Nick DeNardis, director of Web Communications at Wayne State University and technical director for TEDxDetroit, is leading the Analytics Workshop at this year’s edUi conference. We wanted to get to know him better, so we asked him a few questions. Here is what he had to say:
How did you first get started in Web analytics?
It started in high school when I discovered that anyone can create and host their own websites—being able to publish not only content, but also to have complete control over all of the HTML. Most shared hosting providers used Apache with AWStats—a server log analytics tool—installed. I got addicted to seeing the “hits” and locations of site visitors. The combination of programming and analytics feedback loop set me on a trajectory to focus on computer science and library science.
If your professional life was a movie title, what would it be?
The Sandlot. The setting of a group of kids growing up together, figuring out the world is a good parallel to how the department I am in grew over the last ten years, from three people to now over 10. We are a scrappy bunch, but we get a lot done.
In only three words or phrases, what is your worst UX story?
Mobile scrolling ads.
What’s your favorite Pandora or Spotify station?
I’m more of Soundcloud or Google Music listener and get into flow with either upbeat electronic music or singer-songwriter indie pop music. I can’t go wrong starting a station with Maggie Lindemann, Alessia Cara, Phoebe Ryan, or The Neighbourhood to set me in the zone.
If you could design any app, what would it be?
The problem I like solving these days is multiple uses and re-use of content. Content production is expensive and getting the most from that content is vital. The app I would design would be around crafting content (marketing) campaigns, a content calendar, and automating the collection of results for each campaign and medium. This activity forces the creators of a cross-functional team to focus on planning and analysis.
What can we expect from your workshop at edUi?
Expect a bit of overview to get everyone on the same page; how to gain insights from data with limited time; and how to detect usability issues and test to validate and resolution.
If you don’t routinely log in to your analytics account, now is a good time to set up a few monthly or weekly email reports to get into the habit of seeing what “normal” traffic looks like on your site(s).
What’s the biggest misconception about Google Analytics?
A misconception is that dashboards are what garner insights. Everyone wants a dashboard to display to their team or their boss. They are great for looking impressive printed or on a large display in the conference room. Beyond being a snapshot in time, they can easily be misleading. Most insights take a bit of digging, pre-planning, and potentially the use of tools beyond Google Analytics.
About Nick DeNardis
Nick DeNardis is the director of Web Communications at Wayne State University. He takes an active role in the higher education web community by sharing his thoughts and real world analysis in the Wayne State Web Communications Blog. He is also the technical director for TEDxDetroit, a once-a-year conference to spread positive ideas for the world from Detroit.
With a background in computer science and library science, Nick has always been interested in user experience and accessibility. Part of his work at Wayne State includes reviewing and benchmarking other university websites. His personal web philosophy is to keep things light, simple and agile, always striving for simple solutions to complex problems.
Nick will lead the Analytics Workshop at edUi 2017.