A wonderful use of the persistent URL: Unica Netinsight

image We currently use Unica NetInsight as our web analytics tool of choice on IBM.com. One of it’s advantages is that it’s highly configurable: on practically any report you can go in and add filters to hone in on the data you want and add metrics/dimensions to expand out on the information you get back (say if you want to add Visits as well as Views to a report).

All wonderful stuff.

But what happens if you want to pass that information around? One neat feature of the tool is that every report you run has a unique ID in the URL. So you can send someone the URL of a page you’re looking at and be confident that they will see exactly the same report as the one you are viewing. If they change any of the values (say run the same report but roll back one year prior), once they rerun the report, they get a fresh URL. The structure is setup like this:

https://xxx/xxx.cgi?base=getreport&id=29877

Every time you change any value and rerun the report, that ID on the end of the URL increments. The server does the work to map that ID to all the report variables as the page is being generated.

How does this differ from other tools?

Many other tools out there (such as Google Analytics and Omniture, if my memory serve me correctly) may use the URL to specify what kind of report you are running, eg. Keyword report versus Top Pages report, but other key pieces, such as which data profile you are viewing, are stored through other means such as cookies so what one browser sees will differ from the next. You can’t be exactly sure that the URL will generate the same report for everyone.

It would be wonderful to see other applications in the business intelligence and analytics space follow this example. It may require slightly more coding on the backend to map unique IDs to reports, but from a user perspective it’s great to have the sense of security that when you pass around the URL, you can be confident everyone sees the same thing and that you can record or bookmark the URL and know when you reload it a year from now, you’ll be looking at the same report you have in front of you today.