tIf you aren’t sure where to start with a research effort, you may consider a conducting Web Trend Analysis. A Web Trend Analysis is the method of research I’ve used on several projects to rapidly dive deep on a topic to determine the most important things to know about the topic. I’ve used it for identifying appropriate competitors, UI best practices for areas I’m not super familiar with, the best books to start reading on a topic, and much more.
Web Trend Analysis Methodology
I’m willing to give credit where credit is due, but in all the research I’ve conducted, I have yet to encounter any material similar to what I’ve been using for a while now. The Web Trend Analysis method is pretty simple. At a really high level, the researcher has a spreadsheet that they use to capture 3 things:
- Terms they use to search in a search engine,
- Web addresses for relevant source information, and
- Elements that make up the topic they are deep diving on. In this most important tab, it’s most critical that there be a tally of the number of times that the element has been mentioned on the various source websites.
As you find more and more websites making recommendations, talking about the topic, top 5’s, best practices for, etc… the more you will see the tally on some items go up. You will begin to see the most mentioned items. Those most mentioned items are the meat and potatoes. That knowledge is where you are aiming for with your research.
Every research effort using this method will require you capture different meta data for the topic you are investigating. Review the below case study to get an idea for how to set up your spreadsheet.
Case Study: Common Cross Fit Exercises
I wanted to write an article about this method, but I didn’t actually have any project requiring this effort at this moment in time. I did however have an interest in setting up my own cross fit gym in my garage. In my research, I tried to get an idea of the most frequently mentioned cross fit exercises. After all, I don’t have a personal trainer, and I can’t actually afford the expensive monthly gym fee.
During my analysis effort, I searched using terms like “Common Cross fit exercises”, “Top crossfit moves”, and “crossfit workouts”. After entering my search, I go down the search results page and open every link into a new tab (takes about 5 minutes). I use Google as my search engine. I have the ability to return 50 search results to the screen. So, yes I end up having close to 50 search tabs open. I say “close” because I sometimes will pass up obvious unrelated results. In this research study, I found there to be 28 websites that I’d draw data from after searching and going through results for 3 different search phrases.
With my spreadsheet ready to go in one of my monitors (I use two), and all the tabs open in a Google Chrome browser instance on another screen, I start pouring through each of the web results, one page at a time, searching for relevant info. When I find relevant information, I add the url to my url’s tab–my sources tab. Next, I navigate to my trends list and enter the relevant data.
What’s relevant? In this case, I was looking for exercise names recommended for cross-fit. That was my primary goal. I had other goals, but I’m not tracking them for this research effort.
- Identify most common crossfit exercises
- Any equipment needed?
- Better understand Cross Fit (I am a total rookie.)
I have to account for the unknown knowledge I plan to acquire. After all, I don’t know what I don’t know.
Yesterday, I spent something like 4 hours on this research effort. Here’s what I learned.
Web Trend Analysis Findings
In this investigation I learned…
- Exercises sometimes have multiple names
- A few of the exercises in my list can be split up a bit.
- My descriptions aren’t great, and therefore could go for some re-work.
- Some exercises are totally do-able in my garage without purchasing any equipment. Some of course will require equipment.
- There is a considerable potential for injury. One should most certainly look further at common crossfit injuries and how to avoid them
- Before I start using these exercises, I first need to look to see best practices… Using the Web Trend Analysis method.
- We can break exercises out into workouts, or WOD’s. A Workout of the day (WOD), is a workout containing more than one of the exercises. There are industry standard WODs. One collection is called “The Girls”, which are different WOD’s named with girl names. The Chelsea is a single day’s workout routine that is made up of pull ups, push ups, and squats having specific repetition counts, and time frame to get it done in. I could go on to show how smart I am and how much info I actually was introduced to. But I will spare you that. You are welcome! 🙂
Here’s a link to my spreadsheet. You have my permission to copy the spreadsheet for your own uses. I often will have a third tab that I use to keep track of the search terms. This is most important when I’m searching on a topic that is a bit difficult to find info on.
I really hope this use case and research method provides wind for your sails. Remember research first, before you draw a line. ~ Lucas