Notes to accompany digital service statistics release

Methodology note for the great.gov.uk performance dashboards

Published on 27th June 2018

The purpose of the performance dashboard

This performance dashboard provides information about the use and performance of great.gov.uk, a website hosted by the Department for International Trade (DIT). Its data will be regularly published as an official statistic in accordance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, with the aims to:

  • Improve trust in the way the department chooses to release statistics. These statistics meet the criteria for publication as official statistics.
  • Improve handling and reduce risk when placing the statistics in the public domain, with a fixed date of publication that is planned.
  • Increase the credibility of DIT as a “digital by default” department.
  • Increase transparency by informing parliamentarians and the public about key trade statistics.

The dashboard may be used to inform businesses and policy makers regarding decisions in relation to DIT digital services. Increased, better accessibility of the statistics would also assist in the response to external queries such as Freedom of information requests (FOIs). It may also be of interest to politicians, press, as well as the wider public,

How users interact with great.gov.uk

The services on this performance dashboard are hosted on great.gov.uk. Users and businesses arrive on this platform from a variety of sources such as offline marketing channels or online adverts.

Each time a user completes a journey through their chosen service online, this is seen as a conversion. The user then continues their journey offline by engaging with potential partners in other countries as well as government staff overseas. The expectation of this is that UK firms will either export to a foreign market or attract investment from overseas firms. It is important to recognise that the statistics released here refer only to the digital part of the user journey.

You can find more details later in this report on how this data is calculated, stored and accessed.

Data sources

The data provided in this release come from two sources:

1 - Data collection using Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a service that tracks and reports website traffic. Whenever a user interacts with a page on great.gov.uk, information is sent to the department’s Google Analytics account. This allows us to produce reports on service performance. Please read the terms of service for Google Analytics to find out more information.

The numbers collected by Google Analytics are approximate. This is because:

  • metrics with large numbers such as ‘page views’ are hard to verify due to their size
  • Different browsers and system configurations can cause calculation problems

The numbers collected by Google Analytics are also affected by the filters applied by DIT. Filters are applied to exclude data that isn’t useful- for example, if a software developer is viewing the site repeatedly to test it. Filtering can remove these page views and allow DIT to see page views only from the external users the service is intended for, and therefore It presents figures that are more representative of actual web users.

We use two types of filters:

  • IP filtering - this is the process of identifying the IP addresses of internal DIT users and excluding them from Google Analytics data collection. This process isn’t foolproof since internal users may use IP addresses from home or remote locations that don’t get excluded.
  • Filtering by web address - Google Analytics can measure how many users have visited great.gov.uk. If we want to see how many users have visited a specific service within great.gov.uk, we apply a filter based on that services web address.

2 - Data collection by DIT service teams

DIT is confident that the data collected by its service teams are accurate. The numbers relate to direct interactions and the department completes checks to make sure they are correct. You can find more information about this is in the next section.

How each metric is calculated

This section explains how each statistic on the performance dashboard is calculated.

For all services:

Page views

A page view is defined as a view of a page on your site that is being tracked by the Google Analytics tracking code. Additional page views are recorded if a user:

  • clicks reload after reaching the page,
  • navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page

The numbers provided here count page views after IP and web address filters have been applied.

Users

This is the number of users who have visited the site. Google Analytics calculates this by giving each user a unique identifier. This can be done by:

  • giving each user a single, first party cookie that stores a Google Analytics client ID
  • using the User-ID feature to identify users on all the devices they use to access the site
  • In early 2017, Google Analytics began updating the calculation for this metric to more accurately count users (with an error margin of less than 2%).

Business profiles

Business profiles viewed

This is the number of times business profile web pages have been viewed. This is data is collected by Google Analytics, so the numbers are approximate.

Business profiles published

This is the number of UK firms that have completed their business profile on the profiles section of the service. The service maintains a database of the number of firms that upload profiles. Each time a firm uploads its profile on the site, the number is automatically added to the database. These numbers are then taken directly from the database and are provided monthly here. Business Profiles were previously called Trade Profiles.

Invest in Great Britain

Enquiries submitted

This is the number of ‘contact us’ forms on the site that users have completed. Each time a user completes a form, a record is created and a notification is sent to the Investment Services Team. This information is checked and passed to the digital team.

Export Opportunities

Opportunities published

This is the number of export opportunities that have been posted on the service. A part of the service called the admin centre is updated automatically every time an export opportunity is uploaded.

Enquiries submitted

This is the number of times a user of this service has clicked ‘submit’ to enquire about an export opportunity. A part of the service called the admin centre is updated automatically every time this happens.

Selling online overseas

Applications received

This is the number of applications submitted by a company to sell on one of the marketplaces listed on this service.

Number of unique companies

This is the number of unique companies that have applied to sell on a marketplace listed by this service A company that applies for multiple marketplaces is captured once. Details of all companies are passed to the regional E-Commerce Adviser.

Reporting methodology

Unless expressly stated, the statistics on the performance dashboard are based on 100% of all data and do not represent forecasts, samples or modelled data.

Numbers on the dashboard below 10,000 are expressed as exact integers. Numbers above 10,000 are rounded to one decimal place, whether it be in units of thousands (eg. 10.6k) or millions (e.g.1.3m). If rounding a number leaves a zero after the decimal place, this zero is omitted.

For example, 3,449,999 million page views would be shown on the dashboard as 3.4 million. One additional page view (i.e. to 3.45 million views) would be shown as 3.5 million in the subsequent release, which may suggest a larger increase than just one page view.

Updates to the statistics will be published on the third thursday of every month.

You can read the ‘Data sources and quality’’ section above to understand more about reporting methodologies.

Revisions

It is not expected that historical data will be revised. Where any discrepancy is later uncovered in a subsequent month, the department will update in the next month’s release and issue a note to explain the reasons for this and any effects on the overall statistical series. Revised figures will be marked with an ‘r’.

Google are responsible for classifying and calculating the data on this dashboard provided by Google Analytics . You can read Google’s online guides for more information.

Background quality report

Background to the release

This release of statistics relating to DIT digital services was first published on 27 June 2018. Henceforth, it will be released on the third Thursday of each month. The release consists of an update to the existing dashboard. This adds the previous month’s data to the existing series of data.

Data quality summary

The numbers collected by Google Analytics are approximate. This is because:

  • Metrics with large numbers such as ‘page views’ are hard to verify due to their size
  • Different browsers and system configurations can cause calculation problems

The numbers collected by Google Analytics are also affected by the filters applied by DIT. Filters are applied to exclude data that isn’t useful- for example, if a software developer is viewing the site repeatedly to test it. Filtering can remove these page views and allow DIT to see page views only from the external users the service is intended for, and therefore It presents figures that are more representative of actual web users.

We use two types of filters:

  • IP filtering - this is the process of identifying the IP addresses of internal DIT users and excluding them from Google Analytics data collection. This process isn’t foolproof since internal users may use IP addresses from home or remote locations that don’t get excluded.
  • Filtering by web address - Google Analytics can measure how many users have visited great.gov.uk. If we want to see how many users have visited a specific service within great.gov.uk, we apply a filter based on that services web address.

DIT is confident that the data collected by its service teams are accurate. The numbers relate to direct interactions and the department completes checks to make sure they are correct. You can find more information about this is in the next section

Data quality of data sources

The department has provided additional notes on the quality of the data in this release under the following headings:

  • Relevance
  • Content

The data provided in this release come from two different data collections. One is the department’s Google Analytics account. Whenever a user interacts with a page in this service, information is sent to the analytics account. This allows us to produce reports on service performance.

The second is information held by services themselves within their own databases. This comes directly from the interactions users have with that service and the data is held entirely by the department.

Completeness

The dashboard contains the department’s own data, which is complete and fully inclusive of all the data contained within that record. The data is checked internally by service teams, digital performance analysts and the department’s statistics team to try and reduce error. Please see the section above on “Data collection using Google Analytics” for details about this data collection.

Geographical coverage

The data contained in this release does not involve any specific geographical data. Data from both web analytics and from the services internal records could relate to interactions that originated anywhere in the world.

User needs

This release provides information about the use and performance of DIT digital services. The dashboard may be used to inform businesses and policy makers regarding decisions in relation to DIT digital services. Better accessibility of the statistics would also assist in the response to external queries such as Freedom of information requests (FOIs). It may also be of interest to politicians, press, the wider public, and to contribute to the wider government transparency agenda.

Accuracy

Methodology

The methods used to derive the figures vary according to the ultimate source. For data held by DIT services within the organisation, these are taken from a database. To eliminate the possibility of human error in regard to mis-transcription, these are double checked internally before being ultimately assured by the department’s statistics team. Extracting this directly from the department’s internal databases minimises the possibility of human error.

Statistics drawn from web metrics again rely on minimal human intervention. The data is taken directly from the Google Analytics platforms and calculated directly by Google. The metrics drawn from this require almost no human intervention by the department, apart from manual checking prior to release. To get data for specific services, filters based on the URLs are used, these are noted in connection with metrics affected. If domains change over time, so that the filters need updating, these will be noted in an update memo as and when the issue becomes relevant. Please read the terms of service for Google Analytics to find out more information.

Uncertainty and bias

Due to the data being drawn from machine sources, either belonging to the department or from the Google Analytics platform, there is no risk of bias being introduced to the process.

Timeliness and punctuality

These statistics are published monthly in the form of a dashboard on great.gov.uk. This includes data updates from the previous month. To allow time for data processing and quality assurance, the numbers are published on the third Thursday of each month at 9:30 AM.

Accessibility and clarity

As noted above, statistics are published on a dashboard hosted on great.gov.uk. The dashboard contains specific service metrics cumulatively over time since the great.gov.uk platform was launched. You can read our ‘reporting methodology’ section to find out more.

The dashboard containing the data has been tested to ensure it is compliant with the relevant accessibility guidance.

Coherence and comparability

Data measurement of DIT services are set out in this note, and there are no expected changes to these data collection methods at the time of publication. If services evolve or are consolidated, this will be noted at the time with a full explanatory guide.

Data that comes from the Google Analytics platform is dependent on the methodologies that Google use to calculate the numbers. While this is usually consistent over time, methods and metrics can change. Again, where this occurs, detail will be provided in an associated guidance note.

The data quality of Google Analytics are impacted from changes to the URLs that define which pages belong to which service. Data from services are currently created by filtering for specific URLs that relate to a service. Should these change, new filters will have to be defined and it’s possible there will be some discrepancy between the former and current numbers produced by different filters. As with the other risks above, any change in this regard will be set out by in an accompanying note.

Performance cost and respondent burden

The data used to produce the dashboard makes use of existing data sources and therefore no extra resource is required to collect the data. The work of producing the statistics themselves is done by team members of the specific service teams in DIT digital. This is then collated and checked by the performance analytics team within DIT digital as part of their regular duties.

Security, confidentiality and transparency

All data released is published in aggregate tables, no record level data is released. Record level data relating to the aggregate tables is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and held in line with a number of data sharing agreements between the department and the data suppliers. No identifiable, individual business data will be made available in the dashboard.

Further information and feedback

You can contact the Digital Performance Team if you have any questions or comments about the performance dashboard:

Email: Enquiries@trade.gov.uk. Please use ‘data on great.gov.uk services’ as your subject line

If you have any queries or comments about the significance of this you’ll need to contact the press office. The email address is: newsdesk@trade.gov.uk

Pre-release Access

Protocol 2 of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics requires that access to releases before public release is limited to those people essential for production and publication, and for quality assurance and operational purposes. Pre-release access may only be granted in accordance with the rules and principles set out in the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008. In addition, Protocol 2 requires that records are published of those who have access prior to public release.

This following list of recipients received 24 hour pre-release access to the great.gov.uk performance dashboards:

  • Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
  • Minister of State for Trade Policy
  • Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion
  • Minister for Investment
  • Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Trade Policy
  • Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion
  • Private Secretary to Minister for Investment
  • Private Secretary to the SoS
  • Private Office to The Special advisors to the SoS, Private Office (x2)
  • Permanent Secretary
  • Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary
  • Second Permanent Secretary
  • Private Secretary to the Second Permanent Secretary
  • Director General, Exports
  • Director General, Investment
  • Director General, Trade Policy Group
  • Chief Economist, Analysis Group
  • Director of Communication and Marketing
  • Deputy Director of Communication
  • Chief Media Officer for Trade and Investments
  • Senior Press Officer for Trade and Investments