Craig_menzies_forrester_1 The first time I used Web analytics, I mean "really" used Web analytics, was to end an argument. I was running the technical and eCommerce department for an online retailer, a really amazing online gadgets Web site, and the creative director and managing director were near to shedding blood over the following business-critical issue: Should a button on the home page be blue or purple, or maybe it should blue plus purple (blurple), as opposed to purple + blue (purue)? Two hours had gone by, and eight people sat in the room while the two worked themselves further and further away from rational thought and principles of civilized behaviour. I feared for the health, safety and sanity of my work colleagues.

So, I think it's safe to say that I used Web analytics for the first time as an act of sheer desperation. I used to it end the argument once and for all — I logged in to our new Web analytics software while the two fought, and was able to show them that not only did the customers not care what colour the button was, but in fact, not a single customer had used the button in 6 months.

That's when the penny dropped for me personally… that here was a technology that could unite the certitude of data with the creativity of design, a technology that could focus the design process on the customer's best experience, and not the whims of company Directors. And this was the subject of my speech today at the Forrester Finance Forum in Barcelona.

I presented some great examples of Web analytics in action, and what it can do to find overt errors, and optimize both the customer experience and the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns. But, then I pushed further into the subject further and proposed that a better approach to customer insight is to use a whole set of tools and information sources, being analysed and acted upon by strategic teams — not just by single half-time Web analysts. I call it the "holistic approach to online optimization" — not a new concept (it's been called "Web 2.0" and other things), but one that is long overdue for company's to start using or risk being left behind. Why? Because the top Web design agencies in Europe and America have now adopted this approach as a critical and mandatory part of their design process. They're using it now, and they're using it effectively, as I showed with amazing examples from three of the top Web design agencies in Europe — who, not coincidentally, were all industry Leaders in my recent Wave on European interactive agencies' Web design capabilities.