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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19

Chapter 18:
Web Experiments

This course presents a large amount of information on how to create banners, pages and sites so as to further the goals of the organization. You might be concerned with the click-through rate of a certain link or banner. It could be that the total number of clicks is the key factor for your organization, or perhaps the navigational dept. Another possibility is the time spent on site. But how do you really know whether a change in copy or layout, will be beneficial to click-throughs, navigational depth or time on site? Since the web server records all of this information, it is a relatively simple matter to find out empirically.

Experiments performed live on the web have major advantages over laboratory experiments. For one thing, the experimental "subjects" are simply actual visitors who are arriving on your site. The sample is the audience at the time the experiment is being run. The experiment can be performed transparently to the visitor. These factors provide excellent external validity. What this means is that your results will be highly applicable to your site since they were discovered on your actual site. It is also the case that you can run an experiment fairly easily using some modest CGI programming.

Page Experiments

Suppose you are trying to decide between page version A and page version B. Perhaps version A is the original and version B is a proposed new page design that is supposed to increase the number of links that visitors visit. There are two ways to create an experiment with these two pages. If this is the home page within a directory, or the home page of your entire site, you can replace the file index.html with a CGI script. You can view a sample page experiment script written in Perl.

Another way to go about this is to have a batch job which runs every 20 minutes, say. Lets say the page in question is called x.html. This job could work like this:

copy a.html to x.html
copy b.html to a.html
copy x.html to b.html

If you study these statements, you will see that when the batch job is rerun 20 minutes later, a.html and b.html are reversed back again. Every 24 hours you could reverse a.html and b.html one extra time so that each one is featured in a different 20 minute period than the day before.

To make sure you uniquely identify which visitor saw which page, create a single pixel transparent gif called a.gif and place it at the end of a.html. Likewise, do the same for b.html using a tiny gif called b.gif.

Banner Ad Studies

Here the simplest way to go is to use a CGI program in place of the banner referecnce:

<IMG SRC=/cgi-bin/banner-randomizer.cgi>

A sample version of banner-randomizer.cgi can be seen.

Copyright 1998 by Digital Springs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.