Book Review:
Web Site Measurement Hacks

Author(s): Eric T. Peterson
Publisher: O'Reilly (2005)
ISBN: 0596009887
Web Site: http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596009885/
Reviewer: Dave Cross

Buy from Amazon

Web site measurement seems to be all the rage at the moment. Look at the source code for just about any commercial web site that you visit and you'll find code that is there to grab as much information about you and your browsing habits and store it in the company's database. I spent some time last year putting code like that into every page of a client's web site.

So, it would seem to be the perfect time for Eric Peterson's new book. Like all of O'Reilly's "Hacks" series, it starts with the basics of its subject matter and in a series of a hundred small chunks of knowledge it introduces the reader to the topic in hand.

This time the topic in hand is how to measure how successful your web site is being. "How successful it's being at doing what?", you might ask. And that's a good question which is also covered in the book. You need to know what your web site is trying to achieve in order to be able to measure how well it is achieving it. It's a basic point, but one that is often missed.

That comes later in the book though. We start with an introduction to web measurement vocabularly. If you're unsure of the difference between hits, pages and visits, then the first chapter will soon get you up tp speed. It also talks about the different kinds of users that you will get and gives a good overview of the various technologies that can be used.

Whilst the book talks about a number of different companies that provide web measurement software, it also demonstrates that you don't necessarily need to spend all that money to get good results by creating a do-it-yourself web measurement application which is expanded and enhanced in each chapter. This application is obviously rather basic, but it should be viewed as a starting point which you can then add extra features to as your requirements grow and change.

All in all this is a very good introduction to an increasingly important sector of the web industry. It's therefore a shame that it was released at about the same time as Google released its Google Analytics product. Google Analytics will be an obvious first choice for many small companies first getting into web site measurement and unfortunately it isn't mentioned at all. Even Urchin, the product that Analytics is based on ony gets a couple of mentions. That's a pretty minor niggle though. It's still a book that's well worth reading if you're just getting started in web site measurement.