Toward Unified Digital Analytics

Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen

The opening lines of Road to Nowhere by the Talking Heads perfectly describe the process of making changes to web properties without determining how well the current site is working for its intended audience.

With the ongoing, iterative development of alpha.phila.gov, it’s become more crucial than ever that we evaluate the way the current phila.gov is being used — and perhaps more importantly — where we could improve. In addition to offering a feedback form on each page of the site and conducting live testing with citizens, we want to find out what users aren’t telling us.

analytics dashboard screenshot

To that end, today we launch analytics.phila.gov: a public, near-real-time dashboard representing traffic to the City of Philadelphia’s web properties. The application is based on an open source project developed by 18F in conjunction with the Digital Analytics Program, both housed inside of the General Services Administration, an independent federal agency.

In December, we began the process of implementing a unified digital analytics program for all city websites. This meant making sure each page of every site includes a snippet of code to send data about its web traffic to Google Analytics. This is the first attempt to capture a “big picture” website report card in Philadelphia, and it’s still a rough draft. There are currently almost 30 offices or agencies included in the reporting, with around 25 still to add, as well as several non-phila.gov domains.

We will continue to add more of the city’s web properties to this reporting in the coming months. As the alpha.phila.gov team continues to build out both content pages and redesign digital services, we’ll also add new metrics to these reports. Just as we develop in the open, so shall we measure and publicly report on the results of our efforts. This means we’ll need to look at benchmarking, create funnels and goals relevant to city services, and add custom events to fill in the gaps in measurement. But first, we’ll look at what users are already telling us – via their actions.

This data is publicly available for download, refreshed at the same intervals as the dashboard.

In the coming weeks, we’ll detail the specifics of our implementation and include instructions for deploying a similar reporting instance.


Special thanks to the Digital Analytics Program and 18F for their development and ongoing support of this open source project.

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