The Web is the perfect environment in which to make management decisions based on evidence and facts, rather than emotion and opinion.The educated guess and the gut instinct are-like the action hero-vastly overrated. In human psychology there is a compelling attraction to the idea that the gut instinct is the seat of wisdom.
Listening to your heart and your gut may be nice romantic concepts, but for good decision-making the world is moving inexorably towards cool logic and hard evidence.
"Increasingly, doctors seeking to provide their patients with the best possible care are exploring what is known as evidence-based medicine--a hard, cold, empirical look at what works, what doesn't and how to distinguish between the two," wrote Christine Gorman in TIME in February 2007.
"Few people deny that the trend in medicine is increasingly to be guided, if not governed, by the data--an idea that is spreading to other fields as well," Gorman continued. "Evidence-based practice is now being taught in nursing, general education and even philanthropy, thanks to the influence of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a results-based group if ever there was one. You could see even the political fights over global warming as the birth pangs of the new practice of evidence-based policy."
"If the editors of a magazine-NEWSWEEK, for instance-want to know what interests their readers, their resources are limited," wrote Jerry Adler in September 2007. "They can count cover sales, but that only tells them about one story a week. They can convene a focus group, but that's a cumbersome and costly way to assess the tastes of 3 million subscribers.
"Online, by contrast, that information is available for the asking-not just the numbers of readers, but how long they spent with a given story and what else they read. So as journalism increasingly migrates to the Web, the job of figuring out what readers want becomes almost automatic-thereby raising the question, how much do we really need editors, anyway?"
The Web is the greatest ecosystem of content that the world has ever known. We can, with increasing precision, know what content gets people to act and what content doesn't. The length of time people spend on the page is just a basic measure. Here are some others:
* How many links have there been to the content. This is the ultimate measure as the link is the gold standard of the Web.
* Where did the customer go once they read the content? Did they have a positive or negative reaction?
* How has the content been rated by customers?
* Has the content been blogged about? Did it get a conversation going?
Opinion, emotion and gut instinct are dangerous things when it comes to managing websites. Invariably they lead to creating websites that are organization-centric and full of vanity publishing. These sorts of decisions are compounded further when senior managers get involved, who often have no deep experience of Web, thus making their opinions even more likely to be wrong.
We need evidence that clearly shows how content helps customers complete common tasks. The cry of web management must be: 'Show me the data'.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.