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My Perfect Analytics Software

 

I use analytics a lot for my clients. It’s valuable for me to understand the finer points of analytics software for their optimization purposes. But I’ve come to realize that I simply don’t really need that much information on my own customers – and, more importantly, you don’t need to give it.

Here is an incomplete list of what I don’t need to know:

  • What share of my customers is on mobile. I design mobile-first.
  • Page load times, unless there’s some obvious performance catastrophe at play. (That never happens, to the best of my knowledge. My home page’s weight is 373KB, almost all of which is webfonts.)
  • What general traffic sources people come from. I don’t need the breakdown of organic vs. keyword search vs. direct, for example.
  • Where people live.
  • What languages people speak.
  • Where people go when they arrive at my site.
  • What people searched for to get to my site.
  • What my conversion rate is(!).
  • What my bounce rate is.
  • My audience’s demographics. Google Analytics can track all sorts of ad-based profile characteristics, like your probable age, gender, income, etc. I don’t need any of that. I don’t want any of that.
  • Which of my mailing list campaigns cause the numbers to go up.

Really, I just want to know if my audience is growing, whether they are buying stuff, and where people are coming from. I can learn whether people are buying my stuff by looking at my bank account. I can learn whether my audience is growing by looking at my mailing list.

And where people are coming from? That’s only rarely pertinent. 99% of the time, people are probably coming from random linked posts on bad websites like twitter.com or medium.com, and not in any appreciable volume to move the needle on my analytics. But that other 1% is interesting, because it means someone noteworthy linked to me and I should know about it.

My business mostly works in terms of the relationships that I’ve cultivated in small, safe places like this one, or conferences, or hangouts in real life. I don’t need to measure complicated metrics regarding traffic sources. I don’t run ad campaigns. I don’t retarget anything, ever. I do all sorts of things that grow my business the long, slow, stupid way – and I like it.

So, after considerable thought, here are the two questions I want answered by any analytics package:

  • Is my site horrendously broken?
  • In the event of a sudden influx of traffic, where is it coming from, and what caused it?

The former is already answerable by all sorts of B2B products that silently monitor your site and pester you if anything goes awry. So, I can pretty easily figure out if my checkout system is broken, or if my card decline rate spikes for any reason – and I don’t need to collect any of your data in order to do so.

The latter is much more interesting, though. Essentially, I’m looking for one layer of refer data and the volume of requests – and, deliberately and intentionally, nothing else. Here’s what this might look like from a developer’s perspective:

  1. Does the volume of requests increase beyond a certain threshold? Great, start tracking refers of those requests.
  2. Is the makeup of refers predominantly from a specific source? Great, figure out the source.
  3. Send me a push notification saying traffic spiked from that source. I don’t need the magnitude of the spike. I don’t need you to even keep the name of the source around. I just need to know that I should be paying attention, and to where.

Don’t track anything else. Don’t track anything when the volume of requests is below a certain threshold. Don’t granularly track the exact contours of my requests. The JavaScript snippet I request from you should be blank if it’s not being carpetbombed. And if it is? Then it should quietly add a line that tracks the referrer – and turn back off when the velocity slows down.

That’s it. That’s all you need to do. I’d easily pay for this, because it’s valuable for me to not be invasive of my customers’ privacy and collect all sorts of data that I frankly never need. Good software does one thing well, and I want to do everything in my power to respect my audience. (Draft already doesn’t run any analytics, other than the meager bits that my mailing list provider collects by default.)

Meanwhile, I can’t code to save my life and I don’t want to own a SaaS, so now you get a free idea. Do whatever you’d like with it.

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