Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

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Tracking Widgets on the Desktop

Posted by widgetgirl on August 18, 2008

A few weeks ago we finally rolled out reporting for Desktop widgets on the Clearspring Analytics platform.  Determining how to integrate desktop analytics into the platform was actually a little more thought provoking than what one might expect.

Grabbing a widget and placing it to the desktop is very similar to sharing it from web page to web page.  The one thing that is different is that it requires the user to download something (versus a Get/Post or URL exchange to another social networking page or web site).  Because desktop widgets produce data streams that vary from web widgets, we made the decision to segment this data so as not to skew our web widget reporting.  For example, desktop widgets will stay open much longer on the desktop than web widgets might stay open on a page – hours versus minutes and seconds.  So interaction analytics around desktop widgets (time spent, interaction time, etc.) are not included in the interaction reporting on our platform.  Where we do integrate it in is to include them in the counts for Grabs, New Installs and Active Installs (by the way, we made a syntax change on our platform to start using the term “Installs” instead of “Placements” – more on that in my next post).

So what is in a desktop report for widgets?  We have three metrics that we report on that are specific to desktop widgets:

  • New Desktop Installs – this is a count of the number of times that a widget was downloaded to the desktop and loaded at least once over the selected time span.
  • Active Desktop Installs – this is a count of the number of installs that have been loaded at least once over the selected time span of the analysis.
  • Desktop Loads – this is the sum of the times that the widget was loaded on a desktop platform over the selected time span.

Each one of these metrics is grouped by Desktop platform type.  You’ll find Yahoo! Konfabulator, Mac Leopard and Vista Sidebar as the three most common desktop platform types that visitors are downloading to.  In the event that this information is not available, we grouped the analytics into a category labeled as “Desktop Platform Type unknown”.

If you want to check out what a widget looks like on the desktop, try grabbing the NBCU Olympics standings widget below (note that China is kicking our ass in Gold medals).  Just click on the blinking arrow (nice implementation strategy NBC) and select the icon that represents the desktop platform that your computer is running.  You’ll be instructed to except the downloaded file.  Be sure that you have the desktop platform that operates widgets running on your desktop (they aren’t always turned on by default).  The Phelps run is overs – so let’s hope we can catch up in Track and Field!

[clearspring_widget title=”Olympics Medal Tracker” wid=”4815fb5c4809f394″ pid=”48a9b392961e1f43″ width=”300″ height=”400″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

Olympic Medal winners at NBC Olympics.com!


One Response to “Tracking Widgets on the Desktop”

  1. Seems like desktop widgets (as opposed to web-based widgets) open up a new area of privacy concerns. Whether users like it or not, their desktop-usage behavior related to that widget is being tracked whether they are actively surfing the web or not. Seems like some consumers and privacy groups could get the wrong idea. Perhaps a pellucid privacy policy explaining specifically what is being collected and what is not being collected (all programs being ran by a user’s PC, etc.) would be helpful.

    One interesting metric I think that would be useful would be to see the shelf-life of a desktop widget. That might be defined as how long do users keep the widget active and installed on their desktop.

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