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Usage analysis on Groupprops

The Group Properties Wiki has been at its new location since around May 2008, and Google Analytics has been operational on it since May 10. Using Google Analytics, I’ve been able to get a fairly good idea of what pages people prefer when they visit Groupprops, how they use the website, and how to make it better. Here, I’ll share some of my observations.

General visitor trends

First, there has been a largely steady increase in the number of visitors to the website. The initial increase can probably be attributed to the fact that search engines took time to index the site at its new location, and many people were using the old location (which is still up) as search engines pointed to those. From may to July, the number of distinct visits per day varied between zero and twenty. In August, it rose to around 20-40. After that, it rose slowly and steadily till the beginning of December. There was a slump in the second half of December and the beginning of January, something that I suspect is due at least in part to it being vacation season in many parts of the world. Since January 25, traffic has increased significantly, and it now averages around 80-120 visits per day on weekdays, and 30-70 visits per day on weekends.

Variation within the week is what one might expect of a typical academic or work-related site: high during weekdays, lower during weekends.

The bulk of visitors (around 78%) seem to find the content through a search engine, and the search engine driving the most visitors to the website is Google. Google has sent the site approximately 7000 visits, compared to a total of a few hundred for all other search engines. There are two possible reasons: first, Google shows Groupprops entries more frequently than other search engines do, and second, the user profile that is targeted by the website uses Google more frequently. I suspect that a combination of the two apply.

People from 105 countries have visited the wiki. The country-wide distribution of visits is roughly as follows: the United States makes up for the bulk of visits (around 5000), followed by the United Kingdom (around 1000), Canada, and India. Also high are Israel, Australia, Germany, France, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Part of the bias towards the United States and the United Kingdom may be due to language: an English-language website is likely to get more traffic from English-speaking countries.

Navigation patterns

Groupprops is a rather large site, with over 2000 pages, and not all pages receive equal traffic. Nonetheless, people often read pages on fairly abstruse topics. The depth of visits ranges widely, with the average visitor reading 2.50 pages per visit, and the bounce rate is about 60%. This means that most visitors just open one page, or read a couple of pages, and then explore no further. On the other hand, there are a number of visits of larger depth. As such, the proportion of visits of large depth has not changed significantly even as the total traffic has increased.

The most frequently visited pages seem to be the pages about specific groups. These pages are surprisingly popular considering that they are neither among the best developed nor among the most heavily linked to pages. Three of these pages are symmetric group:S3, symmetric group:S4, and dihedral group:D8. Other pages that seem to be extremely popular include nilpotent group and solvable group.

It also seems that not too many visitors are using the bulk of the methods to efficiently locate information and explore it. It is possible that a number of visits can be categorized as follows: “have a question, type keywords into a search engine, follow a link to Groupprops, get (or not get) an answer, then close.” Nonetheless, it is likely that as people find the site grow in value, they’ll discover more of the many different ways of efficiently navigating the site. As of now, these tools at any rate help search engines get a better idea of how the material on the site is related (not to mention that the tools help me get around the site).

Referring sites

There are very few sites referring to Groupprops, other than websites I own. A couple of websites link to the subject wikis reference guide, which is a central point for subject wikis. There was a sharp positive spike in traffic to the subject wikis reference guide in January when a user posted a link on Reddit.

I might say here that given the current developmental pre-beta status of the subject wikis websites, it is to be expected that not too many external sites would point to it. I hope that with steady improvements, it eventually reaches the point where people find it good enough to link to.

Lessons learned from visitor trends

The first lesson, which is obvious to most webmasters, is that the way people tend to use a website is usually very different from the way one might anticipate their using it. I hadn’t thought that pages on symmetric and dihedral groups would be the most viewed, and I’d expected a larger fraction of the visitors to use the many features I’d built for navigating the site more efficiently.

The second lesson I learned is about my own personal goals here. To some extent, I realized that the goal of subject wikis isn’t merely to cater to what users want. User feedback is useful — the fact that people are keen to learn more about specific groups indicates that adding more pages on such groups would answer the unspoken needs of many. This is something I plan to pursue. On the other hand, I have no intentions of re-engineering the website to put excessive focus on particular groups. That’s because to me, the group properties wiki is also an expression of the way that I (and in many cases, other researchers, though there are some organizational aspects that cater to my idiosyncrasies) look at the subject. Here, specific groups are extremely important, but there are a number of general concepts and ideas that are also important. The goal of putting this up in the form of a wiki is to give people a chance to play with the way the subject is structured.