As the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Then there’s Google Analytics, which lets you track information about visits to your websites. For the most part, the service actually manages to avoid any of the first three categories. Unfortunately, it displays graphs and other information using Flash—making it totally useless on the iPhone, and soon the iPad.
Happily, there’s an API, so iPhone developers have taken it upon themselves to build iPhone applications that draw on Google Analytics. Foremost among these is Analytics App, created by Michael Jensen of Inblosam.
There are a number of Google Analytics apps in the app store, but many of them represent only a limited subset of the data provided by Google. In this review, I’ll look at the data provided by Analytics App as well as its interface. I’ll also give a very brief summary of its competition. Here’s a hint: there isn’t much.
Sites and Sounds
On first run, Analytics App—just Analytics from here on out—asks you to enter one or more Google accounts. If you’re the webmaster for more than one site, never fear—you can add the others at any time. For each of your accounts, it will show the website(s) attached to that account in Google Analytics, as well as settings for that particular account.
Once you’re logged in and have chosen the site you want to see information for, you’re presented with a comprehensive list of the kinds of reports that Google Analytics can give. Let’s be clear here: this is an information app, designed to present you with lots and lots of useful data. It is not the prettiest app you will ever use.
Reporting for Duty
There are many different granular reports, and the front page for a given website shows all of them. That means a lot of scrolling, and—if you’re relatively new to Google Analytics like I am—some headscratching over exactly which category of report a scrap of information falls under.
The reports fall under the overarching headings of Overview, Visitor Reports, Traffic Reports, Content Reports, E-commerce Reports, Site Search Reports, Event Tracking Reports, and Goal Reports.
The Overview section includes Today, Yesterday, and Dashboard views. These allow you to get a pretty fine-grained look at visitor data for the specified time period. In the case of Dashboard, that can be whatever date range you select.
Visitor Reports include information about number of visitors, number of new visitors, pageviews, language and location, and system and network information. Traffic Reports are more concerned with keywords and referral sources, while Content Reports handle what visitors read, where they land, where they leave, and whatever ad campaigns you may be running.
E-commerce is exactly what it sounds like, as are Site Search, Event Tracking, and Goals. I’ll freely admit that as a relative novice with Google Analytics, I had little use for these last four.
Visitor results in particular turned up one very interesting tidbit: mixed in among all the other operating systems that visited Malum Elegans was a single instance of Mac OS X 10.7. Expect to hear about a new release before too long!
The Good, the Bad, and the Competition
In my testing, each kind of reporting accurately displayed the Google Analytics data for my website. That’s the heart of this application, so I have nothing to complain about in terms of functionality. I can’t vouch for E-commerce, Site Search, Event Tracking, or Goals, but I assume they’re built to the same quality as the rest of the application.
Analytics App’s functionality is an excellent representation of Google Analytics. So is its user interface. In other words, it’s unclear, awkward to navigate, and doesn’t feel native to the platform at all. Where other apps like Tweetie have taken advantage of the iPhone’s small screen to simplify complex websites, Analytics App does nothing of the sort.
Similarly, the predominantly black UI can sometimes make it feel as if you’re using an iPhone with a monochromatic screen. The application also goes unresponsive while retrieving data from the server. Since it doesn’t cache any data, that means your iPhone goes unresponsive for several seconds every time you switch to a different information view, which can be very frustrating if you accidentally switch to the wrong one.
For all my complaints about interface, though, there’s no other Google Analytics app in the app store that provides as much information as well. Users who just need to see how many users have hit their site today will probably find Ego a more flexible and attractive application, but users who need a very granular view of access to their site are probably best off choosing Analytics.
There’s a lot of room for improvement in terms of data presentation, but at $5.99 Analytics App (App Store link) is the best app by far for people who need to have access to all of their Google Analytics data on the go.
It’s accurate, easy to set up and, though not the fastest app, provides all the flexibility of using Google’s web interface directly.
Disclaimer: Malum Elegans is my personal technology blog. It hasn’t been active that long, so my readership is still pretty low.