The Calm Before The Storm

We've been so busy lately that we haven't had much time to post updates or rabble rouse on the intertubes, so we'd like to give everyone a glimpse at the current state of software development here at Black Box.

We're about to begin the final stages of testing for Ajaxalytics V.2 in order to detail the case studies within Ajaxalytics: A Framework for Advanced, Automated Web Analytics. Most of our audience is familiar with Ajaxalytics, and we recently published an article discussing the current state of analytics and how Ajaxalytics plays a crucial role in this evolution, but as much and as passionately as I discuss the software there hasn't been much product-showcasing online.

Without giving too much away, we'd like to hand out a few teasers and talk about the vast differences between our previous release, Ajaxalytics  V1.1, and our upcoming release, Ajaxalytics V.2. We've dedicated a great deal of time rethinking the user-interface because web analytics revolves around the need to generate data visualizations that offer valuable insight, but we've also spent a lot of time re-thinking the application's interactivity since our research indicates that two of the largest flaws of current analytics applications are the large amounts of static content and the inability to capture information in specific, contextually meaningful ways.

Figure 1 below first showcases the major modifications to the user-interface. We've done away with top-down navigation, we've added functional breadcrumbs for better global control, and we've programmed in several distinct modules that provide for functionality not currently offered by existing frameworks that we believe is vital to effective site analysis. First, the Datasets Manager is capable of defining, locating, cleaning, ordering, and parsing web server access logs within a single interface. Analysis is literally two clicks and 45 seconds away and our install process has been streamlined so as to open the product up to a wider audience, whereas before a certain level of technical experience was required to both install and parse server access logs. Second, the User Workspace at the bottom of figure 1 is a dynamic, site-wide module that allows users to view, minimize, maximize, and save multiple visualizations within the same screen. Instead of hopping back and forth between pages, the user is now allowed to create specific data visualizations, pop them out as in-site draggable, resizable windows, and carry them over to other pages as well as save them for later use. Integrating data persistence is vital to any site committed to thorough, ongoing site analysis, and we believe that such interactivity is necessary in order to facilitate such methodologies.  

Figure 1: Ajaxalytics V2 Datasets Manager

  Figure 2 below outlines the Dataset Dashboard component of the application. We'll go into detail with further figures in a bit, but we'd like to stop here and point out a very significant design decision we had to make when we began work for Version 2. Notice how similar the interface is to Google Analytics? This is intentional. Not because we're attempting to stand on the shoulders of giants and share in their market share glory, but because most analytics applications have already copied Google and people are now accustomed to such an interface (see Mint, Yahoo! Analytics, Lucky Orange) . That said, we adopted what we thought worked, and we adapted or removed anything we believed interfered with efficient site analysis. Our goal was to provide a top-down scoping approach where the user could dynamically create visualizations of specific subsets of data.  

Figure 2: Ajaxalytics V2 Dataset Dashboard

  To give more details about our scoping approach, figure 3 outlines the daterange component within the Datasets Dashboard. The daterange component allows the user to isolate the visualizations based on a single date or multiple dates indicating a date range.  

Figure 3: Ajaxalytics V2 Daterange Modifier

  Similar to the daterange component, the metrics components outlined in figure 4 allows the user to change the type of information that's being visualized. They are also given the ability to compare metrics within the same visualization as well as change the frequency of time in which the data is extracted and displayed, such as by day, week, or month.  

Figure 4: Ajaxalytics V2 Metric Comparisons

  While we're excited about all the new additions and modifications made for Version 2, nothing we've shown you thus far can be considered novel or groundbreaking, and nothing we've discussed provides any distinct advantages to our users by using our software as opposed to other analytics packages. Before we discussed how interactivity is integral to the process of analysis, but we've also discovered that users are unable to perform thorough site analyses due to the limited number of combinations in which they can mix and match data to create unique views of their site's usage data. Figure 5 below outlines the segments component of the Dataset Dashboard, and it's the first of several contributions we've made through our research that truly sets us apart from the rest. Existing analytics frameworks will allow you to isolate your attention to specific segments, but the segments must be comprised of the same primary characteristics found within the usage data. While Google Analytics and similar applications will allow you to segment sessions based on their referral traffic or their staying time, Ajaxalytics will allow you to segment sessions based on the usage behavior itself. For example, Google Analytics can properly segment sessions created by visitors using mobile devices. Ajaxalytics can capture sessions exhibiting similar behavior to those created by visitors using mobile devices on top of segmenting mobile device visitors. Our usage behavior clustering algorithms, processes, and UI components do more than create a few additional distinct views, they close the loop on the analysis process by providing site administrators the ability to create a countless number of distinct segments based on more than just bounces, staying time, and number of page requests.  

Figure 5: Ajaxalytics V2 Segment Scoping

  Showcasing aside, we're extremely busy over here at Black Box and publishing and releasing Ajaxalytics V.2 is but one of several projects we've got going on right now. I'd really like to let everyone in on the latest revision of Passion Pointe, but we're about ready to launch and I'd hate to ruin the surprise. However, we would like to give Alex Balashov over at Evariste Systems our thanks and appreciation for his help with Beta testing and development - his keen power of observation and significant technical expertise allowed us to strengthen the application's invoicing platform as well as efficiently isolate and mend several potential usability nightmares, all of which could have severely cut away at our projected conversion rates.