My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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Given the new ways we're browsing the web and the ways in which applications are fed to us (i.e., videos and Ajaxification), page views are becoming less relevant as a metric for popularity of a site. So is the amount of time a visitor stays on a site useful? According to this article a couple of days ago in BusinessWeek, Nielsen seems to think so:
This month, Nielsen again flipped around a key ratings measure. It will now rank Web sites by how much time users spend on them, and de-emphasize total page views as the prevailing metric. Nielsen's move is a nod to how habits and technologies on the Web have changed, thanks to video and applications like Ajax, which delivers fresh content to Web pages so users no longer need to click through more screens to see more stuff.

Just as tabbed browsing makes holding form state with sessions obsolete, it's doing the same to the "time spent on site" metric.

Perhaps its not completely obsolete, but the way I browse - if I've visited your site and you see a huge increase in time spent for that page, its probably because I go through sites and open links in new tabs and return to the opened links often-times hours later. Sometimes I leave them open all night to return to first thing in the morning. I'd be willing to bet I'm not the only one either.

It would be interesting to note the browsing habits of the general population, and only then, when we take into account the "tab effect" could you consider time-spent a valuable metric. Of course, if I'm the only one that browses that way, I don't make enough of an impact on highly-visited sites. But if a good portion of the people do? Let's hope advertisers aren't paying for that.

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