OUseful.Info, the blog…

Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

Library Analytics (Part 2)

In Library Analytics (Part 1), I did a few “warm-up” exercises looking at the OU LIbrary website from a Google Aanlytics perspective.

In this post, I’m going to do a little more scene setting, looking at how some of Google Analytics visual reports can provide a quick’n’dirty, glanceable display of the most heavily trafficked areas of the Library website, along with the most significant sources of traffic.

It may seem like the observations are coming from all over the place, but there is a method to the madness as I’ll hopefully get round to describing in a later post!

Whilst these reports are pretty crude, they do provide a good starting point for taking the first steps in a series of more refined questions which, in turn, will hopefully start to lead us towards some sort of insight about which areas of the website are serving which users and maybe even for what purpose… And as that rather clunky sentence suggests, this is likely to be quite a long journey, with the likelihood of more than a few wrong turns!

Most Popular Pages
Here’s a glimpse of the most heavily trafficked pages for the Library website – just to check there are no ‘artefacts’ arising from things like residential schools, I’ve compared the data for two consecutive two month periods (the idea being that if the bimonthly averages are similar, we can hope that this is a reasonably fair ‘steady state’ report of the state of the site).

Most significant pages (“by eye” – that is, using the pie chart display):

To view the proportions excluding the homepage, we can filter the report using a regular expression:

What this does is exclude the “/” page – that is, the library homepage. (IMHO, some understanding of regular expressions is a core information skill ;-)

A bar graph allows us to compare the bimonthly figures – they seem to be reasonably correlated (we could of course do a rank correlation, or similar, to see if the top pages ordering is really the same…):

So to summarise – the top pages (homepage aside) are (from the URLs):

  • Journals
  • Databases
  • eResources

The eResources URL actually refers to the subject collection (“Online collections by subject”) page.

The top three pages are all linked to from the same navigation area on the OU Library website homepage – the left-hand navigation sidebar:

The eResources link (that is, the subject collections/online collections by subject page) is actually the Your subject link.

Going forward, a good thing to find out at the next level down would be to see which are the most popular databases, journals and resource collections and maybe check that these are in line with Library expectations.

We might also want to explore the extent to which different user segments (students, researchers etc.) use the different areas of the site in similar or different ways. (Going deeper into the analysis (i.e. to a deeper level of user segmentation), we might even want to track the behaviour of students on different courses (or residential school maybe?) and report these findings back to the appropriate course team.)

Top Content areas
The previous report gave the top page views on the site – but what are the most heavily used “content areas”? The Library site is, in places, reasonably disciplined in its use of a hierarchical URL structure, so by the using the content drilldown tool, we should be able to see which are the most heavily used areas of the website:

The “/find” page/path element is a bit of kludge, really, (as a note to self: explore the use of this page in some detail…)

If we drill down into the content being hit below http://www.open.ac.uk/find/*, we find that the eresources area (i.e. subject collections/Your subject) is actually a hotbed of activity:

(Note that in the above figure, the “/” refers to the “/find homepage” http://www.open.ac.uk/find/ rather than Library website homepage http://www.open.ac.uk/.)

So what can we say? The front page is driving lots of traffic to database, journal and subject collection/”Your subject” areas, and lots of activity is going on in the subject area in particular.

Questions we might want to bear in mind going forward – how well does activity in different subject areas compare?

Top traffic sources
Again using pie chart display, we can looking at the top traffic sources by eye:

Again, let’s just check (by eye) that the bi-monthly reports are “typical”:

(It’s interesting to see the College of Law cropping up in there… Do we run a course from a learning environment on that domain, I wonder?)

learn.open.ac.uk is the Moodle/VLE domain, so it certainly seems like traffic is coming in from there, which is a Good Thing:-). From the previous post, we can guess that most of the intranet traffic is coming from people onsite at the OU – i.e. they’re staff or researchers.

Just to check it’s the students that are coming in from the VLE, rather than OU staff, we can use the technique used in the previous post in this series, (where we found that most intranet sourced traffic is coming from the OU campus) to check the Network Location view of users referred from learn.open.ac.uk:

So, we can see that the learn.open.ac.uk traffic is in the main not coming from the OU campus (network location: open university), which is as we’d expect, because we have no significant numbers of onsite undergraduate students.

In a traditional university library, you;d maybe expect way more traffic to be coming from onsite computer facilities, and in that case you may be able to find a way of segmenting users according to how they are accessing the network – via personal wifi connected laptops, for example, or public access machines in the library itself.

(Just by the by, I don’t know whether the ISP data is valuable (particularly if you look at analytics from the http://www.open.ac.uk domain, which gets way more traffic than the library) in terms of being information we can sell to ISPs or use as the basis for exploring a partnership with a particular ISP?)

Okay, that’s enough for today, a bit of a ramble again, but we’re trying to get our eye in, right, and see what sorts of questions we might be able to ask, whilst checking along the way that the bleedin’ obvious actually is…;-)

And today’s insight? The inconsistency in naming around “Your Subject”, “Online Collections by Subject”, http://library.open.ac.uk/find/eresources etc makes reading the report tricky. This could be addressed by using a filter to rewrite the URLs etc as displayed in the report, but it also indicates possible confusion for users in the site design itself? There’s also a recurrence of the potential confusion around http://library.open.ac.uk/databases and http://library.open.ac.uk/find/databases, that I picked up on in the previous post?

A second insight? The content drilling view helps show where most of the onsite activity is taking place – in the collections by subject area.

Written by Tony Hirst

August 22, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Analytics

2 Responses

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  1. [...] Search « Library Analytics (Part 2) [...]

  2. does this http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55524&topic=10982 help with the issue in your penultimate para?

    stuart

    August 28, 2008 at 7:54 am


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