Welcome to the first installment in the 10-part series Better Know a Web Metric!
In this feature, I will try and explain Web analytics terms and what they’re all about.
In this week’s episode, we will explore… the Page View!
A quick history
Long before Web 2.0 was a vague idea, when HTML was the bastard child of SGML and other structured document formats, Sir Tim introduced the world to a whole new concept : « Web pages », electronic documents organised in thematic collections called « Web sites ».
Of course the activity of these so-called Web sites had to be tracked, with new methods to process or ‘parse’ the web server’s access and error logs.
The advent of « personal home pages » introduced alternative tracking methods, generally consisting in displaying the number of ‘hits’ the Web site received, usually in the form of a counter image or a text message. These counters were usually based on a CGI script that incremented a value in a text file every time the page was requested from the web server. Nothing fancy but it was efficient… at the time!
A page view is now considered by the Web analytics industry as the number of times a document was viewed in a Web browser.
Let us take the arbitrary example of my favorite fictional sports site, Foosports.com. I usually start browsing their home page, which has links to the hockey section. The hockey section then takes me to a third page, which displays the roster of the FooVille Badgers (go, Badgers!). I eventually grow bored with the Badgers’ roster and head back to the home page. On second thought, it’s getting late and I switch my computer off.
How do we describe my recent fictional navigation in terms of page views?
- Foosports.com home page: 1 page view, browser caches it
- Hockey section: 1 page view, browser caches it
- FooVille Badgers’ roster page: 1 page view, browser caches it
- Return to Foosports.com home page: 1 page view but already in browser cache
I’d like to make a few adjustments to that statement. Now that the content that is being used on Web sites is generally structured, it generally means that content can be pushed on to platforms other than web browsers, e.g. mobile phones, pocket PCs, Web TV, etc… Do you decide to exclude that content altogether? This is a typical business decision, but excluding page views generated by other media usually results in the multiplication of tracking entities, one for each separate media platform. Alternatively, do you track all page views regardless, but break the total down by media used?
Then there is also the issue of Flash applications, which I would exclude from page views, unless you want to use Flash like a banner and track the number of impressions your Flash app. received. In my humble opinion, Flash has its own paradigm and it is more centered on usability rather than on the number of impressions.
It’s time to wrap up for this first installment of Better Know a Web Metric. I hope you learned something today or at least had as much fun reading it as I had writing it.
In closing, I would like to say that page views are about quantity, not quality.
Remember that page views are about volume, about your Web site’s output, if you will. You will notice that this output fluctuates and follows a plethora of factors that we might cover in later episodes.
In the meantime, happy surfing and feel free to drop me a comment 🙂