Judah Phillips On Rich Internet Apps For Beginners, Part I Of III: What Is It?

March 27, 2007

Before I introduce our famous guest blogger, Judah Phillips, let me explain why I wanted a beginner’s intro to Rich Internet Applications.

Rich Internet (which will be defined below, I promise), is all the rage. But (IMHO) it seems like everyone says, “Here’s what Rich Internet is – then some magic occurs — now we can measure it.” So I wrote Judah Phillips, one of the people who is making a name for himself in this space, and asked if he would do a guest post for this blog that really showed how to do the measurement. Today, we’ll start with, what is Rich Internet? (and will get to real coding by tomorrow.)

Judah is Director of Web Analytics for Reed Business Information, an enormous publishing company. He is an active member of the Boston Internet and non-profit communities and a member of the WAA’s marketing committee (that’s how I know him). He will be speaking at the Emetrics Summit in San Francisco with fellow analytics geek Ian Houston. So here is Judah on RIA:

For Web Analytics beginners, it’s not easy. All this talk about “the death of the page view,” “AJAX,” “rich media,” “engagement,” and “events” is enough to make even the most savvy Web analyst think twice about what we’re measuring these days.

So what is a Rich Internet Application (RIA) anyway, and why is it so important? RIAs are very interactive applications or web sites. Flash is a rich application. AJAX is rich. A familiar use of these kinds of technologies is Google Maps. And notice – when you use Google Maps, the name of the page doesn’t change. (So now you see where all that page view death conversation comes from.) “Traditional” web analytics care about when the page name changes – they see that as an important event. Suddenly, that’s changed.

It is true that with new client-side technologies, the page view is no longer the holiest of holy metrics anymore (personally I’ve always liked to see increases sessions and in “page views per unique visitor”). But the page view is far from dead. Rather the page view is evolving to become a type of “major” event in the Web 2.0 experience.

Now before I go on, let’s remember that I don’t take the word “event” lightly. Everything that happens on a web site is an event. You click, it’s an event. You fill in your name, that’s an event. Measuring events is the heart of web analytics – and with Rich Internet, that event becomes harder to measure.

So, let’s think of the page view as a “major” event. After all, for RSS consumers, an RSS “feed request” is just as important as a page view. The feed request is another “major event” providing our information-hungry audience with the content they need. In this “Event” paradigm, technologies like AJAX and rich media create “minor events” subordinate to the page view. These minor events could conceivably engage our visitors for longer durations (for example, the minor event of “play” on rich media video), thus maximizing opportunities for generating profitable revenue from a visit. And for maximizing our potential for analysis.

I’m hypothesizing that page views are major events in Web 2.0 and provide the context for understanding “minor events” created from widgets or AJAX or Flash or whatever.

In other words, in Web 2.0, it could be said: the page view is dead, long live the page view!

Coming tomorrow: Part II, measuring rich applications using Google Analytics.
And the next day: Part III, Part III, measuring RIA with Unica