Reporting and Analytics

Within the span of my career, I have learned that one of the most important aspects of a web application’s health and well-being, is reporting analytics. Reporting on site visits, popular pages and other key dynamics are essential for assessing trends of clients and forecasting innovation. There are various ways to capture these metrics with configurable, detailed reporting.

If you’re like me, your first attempt was the way of the neanderthal - setting up a database table to capture PHP session and server globals. Then comes the fun of figuring out a clever way to parse a ridiculously large table that constantly accumulates huge strands of raw data, as your visitors’ roam about your site. It’s exciting at first - “wow, I can do anything with this data - reporting possibilities are unlimited.” Then the reality of querying, backing up and managing the growing behemoth sets in.

I have happily worked within Google Analytics, setting up various reporting and customizing dimensions to help the business with product management needs. A marketing team can use Google Analytics to evaluate user traffic flows and plan design innovations accordingly.

I’ve also worked in the trenches of Adobe Omniture (now called Adobe Analytics), which is quite different. Implementing Adobe Analytics is nothing short of complex, however, it accomplishes just about the same end result as Google Analytics. For financial and political reasons, I don’t use Adobe Analytics.

Google Analytics is free to implement (there are incentives to upgrade to a paid subscription). I also prefer the policies of Google Analytics, specifically, the unallowing of capturing personal data. “The Analytics terms of service, which all Analytics customers must adhere to, prohibits sending personally identifiable information (PII) to Analytics (such as names, social security numbers, email addresses, or any similar data), or data that permanently identifies a particular device (such as a mobile phone’s unique device identifier if such an identifier cannot be reset).” -

Adobe Analytics has a whole different attitude towards personal identifiable information - which I STRONGLY oppose and disagree with. Here is an official article that discusses DPS, a suite that wraps their analytics technology: “We don't need to tell you that collecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from consumers, like email, name, zip code, etc. is an incredibly important and valuable aspect of consumer marketing... DPS enables you to choose when you collect consumer data; maybe before a customer can download content, after a customer buys a subscription, as a digital blow in, etc. Once you have collected this information it is very easy to then send targeted push and/or email notifications to specific groups of people, and even to individuals.” -