The Near Futurist
22Sep/11Off

Mint: a refreshing new way to do web analytics

Yesterday, I discovered a site that was using Mint for its web analytics. My first responses were, in order:

  1. “Someone is using a web analytics package other than Google Analytics?”
  2. “Oh I’m sure this thing sucks, how can it be good?”
  3. “HOLY CRAP.”
Mint web analytics

Because GA has become so prevalent and synonymous with web analytics, I often forget that there are others out there. And Mint is one of these often overlooked packages. But let me tell you: IT ROCKS.

OK, there are a number of reasons I find myself liking Mint, but in the interest of expediency, here are my Top Ten Reasons Why I’m In Love with Mint:

  1. Your data, you host, you control. With Mint, it’s not a hosted solution; it’s a download-and-install-on-your-server solution that uses your service and databases to track. That means that any tracking that happens is done by you, and any analytics data is generated, stored, analyzed, etc. by you and you alone. There’s something comforting about all your web analytics data not being in the hands of a giant, multinational corporation (albeit one of the better ones).
  2. It’s beautiful. The developer of Mint (yes, it’s just one person) has taken much care to make the interfaces look beautiful. If you’re staring at numbers and charts a lot, aesthetics go a long way.
  3. It’s simple to install, simple to use. Installation took me all of 30 minutes, and using it is just an URL on my site. It’s fast (or as fast as my site is) and the UI is laid out nicely and intuitively.
  4. It’s inexpensive. $30 is all you will pay to have stats for one of your domains. Not $30/month, but $30. That’s it. The joy of it not being a hosted service!
  5. It’s extensible. With Peppers, you can add any number of plugins to extend the functionality of the tracking service on your site. It ranges from the mundane (Doorbell, which dings anytime you’re viewing stats and a new website visitor stops by your site) to the I-didn’t-know-I-needed-that (Birdfeeder, which tracks your feeds properly, something GA never got quite right) to the critical (Backup/Restore will make sure you are prepared in case something bad happens to your site/data).
  6. It’s maintained. The developer, Shaun Inman, is regularly updating not just the main tracking service but all the relevant plugins very regularly.
  7. It provides you with a compatibility suite to figure out if it will work before you buy. It’s like a test-drive. Here, take it for a spin, see if it works with your situation. No? No harm done. Yes? Only $30. More businesses should operate this way.
  8. It’s fast. Since the speed of Mint relies solely on how fast your actual website is, you don’t suffer from the issue of “Waiting for google-analytics.com…” showing up in your users’ browser status bar.
  9. It works even when my site is framed. When my content is served up within an iframe (like in Google Images or StumbleUpon), Internet Explorer and Safari will not allow a third-party cookie to be written, thus foiling any attempt to track via Google Analytics (or any other hosted tracking service). That means my data is accurate, and I don’t spend time debugging why some of my content is not being tracked.
  10. It’s flexible in licensing. Yes, it only costs $30. But you can decide which domain it runs on, and change it anytime you like. That means I can move it around when it comes time to do so.

So there you have it. If you are looking for great web analytics, and maybe you’ve grown just a bit wary of hosted solutions like GA, I encourage you to check it out. And when I said, “HOLY CRAP,” I wasn’t just stunned at what I had found. I was also describing a fantastic little Mint plugin.

Enjoy your Mint!

Mint: a refreshing new way to do web analytics was originally published on The Near Futurist

17Mar/09Off

The web page isn’t half empty, it’s half full!

Sometimes the things that annoy you most can surprise you in delighting you given a completely different context. So that’s the lede — now that I haven’t buried it, let me tell you what I mean.

Blogs and other content sites are wonderful. It seems my appetite for informational input, as far as I’ve tested, really knows no limits, and Web sites chock full of interesting information, thought-provoking viewpoints, and insightful analyses feed the part of me that craves this stuff. But lately, I’ve become increasingly annoyed at the content-to-other-crap ratio. More and more, site owners are shoving things into both the left and right hand columns. Some are interesting and useful, while some are simply irrelevant and annoying. I’ve seen pages where the amount of space taken up by actual content is less than 20% of the screen real estate!

The primary way these sites compress the area used up by actual useful content is by fitting them into a narrow column down the page. Daily Kos is a great example of this, where despite your political leanings, everyone can agree that there’s an awful lot of non-content content on the page that has questionable utility and value to the content on the page. With so little space dedicated to actual content, in what context would this be a good thing?

And this is where the “web page isn’t half empty, it’s half full.” Because on the Web, this situation is annoying, as so much real estate is taken up by non-content. But on an iPhone, the narrow column format for content means that on a small screen like the iPhone’s, once you zoom in on the content, it makes it far easier to read.

I now cross my fingers and shake my accelerometer once for good luck hoping that this next page that I want to read has a narrow column for the content on the page — and when it doesn’t, I ponder throwing the iPhone down in disgust and walking away.

Annoyance has turned into delight — I now would love to buy the designers of these sites a beer! Of course, that glass of beer you can bet will only be half full. I still have to bear viewing them on my full-sized PC, after all.