Chrome: the rise and fall and rise again

Edd Sowden’s recently released browser matrix stats shows some fascinating patterns in usage for GOV.UK and the tool has also been made available on GitHub and for anyone to use. So what does it show for the Edge Hill website?

The most striking thing to me is the upgrade cycle for Chrome. With a 7 day bucket size, the matrix shows we have two new Chrome releases showing just how quickly the automatic update system is able to push out versions.

Chrome Upgrades

Compare that to how Internet Explorer updates happen at an almost glacial pace:

Internet Explorer Updates

I’ve not incorrectly included “Chrome 7” in those stats – that’s there because we have Chrome Frame installed on Edge Hill machines.

Browser Matrix seems able to visualise data in some ways that Google Analytics alone doesn’t – give it a try and share what you find!

Event Tracking with Google Analytics


Previously we’ve showed how we’re starting to make use of A/B testing to measure the proposed improvements to our site. We’ve also started using other more advanced features of Google Analytics on our site.

The problem comes from some of our designs which use JavaScript to create advanced designs. The homepage for example has a feature area showing four key news stories, events or promotions but Google Analytics only registers the page loading – previously we had no way to determine which slides were being looked at.

The solution is event tracking. With this, GA can record activity other than page views. In this example we register as an event an interaction with the feature area. These are logged as “Switch 1/2/3/4” when the corresponding slide is displayed. Loading the default slide isn’t recorded – we can get that figure from the number of page views – but clicking the thumbnail link does trigger the event.

In many ways the results are unsurprising:

Event Action Total Events Unique Events
Switch: 1 606 491
Switch: 2 593 466
Switch: 3 454 359
Switch: 4 311 255

So the further left the more often the content is viewed. We also record the title of the tab for easy reference – it’s hard to remember what story was in each position on a particular day:

Event Label Total Events Unique Events
University of the Year 2011 592 465
Jennifer Saunders in Conversation 453 358
Postgraduate Study for 2012 311 255
Scholarships for 2012 218 178
Scholarshipsfor 2012 147 129
Graduation ceremonies today 135 101
Awards ceremonies will be held as scheduled 104 87

“Scholarships for 2012” is doubled up – there’s still some debugging to do extracting the slide labels from the H3 tag but early results are very interesting.

This type of event tracking applies to a couple of different designs based on our feature area JavaScript so we can start to measure the success of slides on the About page – Campus and Location (position #5) is second most popular link.

As will any type of statistics, the hard part is in analysing what they mean but already this has proved to be a useful additional metric we can use when reviewing our site.


A/B testing the mega menu

This week we’ve started experimenting with A/B tests on elements of our site design. The first results are coming in and show us some small but not insignificant improvements can be made.

Spot the difference in our mega menu:

We’ve been testing how many people visit the Undergraduate homepage from the mega menu – Google Analytics stats show many more people go straight to the courses page than to the top level page.

Using Google’s Website Optimizer we can test the two versions with and without the heading underlines to see which performs better. After four days the stats show the version without the underline performs 9% better at driving people to the Undergraduate homepage.

This was a very small experiment but in future we’ll be testing more fundamental elements of our designs. Apologies if this makes you feel like a lab rat!

Mobile device usage

Last week I mentioned that while I couldn’t give a definitive list, our initial focus for a mobile website would be higher end devices. One thing we do know is what people are using at the moment to access our sites on the move:

Mobile device usage for

Data for the above chart is taken from 14th April – 13th June 2010 and the usual warnings apply to statistics sourced from Google Analytics – it only includes browsers executing JavaScript.

What is clear though is that Apple’s devices are massively more popular than anything else – over 75% of page views are from iPhones and iPod Touch browsers.

Mobile usage is fast moving so we’ll be continuing to monitor trends and statistics will drive much of what we do in our forthcoming developments.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

25 by Leo Reynolds.I started working at Edge Hill around the same time IT Services launched the GO portal and there was talk in the office the first Christmas about how many people would be logging in on Christmas day.

We don’t have the stats for Christmas day 2006, but we do have last couple of years so now you can check out how many people were logging in a year ago today (except I’m writing this in November so it’s not a year ago for me).

Last year GO received 840 visits on Christmas day.  Here’s an hourly breakdown – thick blue line is 2008 stats and the thin green line is 2007:

GO stats for Christmas day 2007 and 2008

The main Edge Hill website received even more visitors. Again, thick blue line is 2008 stats and the thin green line is 2007:

Edge Hill University website stats for Christmas day 2007 and 2008

I wonder if either site will beat those figures this year!

That’s all for 25 days of blogging – I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of the posts and thank you to everyone who’s commented.  See you in 2010 where we’ll start it all again with some very exciting projects on the cards (well, on the product backlog actually!)

Better Blog Day 11: Dig Into Your Blog’s Statistics

I’m going to skip day 10 – declutter your sidebar – as it’s fairly clean as it is and I like how the IT Services blogs, and some of the other University blogs, have the same theme with a consistent layout, albeit with different colour schemes and graphics.

So today I’m looking at stats using Google Analytics and other tools.

Top Posts

  1. Web development with symfony
  2. Go PHP5!
  3. Facebook Applications
  4. The Paris Hilton effect…
  5. Jobs Website Live

Interesting that three of the top five are tagged symfony – the project website syndicates blog posts related to the framework leading to a boost in traffic.


The number one source of referrals to our blog is, unsurprisingly, our own website, the latest posts feed on the homepage of the intranet accounts for about 30% of visitors. Number two is the symfony website and the peaks in traffic are clearly visible. Google is next up with people clicking through from Google Reader. Technorati follows with a variety of queries including tags such as IWMW and direct from the blog info page. Finally is my own website (Edge Hill University is not responsible for content of external websites etc etc…!)

Search Engines

Across the whole domain because it’s more interesting (and easier to work out):

  1. Google – by far, with half the top ten searches for people.
  2. Ask – very bizarre series of searches for “paul cheeseman core services” over a three week period. Deeply worrying, but excellent page/visit and average time on site!.
  3. Yahoo – interesting range of searches, just not many of them.
  4. AOL – someone’s been searching for “ceremonial mace makers“.
  5. Live – must try harder.

Bounce Rates

The bounce rate is the percentage of users who don’t click any further links after arriving at a site (lower is better). Overall across it’s 53.5% – Web Services is slightly lower.


We don’t currently have good stats for feed usage but looking at the raw log files, about 15 people are subscribed using Google Reader, half a dozen using Bloglines plus a variety of other services. Now that FeedBurner allows you to use your own domain maybe it’s time to sign up and pipe some feeds through it and find out how many people are reading that way – I suspect it’s a significant number.

Firefox on the rise

Usage statsIn one of my occasional trawls through our usage statistics I noticed that Firefox usage has been rising quite slowly over the last six months but shot up in the last month or so. Firefox usage is now over 10% compared with 8.3% just a month ago. Safari usage has also crept up and is now over 2%.

These figures are for the main website and it’s interesting to see how it’s different for specific sites. The Hi Applicant Community has over 20% Firefox usage (although this has dropped a little over the last month – at one point it was 28%) showing that adoption of alternative browsers amongst college students is higher. The Edge Hill Job Vacancies site is lower than the rest of the corporate site.

For Internet Explorer, Microsoft can be glad that adoption of IE 7 has increased 5% in the last month which goes a little way to compensate for the fact Firefox and Safari are eating away at their lead. Usage of IE 7 should overtake IE6 in the next month.

What does all this mean? Well, not a huge amount really. Only a tiny proportion of users aren’t using A-grade browsers and even then, our sites are designed to degrade gracefully. More interesting is the general trend that more people are prepared to look for alternatives to the default installed IE and hopefully in doing so will speed up the adoption of things like RSS feeds and Microformats, when they get built into the browsers.

Analysis on the doorstep!

I think it’s fair to say that the analysis of web traffic is a somewhat neglected aspect of our service. Whilst we endeavour to use web stats to inform decisions regarding the usability and information for our website I certainly feel we could/should do a lot more with the information. The difficulty has always been with regard to “lack of available resources” and as a consequence search engine optimisation and web statistics analysis is always on our ‘wish’ rather than ‘to do’ lists.

Thanks to Google Analytics though I’m now confident we can do a lot more with less. We’ve been using the Google Analytics tool for several months and it’s providing some really useful data about the behaviour of our users. Whilst we have used a stats package for many years, Google Analytics gives us more comprehensive data in a much more usable format.

As has been the case for many years the majority of our users come directly to our site or by typing “edge hill” (or a variant of) through the Google search engine. In one sense that’s a positive – in terms of marketing and PR – people know about us and look for us so they come to the site for more information. On the other hand though we could certainly improve our web marketing to ensure that more users find their way to the course provision listed on the Edge Hill website without directly looking for us. Whilst we structure content to facilitate this the statistics provided by Google Analytics do help us identify areas for improvement.

Internally we have been discussing some of these issues for a while and work is on-going to utilise the information provided to inform future marketing campaigns (both on and off-line). So an email from Mike this morning stating that a new and even better version of Google Analytics was on it’s way was very welcome!

I’ve had a look at the demo for the new product and I’m very impressed. The new version appears to offer a much greater level of functionality and my favourite bit – automated reports. The ability to customise and automate reports will be extremely useful for us as without a dedicated resource to plough through information it’s always an onerous task. The Google Analytics blog gives details of the new features and expected release . In a resource limited team and in an increasingly competitive environment, I for one will look foward to trying it out.