Sizing It Up: Measuring and Optimizing Rich Internet Applications

September 25, 2009

When I started thinking about what I was going to write for my next blog post, I had a couple of topics in mind trying to keep with my original plan for my blog of sharing my experiences in web analytics. Then the news broke that Adobe has agreed to purchase Omniture. Whether this acquasition is going to be good or bad, only time will tell. There has already been enough written on this topic, so I am going to focus this post on another topic. When the news broke of the acquisition, an idea for a post came to me. About a year ago or so, I co-presented a webinar with Omniture for an Adobe online seminar. Little did I know what would transpire a year later. As you can see from the title of the post, the webinar was about measuring and optimizing Rich Internet Applications. I have been very lucky in the last couple of years to have the opportunity to measure and optimize RIA’s and to work for the company that worked with Omniture to develop their flash tracking (ActionSource). Though I am not a developer and have never actually added the ActionSource tracking I work very closely with our flash developers to make sure the tracking that I would like is added to the RIA’s. Though I have tracked many different applications, most of the RIA’s that I going to cover in this post involve flash video, but I think this will give you a good idea of some of the tracking capabilities.

Before I get started going over part of the presentation, here is a link to the Adobe Webinar. In order to play the webinar, you will need to have an account with Adobe. If you do not have one, you can create an account. Creating an account is free and after you register will take you directly to the webinar.

Optimizing Rich Media
As I mentioned in one of my other posts, Video Tracking, video has been one of the bigger priorities for us and we are incorporating video in a more integrated fashion through the site than we have before. When we first developed this player, we started with the video list, but questions come up, would a Full Video View be a better experience, which would give users have the option of viewing the video list by clicking on More Videos link in the upper right hand corner. Instead of just letting our gut instinct take over and fall into the typical decision making trap, we decided to let our visitors tell us which video player they preferred. Optimizing Rich Media We ran an A/B test on both of these versions with a 50/50 split, using the Video List as the control and the Full Video View as the test. Take a second and think about which player you think generated more video plays? We have asked this question to people in the past and majority of the people thought the Full Video View preformed the best. After we looked at the results we learned that the Video List had 35% more video plays than the Full Video View.

Hotspots or Overlays
When we added hotspots to the videos, users had the ability to click on certain links within in the video as the video played to learn more about certain products. But this was not driving user engagement with the hotspots because we believed user’s were not aware that there were links with in the video that they were able to click on. Knowing this information, we then wanted to test this against having an overlay in the bottom portion of the video where users can click on the overlay and bring up a window over the video. The video behind the overlay will pause while the user views the information in the overlay, where they can play a video or click on links that go to the advertiser’s site. Hotspots or Overlays It is not a big surprise that the overlay drove more click-throughs, but the question is by how much. We quite surprised to see that the overlay had a 56% better click-thru rate than the hotspotting. After seeing this information, we are now in the process of adding overlays to all of our videos and this also gives us an additional revenue source with our advertisers.

Other Platforms (Widgets)
Now that we have tried the traditional modules and traditional applications, Scripps wanted to try something new. Go outside of the box and saw an opportunity to try the next new thing. Since the iPhone is one of the hottest phones and the market, we decided we wanted to build an iphone application for Food Network. Was this going to work? We were not really sure, but we knew we wanted to tracked how our users interacted with the application, including which tab users clicked on click, which videos users viewed, and if they were using the search box which would drive users to the Main Food Network site. The iPhone application was considered a success and we are now in the process of developing iPhone applications for some of our other sites. After the iPhone application we wanted to try another, more fun application within Facebook, so we built a cupcake application, where users can create their own cupcake, chose the wrapper they want, the type of frosting, and place a message on top of the cupcake and send it to their friends. On the right hand side of the application, we listed some cupcake recipes and we tracked if users clicked on any of the recipes that would then take the user to the Food Network site. This application was not quite as successful as the iPhone application but was pretty successful. Other PlatformsAfter seeing this, we wanted to really go outside of the box and different and we created a Food Network widget for the Chumby, where we would upload a recipe of the day for the Chumby, where users can log onto the Chumby and recipe the current recipe or view any past recipes. We tracked which recipe users viewed and how they moved through the widgets, either through hitting the arrows or scroll through the slides. After looking at the data for the Chumby, we saw that the Chumby was a failure and we have discontinued creating any new widgets for the Chumby, which goes to show you why it is important to track and test these initiatives so you know where to focus the resources.

So what have we learned from all of this? By using the ActionSource tracking (except for the Facebook Cupcake application, where we used tracking codes), it gave us the ability to track the different interactions that our visitors used and helped us better optimize the experience. It also helped us make decisions on which video player technology would drive the most user engagement which and be the most effective for our advertisers and it let us determine which non-traditional applications would be worth investing more time.

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