April 5, 2011, 2:19 a.m.
posted by quicksort
Measure Browser Plug-ins
If you're developing any advanced functionality that requires external plugins, you should use your web measurement application to make sure your visitors have the right plug-ins installed.
Understanding the plug-ins your visitors use helps guide web site technology decisions. For example, if only 20 percent of your visitors have RealPlayer support, you may consider offering videos in other formats such as QuickTime or Windows Media. You may be looking at research data to understand plug-in penetration. Research data is a starting point, but you will want to check your own web site visitors. For example, a software company web site may have a much higher concentration of advanced plug-ins than a generic search portal.
Determining which plug-ins are installed on a visitor's browser is difficult, because each browser works differently. Before Internet Explorer became so popular, you could easily get a list of plug-ins by accessing the navigator. plug-ins array, which contains all of the installed plug-ins for Netscape and Mozilla-based browsers. The problem with Internet Explorer is that it does not provide a list of plug-ins. Instead, you basically ask the browser about each plug-in.
Ask the Browser
Once your analytics application collects the data, you can run reports to determine plug-in usage. You should be able to view a report that shows you the page views, visits, visitors, and even success events by plug-in. This helps you determine how critical plug-ins may be to the success of your web site.
Hacking the Hack
Another way to understand your visitors is to segment them based on a plug-in and then measure how they interact with it. For example, if you're running a clothing web site with a three-dimensional model, does the model increase sales versus a two-dimensional image?
Browser plug-in report
By looking at simple reports, you can understand the usefulness of plug-in technologies and how they can help create a better web site experience.
John Pestana and Eric T. Peterson