Why I (usually) avoid SiteCatalyst menu customization

Note: This post reflects my personal views, and not necessarily the views of my employer.

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There are two different schools of thought when it comes to SiteCatalyst: stock menus, or (often heavily) customized menus.  I’ve never been a big fan of customizing the menus in SiteCatalyst.  While I understand the arguments for doing so, it’s been my experience that it can create training and administration headaches down the road.

I had a conversation on Twitter today with Randy Zwitch (of Keystone Solutions) about this topic.  He falls squarely into the “customized menus are awesome” camp.  And that’s fine. :)  But I promised a blog post explaining why I prefer the opposite approach.  So here goes.

My reasons for disliking menu customization are twofold:

  • Users require special training.  Your company spends thousands to train users in SiteCatalyst, and then when they come back and try to use what they’ve learned, they quickly realize they can’t find anything.  I know there’s a feature that allows for searching reports, but I really don’t want to have to type to find a report.  I’d much rather just know where it is.  Admittedly, not every report is in the most intuitive place, but once you learn where they’re at, it isn’t such a huge deal to me.
  • Maintaining and scaling can become difficult.  This may not be so much an issue if you’re in a very small organization with only a couple of report suites.  If, though, you typically work with enterprise-scale organizations with dozens or hundreds of report suites (each of which typically has a different audience), it quickly becomes a nightmare to try and maintain customized menus.  If each business unit (and therefore each report suite or group of suites) has a different analyst, or a different marketing director (which is often the case), then you find yourself creating different customized menus for each one.  Then, when a new report is rolled out, you have to go in and do individual customizations again for each report suite to make sure they have that new report in the place they expect it based on their preferences.  Tedious and annoying much?

I will call out one exception to my statements above: custom reports.  If you have created custom reports in your organization (whether via custom conversion/traffic variables or bookmarked versions of any report), I see no issue with customizing menus for these, simply because those reports are custom to your organization anyhow.  My only recommendation would be — speaking to the point I made above about maintainability — to make these customizations the same across the organization, and not allow for per-suite customizations (unless there are reports that truly only apply to a given suite).

Again, I am speaking from my own experiences here (although I have worked with a LOT of companies over the years, large and small), and though my approach has served me well, I recognize that it may not be for everyone.  As always, I encourage discussion and comments.  What’s your approach to making SiteCatalyst more useful and efficient for both you and your end users?

(Update: Randy posted his viewpoints on his own blog; go check them out too.)

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3 comments

  1. Nancy Koons says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Shawn. We have been running Site Catalyst for 3 years, and while 40 report suites is small for some organizations, it is enough suites for me to appreciate the comments about maintenance and consistency. I think that is something admins definitely need to consider when making these tweaks. I think our menu could get cleaned up a bit, but a major overhaul is probably not a good route for us. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experience!

    • Randy Zwitch says:

      Absolutely Nancy. Obviously, I’m coming from the other side where I like menu customization, but it’s more appropriate for companies that are just starting out.

      3 years in and 40 report suites, I’m sure the heartache isn’t worth the trouble. Unless you really dislike your co-workers, then it’s fair game to move all the reports…

      :)

  2. [...] makes two great points in his post about (not) customizing the SiteCatalyst menu:  users require special training and menu [...]

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