIQ has given us all of that in a package that has saved us a great deal of setup and analysis time. We've used it since it first became available; and instead of feeling limited by it, we still haven't exhausted its capabilities.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We use WRC 6.0 to do two different things: to produce useful routine (daily, weekly) site traffic and campaign reports, and to do complex one-time analyses as lead-ins to site redesigns. The routine reports are the most user friendly we've ever produced because we can pare the reports down, change the order, put several graphs or tables on one page, compare time frames side by side and, if needed, change the text. In addition to ordinary site statistics, the reports themselves offer several kinds of path analysis and the ability to create entirely new and custom tabulations. WRC 6.0 also has new segmenting abilities. It contains prebuilt segments such as first-time versus returning visitors and visitor recency and frequency and has added a powerful filter that allows separate reporting on visits that include a specific page, such as on-site search or storefinder. Finally, WRC 6.0 allows power users access to its built-in scripting language. This is a significant new tool that allows us, for example, to make sense of obscure URLs from content management programs (e.g., Vignette or Broadvision), as well as concoct whole new analyses beyond the already powerful 6.0 features.

STRENGTHS: At a conceptual level, its strengths are smooth transitions from product to product and from one data collection method to another, plus its ability to accommodate a range of expertise. It's important to us that the out-of-the-box reports are sufficient for the average user, while the advanced capabilities are available for more experienced people. Also, WRC 6.0 can process either regular log files or logs produced through the powerful JavaScript client-side tag method (which can collect e-commerce order information). It can also grab information from external databases allowing new reports such as sales by product manufacturer. Finally, WRC 6.0 is part of a consolidation of the code base for all WebTrends products; thus, the upgrade path to and from WRC 6.0 is now basically seamless.

WEAKNESSES: Its custom date range capability isn't yet completely flexible; a couple of statistics require working within predefined time periods. Also, heavy use of custom reports or side-by-side displays will slow the processing time.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Because we wanted to work with a product that would continue to roll out big improvements for a long time while keeping the product affordable, we selected the company – not just the product. We learned the hard way that NetIQ has more stability and responsiveness than some of its competitors.

DELIVERABLES: WRC 6.0 produces reports on Web site traffic and e-commerce results. The reports can be customized, are produced in Web form and can be exported in PDF, MS Word, MS Excel and CSV format.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The phone and e- mail technical support has been superb through implementation and beyond, with several levels of technicians available who know the product thoroughly. The vendor also has a strong fee-based Professional Services team capable of any level of on-site or remote assistance and a suite of applications partners.

DOCUMENTATION: There are two levels of manuals (user and admin), written clearly with plenty of examples and procedures. Other documentation includes an extensive online knowledge base, two types of on- screen help and a number of white papers.

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