Monday, July 1, 2013

Web statistics and digital impacts

The National Park Service web catalog site was re-launched in 2011, partly in response to a report by National Academy of Public Administration report (2008) that asked “that NPS make public search tools more user friendly, ensure that museum staff use the web catalog module of ANCS+.” 

As the PI for the project we based our success criteria around these terms: more people using the site, and more parks participating. By these criteria we’ve been successful. Site traffic has increased ten-fold, and we’ve tripled the number of parks participating. We can see a much wider range of pages accessed, and an increase in how long people spend on the site. We’ve also implemented our own log files, tracking searches, exhibits, and the subsequent records accessed. One side effect was analyzing searches resulting in zero results, giving an insight how people were interacting with the search engine and allowing us to make some code changes to minimize “failure”.

All of which bring me to the Balanced value Impact Model by Simon Tanner (2012). The report looks at how to conduct Impact Assessment for digital resources. It is comprehensive, and opens up a much wider and sophisticated model for judging the utility of digital projects. It notes multiple perspectives in evaluation (hence the Balanced Value), and a number of different values to be considered within each perspective. For the park digitization project I don’t think we’ve been talking enough about many of these potential benefits: one example being the internal park benefits, including cross-park collaborations. For the societal benefits we know the parks are primarily considered physical places; the web catalog site shows, and shares, some of the other assets the parks hold. The Park Service is already well considered by the American public, and it is useful to consider how much added community value the digital collections provide. 

The model does allow for some negative economic effects, jokingly noting that people perusing digital collections could be shopping instead. For archaeological collections the concern for putting artifacts online is that it might encourage a few people to break the law, and dig for these objects on National Park Service land. However, presenting these objects can also serve as advocacy for archaeology, their digital presence stating that these objects are as intellectually valuable, and communally owned and shared.

There’s so much more in Tanner’s report that I need to look through and read – the bibliography alone serves as a semester study course. I’ll be working through the model to continue thinking about how to present the success of the project, and how to justify the project and park resources needed to continue to grow this project.


National Academy of Public Administration. (2008, October). Saving Our History: A Review of National Park Cultural Resource Programs. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from

Tanner, S. (2012)
Measuring the Impact of Digital Resources: The Balanced Value Impact Model. King’s College London, October 2012. Available at:

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