Heart to Heart Baha’i Site: Year in Review

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Heart to Heart HD, the Baha’i teaching site launched last year by Stonehaven Press, is a hit!

H2H-HDOne year (and 12 days) later, the site’s traffic monitor shows:

  • There were nearly 7000 “unique visitors”.
  • These viewers paid more than 19,000 visits in all.
  • Thus each visitor visited, on average, 2.78 times.
  • Average visits-per-visitor have risen to 3.8 over the past three months.
  • Each visitor viewed 11.7 pages on average (not always in one visit).
  • The site’s “hits” — files and images displayed — totaled almost half a million.
  • Traffic still is climbing, March 2013 having been the highest yet.

More important — but much harder to quantify — is that the site is producing Baha’i enrollments. (More on that below. [UPDATE: Please note the comments as well as the main article text.])

***

As many of you know, Heart to Heart HD is a free, public-service website sponsored by Stonehaven Press. (The web address is hearttoheart.bahaiteaching.net.) It’s designed to showcase the Heart to Heart multimedia slideshow created by Zabine Van Ness and Miles Lane. Heart to Heart is available as a PDF file — it’s essentially a large, graphically intensive ebook that uses sacred texts to answer more than 700 key questions about the Baha’i Faith.

Please remember that the website is not, repeat not, the same thing as Heart to Heart itself! Heart to Heart is the ebook by Zabine and Miles. The website, Heart to Heart HD, is simply an Internet portal created by Stonehaven to help people explore the book. (The “HD” means “high definition” — I added that acronym mostly to distinguish the site from the book around which it is built.)

Below are the month-and-year charts from which I’ve derived the figures cited above. The first is for 2012, the second for 2013 (so far):

screenshot.3
screenshot.2

To obtain year-to-year totals, I’ve had to add up (and divide) figures from both charts. Please do check my math! If you find an error, mention it in the comments and I’ll happily post a correction. For now, I think the conclusions I’m drawing are reasonably precise.

Heart to Heart HD went live on 19 March 2012. To get strictly accurate one-year totals, I should have used 19 March of this year, 2013, as my cutoff date. To simplify the math, I included the entirety of this latest March (which is why, above, I specify a year and 12 days). But my totals do not include any of April 2013 (this current month).

They also don’t count visits from the Google-bot or other software spiders that crawl the web, updating search engine indexes. And they don’t count visits from me, since I’m the site administrator and when I visit, I’m typically “logged in”. I dug pretty deep, looking for statistical biases that might have skewed the results.

The “nearly 7000 unique visitors” is actually 6882, by my reckoning — and that figure does have some wiggle room. If one person visits the site from two different computers on different routers, this would show up as two “unique” visitors. That’s because there would be two distinct “IP” addresses, and that’s the only way the web-monitor can count. In theory, one person could even visit the site repeatedly from 7000 different computers. Thus the actual number of real-world, flesh-and-blood individuals looking over the site could be smaller than 6882.

But it could also be lots larger — and almost certainly is. Any given “unique visitor” (as counted by IP address) could in reality be two or more viewers navigating Heart to Heart HD together. The site was designed as a tool for conversations and public presentations, and we know that it often is used in those ways. Exactly how often, we don’t know. But people I know (and I myself) have used slide projectors and Internet-connected wall-mounted TVs to do large-group showings. These are live eyeballs. I can say from experience that such occasions jolt audiences out of passivity, triggering high levels of engagement and questioning conversation.

Even more typical would be someone showing off the site on an iPad at a coffee-shop or lunch counter. More than once, I’ve counted half a dozen or more excited watchers cluster around in such settings, often asking the surfer, “Hey! Can you go back to that page? Click this link? Does Heart to Heart have an answer to this question?”

Speaking of which:

One could also protest that some of the website’s frequent users, like Zabine herself, visit often enough to inflate the numbers in a misleading way. But this doesn’t wash. It’s true that Zabine tirelessly teaches people about the Baha’i Faith, in person with her iPad, via screen-sharing over Skype and other platforms, and on Facebook. She’s counted in the stats as one unique visitor (or perhaps two or three). And granted, she’s one visitor who visits a lot more than the 2.78 average, or even the recent 3.8 average. But here’s the thing:

I’ve watched Zabine at work, and when she visits Heart to Heart HD, she almost always brings along guests. Notice the plural. Sure, she does a lot of one-on-one conversation; but she’s also one of the lunch-counter types that other people cluster around and interact with. If her guests count (and believe me, they do!) then adjusting for Zabine means bumping the scores way, way up — not down.

There’s one statistic I mentioned above, but didn’t emphasize, because it’s easy to misuse: the number of website “hits”. Over the one-year-plus period I’ve checked, there were 493,802 web hits on Heart to Heart HD. Yes, I know: That can’t compare with Oprah or YouTube (or even some other, comparatively small, sites). But wouldn’t it sound cool to brag that Heart to Heart HD got nearly half a million hits during the past year? (Which it did…)

Webmasters do love to wax eloquent about how many “hits” they get. But depending on the semantics, this can grossly inflate their results. A “hit” is any file that the web server must access in order to display a page. If you go to the home page of, say, Yahoo or MSN, that one page may embody scores of photos, videos, cookies, third-party ads, and whatnot. These all constitute “hits”, of which you can generate dozens or even hundreds just by glancing at a single packed page. Too often, massive “hits” tell us nothing except that the target site is badly cluttered.

That said — for a site constructed the way Heart to Heart HD is, nearly half a million hits is pretty darn good. That’s because on most of its pages, there are relatively few images. So the web server can display the page by accessing, at most, a handful of files — a much smaller handful than is true of more typical sites. Hence, fewer hits.

For example, the home page, with its personalized “conversation portals”, isn’t built mainly from images. It’s primarily text boxes. Similarly, the main navigation pages — English and Spanish — allow you to browse the whole 700-slide presentation; but these navigation pages themselves contain very few images. (The table-of-contents galleries, mainly.) To see more, you have to click on links and browse forward and back, with each slide generating one extra hit.

This is under-the-hood stuff you might not know without having built the website. But it’s stuff I can share because I did build it, and therefore know how it works. So I’m fairly sure a high percentage of the almost-half-million hits represent visitors looking at, and reading, actual slides. One hit, one slide — not just someone glancing at a drive-by page plastered with hit-generating images.

***

Did I mention that the website is generating Baha’i enrollments? I know of close to a dozen people whose decision to embrace the Baha’i Faith was mediated by conversations revolving around Heart to Heart HD. Many of these — but far from all — involved Zabine, who teaches and enrolls more people than any other Baha’i I know. (She also continues working with them until their questions are answered and they’re fully integrated into Baha’i community life, including its core activities and study circles.)

What we also believe (but sadly cannot prove — yet) is that the cases we know about are only the iceberg tip. We’re pretty sure there are other enrollments happening that don’t get reported to us. Why do we think this? Because occasionally we do hear about one — sometimes long after the fact, and usually by sheer luck.

So if you’ve seen useful ways Heart to Heart HD is being used, or you’ve noticed interesting outcomes (including, but not limited to, enrollments) — please tell us! Use the contact form of this site, or the Heart to Heart HD site, or leave a message under the comments. Please don’t assume we know because you know! Real life is so much harder to monitor than website traffic!

And have a great, productive coming year. Like the one Heart to Heart HD just wrapped up!


Comments

Heart to Heart Baha’i Site: Year in Review — 6 Comments

  1. I am aware that one of my Baha’i friends enrolled 6 new Baha’is last year using Heart to Heart alone. I could mention more…such as, that one of my new believers turned around and enrolled his brother using Heart to Heart within a short while, across the country. I am told that several enrolled in Central America using the Spanish version of Heart to Heart.

    As there are so many viewings and the enrollment button is right in there — many of the National online enrollments could easily come in from our site too!

    • Thanks, Zabine — great additional info!

      Your point, I think, is the same as mine: How would we know? We hear through the grapevine about, for example, the Spanish H2H enrollments. (By the way, I notice from my analytics that Spanish keywords formed a gratifyingly high percentage of search-engine inputs that led people to H2H-HD.) But when we only stumble, seemingly by coincidence, across such information, it makes one wonder how much more we aren’t getting.

      Ditto the US online enrollments: Who can guess — and is anyone even asking? — what percentage are referrals from our site? Or other sites, for that matter?

      Actually, the National Center can track this, at least somewhat. (And for all I know, maybe it does.) For direct click-throughs, its servers can log the addresses of referring sites such as ours. For less direct contacts, there still are such things as intake surveys and online questionnaires. None of these methods are foolproof, but they can shed light that we need.

      It’s great to have concrete data about visits, visitors, page-views, and all the rest. We’ll be studying this to find ways of making the site even more useful. But one effect, already, of these statistics is to raise even more questions that the stats alone can’t answer. So let’s work on those, too.

  2. Gary:
    Thanks for doing all the research to give us an at-a-glance idea of just how powerful Heart-to-Heart is.
    I noted in one place that this is the website you are talking about and not the book. What is the book, Heart to Heart? I don’t think I’ve seen it.
    Rose
    Mucho appreciation!

    • Rose, sorry about the delay in replying to your excellent comment.

      By the “book” I mean the electronic-book (ebook) version of Heart to Heart. It’s now available on our Heart to Heart website (hearttoheart.net) as a free download.

      Enjoy!

  3. This is a wonderful guide to find answers quickly and learn more about the Baha’i Faith. Thank you for this service.

    • Thanks, Linda. We plan many additions and enhancements to the site (and to “Heart to Heart” itself) in the near future.

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