I have–of necessity but also Â because the subject fascinates me–been a student of online behavior from the beginning of my career. I have been studying how people behave online since 1995, when I became a freelance Web site designer.
This fascination has, I believe, given me a competitive edge from the outset. Insight into our online behavior has never been more important for anyone working in communications. Failing to understand how people use online technologies and why they do so and what motivates them is almost professional malpractice these days.
It should come as no surprise, then, that I highly recommend reading Bill Tancer’s book about online behavior, called Click. Tancer, the head analyst for Hitwise, has written a book based on his experience analyzing search behavior. Hitwise compiles data of individuals’ visits to and from more than 800,000 Web sites, allowing Tancer to examine not just search queries but also clickstream behavior (where people travel online, from one site to another).
The book explains how studying online behavior can provide insight into our collective beliefs and behaviors. He tells how he can predict the winners of talent television shows and understanding search trends such as why people search for prom dresses well in advance of prom season.
This latter point is a phenomenon I discovered independently back in 2004, when I built and marketed a prom fashions microsite for Mall of America. Now I know why.