To Design, or Not to Design
When it comes to reporting Web Analytics data, an analyst has some options which basically boil down to putting together a dashboard report within their favorite Web Analytics tool of choice, or distilling the data from the analytics tool and presenting it in a customized reporting template. Reports can be presented in spreadsheet format like Excel, word processing like Word, presentation format like Power Point, or a combination thereof.
The out-of-the-box dashboard method is admittedly the easier option, especially with most analytics tools producing fairly spiffy looking charts and graphs these days. However, no matter how spiffy they are still a little lacking. The main limitation with a dashboard is no way to input explanatory text to help explain to anyone recieving the dashboard the meaning of the data displayed. Also most analytics tools come with a limited set of ways to look at the data. Often times you can get a richer analysis by taking the data out of the tool and running a variety of spreadsheet calculations on it.
Of course once you take the data out of the analytics tool you need to find a way to present it that makes sense to your audience/clients. For this it can be useful to design a reporting template that you can use to routinely dump new data into and have a consistent way to present the data each time. Initially it can take some time to design and perfect the right format, and often each client will have their own unique reporting requirements.
However, going through the process of designing a good reporting template for each client in the long run is worth the extra work. Doing customized reports instead of presenting an out-of-the-box dashboard allows you to present only the data that is relavent to each client, as well as including detailed explanations, analysis and recommendations.
So if you can, I highly recommend designing customized metrics report templates for your clients. They’ll thank you for it!