Your website is an early warning system

Did you ever hear of Google Flu Trends?
The idea was pretty simple ... track changes in web activity over time & make predictions.

For example, suppose Google saw a growth in searches for "flu" during February. They could make a prediction (along with other insights) that a flu outbreak was on its way.

Although the Flu Trends project has now ended, the concept remains powerful. You can do something similar by tracking data on your own website

Change in web activity / Time = Prediction

Last year a busy year for foreign passport inquiries.

After the Brexit vote & the election of Donald Trump, traffic to citizenship and immigration websites in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and more soared.

It was an easy bet, therefore, that passport applications would start to increase a short time after. Indeed, in the 2nd half of 2016 applications for citizenship by UK & US citizens in many countries grew dramatically.

This demonstrates how web can act as an early warning system

Changes in business activity (originating from customers) will almost always be detected first via changes in online activity. The insight generated may be used in several ways, for example to:

  • Plan resource allocation
  • Prepare public communications
  • Alert staff to coming work

Of course, the type the predictions you can make is limited by the sophistication of your web management tools. Nevertheless, the idea of tracking online engagement & correlating it to offline activity can serve you well.

A homepage is a landmark, a billboard & a calling card

Although decreasing numbers of visitors to most sites now start their visit via a homepage (thanks Google), they remain important.

The main challenge is to recognise how a successful homepage works & then stay focussed.

A homepage is primarily a LANDMARK for findability (by your users)
Eg, Lost on a website? Go to the most familiar landmark (homepage) & start your task again.

It's also as a BILLBOARD for communication (by you)
Eg, Got something very important to say? Pull in some eyeballs on the homepage.

Finally, it can be a CALLING CARD for familiarisation (by first-time users)
Eg, Not sure who these guys are? The homepage gives you an "at-a-glance" summary.

Overall, you must remember that a homepage is never "finished". Just like a new car coming out of a garage, it begins to depreciate and decline from the very moment it is published.