Visitor Ville is a Web stats analysis package like none I’ve ever seen. It renders your Web site as a city, with each building representing a page. You watch in real time as buses and taxes deliver your visitors to buildings, and can follow them around your site. It’s a radical departure from the traditional numbers and pie charts school of stats analysis, and strangely addictive. I did a short interview with the Mayor of Visitor Ville, Robert Savage.
- Visitor Ville struck me as a really original approach to viewing one’s Web stats. It’s a departure from any other tool I’ve used. What was the origin of the idea?
I bought my niece a copy of Rollercoaster Tycoon in 1999, and found myself pushing her aside so I could play it
myself. The idea dawned on me that it was a good metaphor to represent web
site visitors. Fast forward a couple of years, and I had the right team together
to do it.
- Because of the real-time visualization aspect of the app, I imagine that people could get obsessed with watching their visitors wandering around their town. Have there been any reports of lost hours or days from users?
I myself am a member of VisitorVille Anonymous, a loosely-knit group of
grudgingly recovering VisitorVille addicts. It’s true that it’s addictive,
and people do claim to spend a lot of time using it, though most of the fun
translates into insight — for instance, people won’t just watch a person
move around town, but they’ll pull up information on them and see what moves
they make around the site, thus making for a better understanding of how people
interact with the site and indicating ways to improve it.
- Who’s your target market for this tool? Are there any concerns that a
corporate audience might conceive of its as too whimsical or hokey?
The target market is mainly marketing, CIO, and webmaster types at anything
from small to large companies. It’s funny, many people have supposed that
corporate types would find it whimsical or hokey, but Fortune 1000 companies
are proving to be our fastest-growing market segment. Financial services companies,
major media outlets, large manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and others
have been quite keen on getting VisitorVille Enterprise on their servers.
This is a nice reward for me, in particular, since I used to be part of that
- One problem I perceived with Visitor Ville is it’s limitations in terms of the number of pages it supports. Have you got any plans to manage this
urban sprawl problem? This is applicable both to bloggers who may have thousands of individual pages (with new ones being created all the time), and larger established sites.
In a few days, we are launching a new version of VisitorVille that includes
full log file analysis (that reads directly from web logs and doesn’t rely
on the tracking code). With it, you can analyze all the pages on your site,
and choose to display on the map only those of greatest interest. We will
also be introducing optimizations to the maps to better handle urban sprawl.
- How important is integration with ad word campaigns such as Google and Overture to your users?
For many people (especially those doing ecommerce), it’s a critical component of the program, and something that we had to include to please them.
- Are there plans for any other ‘actors’–bicycles, trains, city trams, etc–in Visitor Ville?
Yes, new vehicles are on the assembly-line right now, as we speak, and will
be seen driving around town in the coming weeks.