P 20G 20T The VP of a Fortune 100 company recently asked for some advice. They were heading into their peak selling season that would last only three months max, and they only had an ability to measure revenue from the website, nothing else. They did not have any web analytics tool.

Her question was: Which analytics tool do you recommend because we want to improve our website and increase sales.

My answer: Don’t implement a web analytics tool, implement a short website survey that would have just three questions.


There were a number of factors behind my recommendation but one of the main ones was that if you want to move really really fast and you don’t know anything then it is better to ask the customer what you should do rather than implement a tool and try to figure it out based on clicks. You will get better insights, faster than you can imagine.

Web analytics is awesome (you do expect me to say that don’t you! : )), is has to be a critical part of your web strategy because it can yield great insights. But for the fastest way to understanding customer problems there is nothing like asking the customer herself / himself (and yes it will lead to improved revenues).

Given the time crunch going to the customer made the most sense, implementation of the Web Analytics tool would happen and after a month or so and slowly over time ClickStream data would play a increasingly important part in decision making. In due course it would achieve parity with the Qualitative data (but hopefully never overshadow it).

Ok so survey got the nod, what questions to ask?

[UPDATE: 04 Mar 2008: You can now implement this survey 100% for free, a true onexit survey with no strings attached. Please see: 4Q - The Best Online Survey For A Website, Yours Free!]

Here are the three questions no survey can live without (and often a survey can be pretty awesome with just three questions):

What is the purpose of your visit to our website today?

    It can also be framed as "what is the reason for your visit today" or "what task are you looking to accomplish on our website today" or "why are you here today".

    Few website owners have a good understanding of why people visit their websites and this is one of the best possible ways for you to find out that critical piece of information. Answers that you will read, the distributions you will get between different primary purposes, will be eye opening for you, and they will help explain so much of the "weirdness" you see in your ClickStream data (and yes even your path analysis).

Were you able to complete your task today?

    If you like conversion rate and revenue then you are going to love this one. An extremely simple question that asks the survey takers to self report their own perception of your website's effectiveness in helping them complete their tasks.

    With this question we don't have to rely on our hypothesis such as if the visitors saw this page then they might have gotten their question answered or if I am measuring conversion then I can understand how effective my site is or our site is doing great because we just launched a massive quarter of a million US dollars redesign. We have the customers voice telling us exactly how well the website is performing when it comes to delivering the goods.

Now in case you want to know exactly what you need to do to improve the numbers in the graph, you'd ask a third question:

If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?

    It can also be framed as "If you were able to not complete your task please explain" or "Why were you not able to complete your task on our website today" or simply as "How can we improve our website to ensure you are able to complete your task", etc.

    The answer to this question is open text VOC, Voice of Customer. It is optimal to refrain from making this a drop down with choices like: Improve internal search, Update the navigation, and Provide more product information etc etc. Let the customers talk, give them a chance to tell you in their own voice the reasons and provide you with suggestions. It works better than you guessing what the answers might be and suggesting those.

    Analysis for this question is done by categorizing the responses into common themes and then rating the % of times each theme is occurring in the open ended VOC for those who are not able to complete their task. This is your simple and direct to-do list of issues directly from the horse's mouth about what you should work on in order to improve your website experience for your customers.

These three simple questions that will be the source of a wealth of insights when it comes to helping your deliver on your customer centric strategy. [Want more: Got Surveys? Recommendations from the Trenches.]

ClickStream data is often missing the context, in that absence we overlay our own opinions / experiences / perspectives to make sense of it all. But with answers to these simple questions you’ll have the context to make sense of it all.

What do you all think? Have you tried surveys? Do you have a golden question or two that you use? Please share your own tips and feedback on my question suggestions above via comments.

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