A List Apart: Just the Stats

Continuing with our “data, and what we can learn from it” theme, here are A List Apart‘s four most popular individual pages this week (excluding the home page, with 178,270 page views). Pay particular attention to the publication dates:

Article Page Views This Week
Flash and Standards: The Cold War of the Web by Daniel Mall, MARCH 9, 2010 41,035
Drop-Down Menus, Horizontal Style by Nick Rigby, JUNE 29, 2004 40,683
CSS Design: Taming Lists by Mark Newhouse, SEPTEMBER 27, 2002 37,867
[Articles Index Page] 34,630

What do these stats tell us?

For one thing, they tell us that for every reader who viewed A List Apart as a topical periodical publication—that is, for each person who read one of its latest articles—there were two readers who used the magazine as a source of evergreen web design and development content.

Put another way, for every person who uses A List Apart like a magazine or blog, there are two who use it as an encyclopedia of best practices in coding and design.

We’re looking at only seven days worth of statistics, here, but the pattern is consistent from week to week. What it tells the editors is that we’re not in the quick-hit eyeballs and ad sales business (but we knew that), we’re in the professional education business. It reminds us, if we needed reminding, that the mission stated on our Contribute page is still true:

We want to change the way our readers work, whether that means introducing a revolutionary CSS technique with dozens of potential applications, challenging the design community to ditch bad practices, or refuting common wisdom about, say, screen readers.

As we go about soliciting and reviewing potential ALA content, we must keep uppermost in our minds how people use our site, because its value lies in the hardiness of our best articles. Web professionals trust us to have the information they need to do their jobs better and deliver the best possible experience to their clients’ customers (and thus the best value to their clients). These stats reinforce what we already know, and help us stay true to our core purpose and values.

This emphasis on the evergreen over the topical also helps us as we strategize means of deepening our relationship with the web design community and add or change features to do so.

I’m barely scratching the surface of what the data tells us, but the little I have teased out so far is already very useful—and that’s the point. The more you look, the more you can learn. What’s in your logs?


17 thoughts on “A List Apart: Just the Stats”

  1. It would be interesting to breakdown one of those posts further, and see where the users are coming from. I know i just recently did a search for the “sliding doors” post not too long ago. I wonder how many people find those posts via the a list apart site, or just find them via google.

  2. I wonder how many people find those posts via the a list apart site, or just find them via google.

    I can look and verify but my guess is that most people look for specific A List Apart content via Google, because Google’s search is better than ours, and because Google Search is like a web user’s wallet and keys: always handy, always just a click away.

    I confess that I will send Google queries such as “alistapart.com sliding doors” rather than hunting for “sliding doors” via our own site’s search tool.

  3. Funny I read all of those articles recently, so I guess I am to blame thank.

    I find it useful for reference, but also it seems like some of these things originated here (sliding doors, etc.) and so it seems like THE place to read about it.

    Just shows how timelessly good the work ALA is doing. Please continue forever. :)

  4. Another thing it tells us is that simplicity still rules. If you want to draw a crowd, write a very simple tutorial. On my blog, my most popular article outranks the second 2 to 1. When I wrote it, it was actually meant as semi-filler (lack of ideas that particular week). Not that it was truly lacking in value, but the content was hardly exclusive to my blog.

    Which is actually a little frustrating, as those articles written with a furious purpose usually receive the least pageviews.

  5. What this says to me:

    If you want to create a successful website you must:

    1. Be willing to wait a long time for it to become successful
    2. Have the patience and determination to produce content for 8+ years

    and most importantly

    3. Write and curate content about what you love.

    If you only kinda enjoy what your website is about now, two things will eventually happen: it will die, or in 8-10 years you’ll really (really) hate writing and curating your website. This will likely result in a dramatic reduction in quality of life.

  6. In that case, why not implement your site search using Google? Google does give you that option.

  7. The first A List Apart article I ever read was, “Drop-Down Menus, Horizontal Style” and I found it via Google. I also must confess that I still use A List Apart mostly as an Encyclopedia of knowledge. The majority of times I find the articles through Google.

  8. As a long time lurker since “perdon my icons”, I find your site and alistapart.com a fundamental reference.
    It have saved me hours and open new avenues into my daily working practice:
    Print styles by Eric, Taming list are some examples of advice that became profesionally embeded on me.
    Most of the times Google was the tool to find the contents.

  9. Almost everytime I start a new web project it’s faster for me to dig up the correct doctype from the List Apart article than taking it from one of my templates.

    I used the Suckerfish menus article in the same way for a couple years until it had been ingrained in my head.
    There might be others I’ve used in the past but don’t remember now.

    You piqued my curiosity with the “soliciting and reviewing content” process.
    Maybe for a later post?

  10. Interestingly enough, those articles except the Flash one (which seems to be a recent one) are my most memorable ALA articles. They taught me invaluable CSS that I still use today, and it was some of the first articles I was exposed to when I first started doing web design.

    I still have ALA in my Google Reader, but I’ve found that the recent articles (no disrespect to the authors, just my opinion) have been more about theoretical web stuff (dunno if this is the correct way to put it) and less about practical solutions — Suckerfish dropdowns and the list styling were great inspiration to me and showed me how to wrangle CSS to do what I wanted. The Suckerfish code, at least, was in every single design I did for a while with menus like that.

    That or I’ve gotten a lot more experienced with web design so that the articles seem less relevant to me.

  11. Yup, I’m one of those 37K that pulled up the Lists article. I have it bookmark from a couple of years ago, and so my browser autofills the URL for that article. As a result, every time I visit ALA, I usually land on that page.
    So while it is a reflection of how many times i once visited it, I haven’t actually read it for some time. My apologies for inflating your pageviews because I’m too lazy to type the whole url.

    I peer at my Google stats and Woopra bar graphs, trying to discern user patterns. Many times I find that the most popular areas of the site are not what I expect, and can’t always explain why.

    However, when the data tells a story that reinforces the core mission of the site, that’s a win. And I think ALA has hit the nail on the head.

  12. To be brutally honest: I’m not surprised, and I lament the loss of the “good old days” when ALA used to publish useful articles like the one’s you’re getting most hits for.

    ALA went down the route of business orientated articles some time ago, and lost my interest when it did so. It’s a rare treat when something relevant to me pops up in my reader under the ALA heading.

    More on-topic, this is a very interesting dataset, and its a good reminder to look at your logs to see what really matters to your audience. Helps get/keep things on track. Good stuff.

  13. I hope you’re still reading this even if this article is two weeks old.

    What I’d like to see is a way to follow-up on articles. ALA published something on sliding doors CSS, for example, and someone else improves the technique. How would I know about it? Same with image replacement for text or even Flash replacement. So many versions which one do I use?

    I’m not sure it is even ALA’s duty to follow up on these things. But someone somewhere should. Searching on Google for sliding doors is frustrating when you find several slightly different techniques, each claiming to be the definite one.

    Sorry for my little rant. Thank you for ALA!

  14. @ron:

    For now, the best way to check for updates to old content is to click on the topics that appear at the top of each article (under the title). For instance, on reading “Sliding Doors,” you’d click on “CSS” and “Design,” and in that way, you would see a listing for “Sliding Doors II.” It’s not perfect by a long shot, but it works for now.

    Coming soon, we’ll have *much* better ways to surface content.

    Thanks for your awesome suggestion. A feature that says “This article has been updated” (or something like that) and links to the updated content could be very, very beneficial to readers.

  15. Wow, this really helps. Thank you!

    When you mean “coming soon” do you mean you’re working on something you’re not quite ready to announce? Because it would be awesome. :-)

    A message and a link saying “this has been updated, please go here now” would be indeed very helpful. But only if everyone plays along and for this you need to admit that your stuff is out of date. I’m pretty sure ALA would have no problem doing this but what about the rest of the internet? What if somewhere this chain would be broken?

    (BTW that’s what I like about the model of Stackoverflow. They cheer for you if you rewrite supposedly good answers and make them even better. If only this worked over the whole internet.)

  16. What this data tells me is that talking about Flash is a good way to score about a bazillion hits to your blog.

    PS: If you want to score another 40k hits in a week, tell us what you think about Flash getting included by default in Google Chrome!!!

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