In an effort to get companies thinking early on about how to track online customer behavior, NetIQ on Monday will begin offering a free developers' kit for building analytics capabilities into a Web site during the development cycle.
The WebTrends Developer Kit for Macromedia Dreamweaver MX will enable developers to build analytics "tags" directly into a company's Web site -- and also test them -- prior to site launch.
This approach counters today's typical scenario in which Web analytics functionality is introduced only after a Web site has been up and running, said Bob Blumstein, an analyst with IDC, in Framingham, Mass.
"It's a smart move on NetIQ's part because they are moving analytics upstream in the process, making it easier to develop and easier to use," said Blumstein.
The developer kit is offered in the form of a plug-in extension that lives inside Macromedia's Dreamweaver Web development tool, which was chosen by NetIQ because of its broad market reach in the developer community, according to Barry Parshall, group product manager for San Jose, Calif.-based NetIQ's WebTrends products.
Within Dreamweaver, the WebTrend tools lets users add the metatags needed for site analysis via a simple point-and-click process, Parshall said. The tagging code is generated automatically, eliminating manual typing errors that are often introduced when such tags are added to a Web site after the fact.
"The downside to client-side tagging has always been that it can be prone to mistyping and syntax errors, and that you can't test until it goes live on your site," said Parshall. "The developer kit eliminates that."
"Client tags" are small pieces of Java code that are inserted onto Web pages to collect data about such things as site visitors' browsing and buying patterns. That information is then used to track myriad statistics, including daily, weekly, or monthly sales and revenue; top-selling items; peak buying times; and marketing or promotional campaign ROI.
The developer's kit works in conjunction with WebTrends Reporting Center, Developer Edition, which provides the console through which users can track customer actions on their Web site and monitor campaigns. It also features Data Collection Server, Developer Edition, which gives companies a way to aggregate online visitor information from multiple Web site domains into a single view.
According to Blumstein, the real user benefits of tagging at the time of site development come in the form of more targeted, useful analytics.
"You can identify up front what is most important for you to analyze, then develop the site to collect the relevant data," he said. "It's a good alternative to simply taking in all of the information collected about a Web site and sifting through it to find what you need."
Taking a more calculated approach to Web analytics also serves to unify a company's business executives and IT department around strategic decisions for such things as optimal placement of analytics tags, what data to collect, and what factors to measure, according to Parshall.
"We believe this will help organizations align themselves around analytics from the outset and remove the chasm that exists between marketing and sales and IT and developers," said Parshall.