Sunday, March 25, 2007

Beware of NUMBERS!

When numbers are discussed and more importantly when they are presented in a document, there is a feeling that they accurately represent the truth: 212,323 unique visitors came to your site this week and of those 15,932 became active leads. Seems real, especially when you include the precision of 212,323. Unfortunately many (most) people don't questions how accurate the numbers are, what could be impacting them one direction or another and what the real meaning is. GEE - with those numbers we should be millionaires within a day or two - time to order more product from the factory so we don't get behind on delivery - right? There should be some WAY to provide numbers that reflect reality and the comfort level of them - for instance, what if the number provided was 90% accurate, could we represent it in a color like 212,323 or less accurate like 212,323?? or provide a less precise number as the quality of it declines: 212,300 to 212,000 to 200,000+ ?? If we provide the % deviation at the bottom of the page (the numbers above are within 50% of reality) are we misleading the people reading the information? Ed Tufte questioned extensively the info provided in Power Point Presentations. I think we need to question how we present data in general and make sure we're not misleading people based on the numbers provided. We should also include what could be impacting the #'s - for example - now many of those unique visitors are actually Google search bots scanning the site for indexing? or how many are links to pictures on your site from MySpace users? Not real unique users in the sense that they'll become potential leads - right?

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