One way to ensure data is used to inform business decisions is to create reports that non-numbers people can understand, too. Google announced a free version of it's Data Studio in 2016 as a way to turn "data into informative dashboards and reports that are easy to read, easy to share, and fully customizable." I've been meaning to check it out and a recent project to produce e-commerce reports for my client Peace Coffee was a perfect excuse to give it a spin.
Google Data Studio can connect data from its suite of products (i.e. Analytics, Adwords, YouTube, etc.) and it can even import other data provided it's in a Google Sheet (so you could export Facebook data into a Google Sheet to connect it to Data Studio). Here's a full list of the data connections you can use. Below are some pros and cons of Google Data Studio I uncovered.
Google Data Studio pros
Reporting that compares Analytics to Data Studio. Click to enlarge.
Google Data Studio cons
When viewing the report not signed into the Google Data account,
a system error appeared where the conversion rate data was supposed to be.
Google Data Studio tips
Give it a whirl
Despite Data Studio's drawbacks, it's still an incredibly powerful (and free!) tool that has the ability to take your Analytics reporting to a new level. Data Studio is still in beta so I'm hoping the glitches will soon be worked out. I just spent a few hours with it and think there's a ton more that I have yet to discover. I definitely recommend that you play around with it to see what you think.
If you're interested in saving time or getting guidance, I'd love to help you get your reporting dialed in.
I learned that sharing a report can be challenging. Whoever you share your report with has to be logged in and even when they are, the link doesn't send them directly to the report but rather the Google Data Studio report landing page. I found the best work around was to embed the report onto a web page and send them a link to the web page. I find this to be an extreme drawback of the platform.
Forterra is a Seattle-based non-profit organization working in urban and rural land conservation. They had a limited budget to use an external design agency to revamp their two-year-old website. They wanted to ensure they got the most bang for their buck so I helped them determine the scope and direction of the update by learning about their users and assessing the state of their existing digital content.
"Carrie helped us evaluate our website’s issues holistically and make data-driven changes after testing with actual users—something we'd never done before."
—Lucy Shirley, Digital Media Manager, Forterra
While just two years old, Forterra's website had its share of issues. They'd heard complaints from visitors and key stakeholders alike: users struggled to find what they were looking for and the website wasn't meeting internal needs either. Forterra knew the site's bounce rate was higher than average but they didn't know why. They had ideas on possible problem areas but were making a lot of assumptions grounded in personal opinion—not on actual user research.
I collaborated with Forterra's Digital Media Manager to develop a plan that fit their short timeline and limited budget. I worked to cut down the project costs by creating templates and coaching her through some of the activities to do on her own. Through user research across multiple social channels and the website, we identified key audience insights. Through qualitative and quantitative content audits, we identified the "low-hanging fruit"—changes to improve the user experience that could be done in-house to save Forterra money. We conducted a stakeholder workshop that provided useful user insights from different departments and increased buy-in for the redesign. We performed usability testing and card sorting with users to find critical pain points. Once we conducted the following activities, I delivered Forterra with a report with recommendations to guide their web updates with the designers.
Activities + Deliverables
The other day I received a last minute request from Forterra to shoot some photos of the Central District in Seattle. They were closing on a landmark deal with Africatown Community Land Trust to guarantee affordable, subsidized housing in the heart of a quickly gentrifying neighborhood and needed some photos to use online and in future collateral.
I had a few free hours and jumped on my bike to shoot some photos on a gorgeous day. Because it was the middle of a week day, I wasn't able to capture as many people in the photos but I do think they captured the spirit of the neighborhood. Here are a handful of the photos.
See how Forterra used them and read more about their awesome work on their blog!
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I had the opportunity to visit Abu Bakr Islamic Center in Tukwila to take some photos for Forterra who recently announced a partnership to secure a keystone property across the street from the center. Here are a few photos of some of the beautiful people I met.
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Launched in 2016, DFS Lab is a fintech startup accelerator funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I created a short video as their first effective communications tool that is used both online and in presentations their staff give across the world.
"Carrie's video is a massive hit. I have showed it to so many people in lieu of a Power Point or hand-waving description of what we do—people just get it instantly and are really engaged. She really created an asset for us."
—Jake Kendall, Director, Digital Financial Services Innovation Lab
As a rather new organization, DFS Lab had just a one page website to explain their unique model. They needed an effective tool that could attract prospective startups from around the world to their accelerator as well as investors to fund their portfolio companies.
I attended DFS Lab's first design sprint for FinTech startups in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to shoot footage of the sprint and record interviews with DFS Lab staff and sprint participants. The final video captured both the expertise of DFS Lab as a startup accelerator and the benefits to DFS Lab startup participants and investors. Post-production work and two rounds of edits were completed in just a few weeks and DFS Lab was able to post the below video to YouTube within four weeks of the sprint.
Peace Coffee is an established coffee roaster with three cafes in Minneapolis. In an increasingly more competitive market, they needed to improve their online content to keep current customers and attract new ones. I created a content strategy plan to help them improve user experience regardless of location, platform or screen.
"Carrie's content strategy work for Peace Coffee increased online sales, improved SEO rankings and strengthened overall content and messaging. She has incredible insight and knowledge and is an excellent communicator, writer and strategist."
—Mel Meegan, Director of Marketing, Peace Coffee
Peace Coffee's website was three years old and offered a responsive design and a relatively straight-forward, hassle-free shopping experience but they knew it could improved. Their small marketing team invested little energy into the site and wanted a plan to help them maintain and update the website regularly. They were also seeking low-cost, quick fixes to increase online sales.
Over seven weeks, I created a content strategy plan for Peace Coffee that was informed by a web analytics and search engine optimization review, a competitive analysis of three coffee brands and one out-of-industry website review, a content audit of 29 web pages and template pages, user persona and journey mapping of three different user segments, and a sample editorial cycle. To assist Peace Coffee with implementation, the plan concluded with a month-by-month suggested roadmap.
Seattle-based non-profit, Forterra, conserved the largest plot of farmland in Pierce County in 2015. The 153 acres, located along the Puyallup River, has been farmed for over 100 years. The conservation easement Forterra orchestrated means the land will forever be protected from development and enable the restoration of salmon habitat.
Forterra needed photos of the farm for collateral so I drove down to meet the new owners, the Sidhus, and check out the farm. Below are a few photos from the visit.
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