Finally a flexible Google Analytics app for iOS
For a person running a small site, monitoring traffic and stats with Google Analytics is something of a necessity that can easily turn into a tedious chore. There's a sense of responsibility associated with knowing what blog posts are popular and what type of articles read by people coming from Facebook. You see all these articles about search optimisation and objectives that I can't really understand. I just find all this Google Analytics business very boring.
Then you get a level of curiosity and start checking your stats. Even if you don't clearly understand the difference between uniques and pageviews, it has become a matter of vanity. At some point you see a surge of visitors and want to know who retweeted that link or where's has it been quoted.
This is why you have me trying Analytics Tiles by interactivemonday, a simple app that displays your Google Analytics data on a palatable, clear and playful way on your iPhone and iPad. As the name suggests, the layout is based on chunky squares clearly reminiscent of the tiles on the Windows Metro look. Every tile on the grid shows either a number or a line graph — everything from visits, pageviews, keywords, popular content, average time,… you know the drill.
Once you login using your Google Analytics account, you only need to select the website (if you have more than one tracked with that account) and you're ready to go. The app will immediately refresh and display the stats for today. This can be a bit confusing if you're used to see the stats per week — like I do with Squarespace — or the 30 day view you get on the actual real web version of Analytics. Soon you'll learn that tapping on the "Today" text on the top tight corner switches from today, yesterday, weekly and monthly views. Now those numbers are more familiar aren't they?
The good type of data munching
The interface in Analytics Tiles isn't just a playful gimmick. Sure, reloading data gets the tiles juggling a little. This pop animation can be disabled if you're a boring person. Naturally, you want to have the important data at the top and the minor things hidden at the bottom for you to see only when you scroll down. The app allows you to re-arrange the tiles' order easily, almost in the dame fashion you tap and hold an app to put it in a folder in iOS. Moreover, you can change the size of the tile (double tile) to it covers more space. This is more interesting in the graph-type tiles.
As you can see, with some minor tweaking you can get the app to pull your stats and display them in a neat way. There's much more information in there, it isn't visible at launch. Every tile can be tapped to display hourly stats and more information depending on the category. Tapping on the spikes in line graphs for instance, gives you a pop-over with the number being represented. The overall experience is clean an easy to understand. There isn't any standard navigation element specific to iOS but it doesn't mean this isn't easy to navigate.
There are some almost hidden areas that you want to explore. Scrolling to the bottom and doing a "pull to refresh" opens a menu where you can add more tiles. The amount of variables you can use just goes beyond my knowledge, but I can tell you this is more than any other Google Analytics app I have tried in iOS. This is a strong point in Tiles' favour.
In an app with such a strong visual language I would have liked to see more customisation options. Yes, you can change the colour so it doesn't feel so Metro, but there isn't any colour picker to create your own. The preset colours are also organised in an apparently scattered approach, so picking the one you like is a matter of trial and error. Also the app on launch always switches to the light cyan seen in the icon and then to the colour you've chosen. A little weird.
The iPhone version is locked to portrait mode while the iPad one only works on landscape. You could do with both orientations if you went through the trouble to optimising these already.
The font used, some sort of Century Gothic isn't going to be everyone's favourite choice either. To be fair, I quite like it for numbers although text lists are too odd for my liking. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who would like to see some font variety there.
A problem that has found a fix
Given the clunkiness of the Google Analytics website on iOS devices, having an app serving as a client is a serious option to consider. The convenience of accessing this data on the go is surely very valuable to publishers and bloggers, no matter how small or big your site is. I'm keeping Analytics Tiles on my iPhone for the time being. This is a the most complete solution I have tried to date and the minor issues mentioned above don't stop me from finding the app very useful on a daily basis.
I really like the wealth of information Tiles can present you with, the clear layout and mild customisation options. What I want is to have a quick snapshot of my website activity easily filtered by date, without to login with my Google account every time I want to do so. This works for me.