Recency and frequency can give you some insights about loyalty and time on-site might be indicative of a positive visit, but you won't be able to measure whether your visitor thinks your site is great or ghastly unless you ask them.
Classic Web analytics data (what did they click on?) has been referred to as data-rich but information-poor. You can tell exactly where people dropped out of a purchasing process or where they stopped reading a long story, but you're never going to know why.
Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee Results, puts it this way: "When you read log file or sophisticated analytics reports, you surmise where to focus your attention. But when you look at actual customer comments, they'll tell you where you need work. Then use the analytics to figure out how well you're fixing the problem."
Jerry Tarasofsky, CEO of iPerceptions, thinks attitudinal metrics are important enough to give away for free. His company's 4Q program (4q.iperceptions.com) is a free pop-up survey that asks your visitors:
What is the purpose of your visit to our website today?
Were you able to complete your task today?
If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?
Very simple and very insightful. No, this is not going to give you in-depth, rolling satisfaction scores. That's what iPerceptions does for a living. No, this is not going to give you in-depth, industry comparisons between your firm and others. That's what ForeSee Reults does for a living. But i4Q will give you a little bit of the all-powerful Voice of the Customer that will tell you where to start fixing things that you may not know are going wrong.
Attitudinal information is not the alternative to clickstream data. Visitor complaints give you a clue about your site's effect on visitors, but you have to look at clickstream data, see where visitors went on the site, and what they did. That combination is critical. "I couldn't find your phone number." is a strong message that there's something wrong with your Contact Us page. Unless they never got to your Contact Us page. In that case, there's a problem with your menu system.
How did people who had successful visits get from the home page to the shopping cart? Where did the unhappy folks bail out? Where did the unhappy people get flummoxed? Of those who deemed themselves successful, how many are likely to return and buy again? How did their clickstream differ from those who were successful but said they were unlikely to return? Did the happy/successful people click on something more often than those who left unfulfilled?
The attitudinal part of all of comes from asking people whether they were successful in accomplishing their goals, instead of focusing exclusively on your own. Those who were happy about their Web site experience show up at once end of the spectrum, those who were not, at the other end.
Attitudinal metrics give you a little more view into the hearts and minds of your marketplace. That's just what we've been hoping for.