DVR TIG Week: Chris Lysy on the Big Data Backlash and Qualitative Web Evaluation

Hello my fellow evaluators.  This is Chris Lysy, world renowned evaluation cartoonist and owner of the recently formed independent evaluation & design consultancy Freshspectrum LLC.


It’s happening.


The business world is starting to turn on big data.


There is a somewhat new-ish trend in coherent arguments on the perils of big data or the benefits of small data.  Or as this article puts it: Big Data Tells You What, Small Data Tells You Why.


I know most of you will agree that mixed methods are awesome.  So why don’t we apply that to web evaluation!

Are you just looking at visits, pageviews, follower counts, and conversions?  Or in other words, numbers, numbers, and more numbers?  Enough is enough, it’s time to start putting these numbers into context.

Hot Tip: Get to know the individual readers.

An email address is a very personal piece of information that allows an organization to ask questions like…

  • “Why did you follow us?”
  • “What are you struggling with and how can we help?”
  • “Have any suggestions on how we can serve you better?”

Ask them directly, individually, and have them reply to your email.  Then follow-up.

I ask my data design workshop participants what they are struggling with all the time.  Why guess what content should be created when you can ask?

Hot Tip: Be a detective.

When looking at analytics I prefer the daily view.

Analytics have a rhythm.  Say an email newsletter goes out every Tuesday, you might see an immediate spike that day followed by a smaller boost on Wednesday.

But sometimes you get an unanticipated spike. Time to investigate, why exactly did that spike happen?

Rad Resource: Buzzsumo

It’s expensive but offers a lot of insight into publicly available social media and search statistics.  The best part is that you are not confined to only looking at your own sites.  Maybe your organization is not all that web savvy, so find out what works for a similar organization that is.


Hot Tip: Understand the User Story

Someone visits a website homepage.  What do they do first?  Do they click on the big button at the top? Or maybe they head straight for the map in the middle of the page.  Or do they just exit immediately.

Looking at your data through a qualitative lens can help you better understand.

Rad Resource: My Free Qualitative Web Data Analytics Course

I have lots more to share about this topic (around collection, visualization, and reporting) but AEA365 posts are short.  So I just created a free course in order to go deeper into the subject matter.  If you are interested, sign up here.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Data Visualization and Reporting (DVR) Week with our colleagues in the DVR Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from DVR TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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