Monday, November 14, 2005

Google Analytics (or, So Long WebTrends!)

Google has announced their release of the newest version of the Urchin web analytics software that they acquired earlier this last year. The biggest surprise, it's free. At least up to 5,000,000 page views a month, and if you use Google AdSense, it's completely free.

I have to admit to feeling a bit sorry for some of the smaller players with big ideas. Hopefully there'll still be room for those folks to innovate and find their niche. However, the one company I'm having a hard time feeling any empathy for is WebTrends. I haven't used the new Google Analytics, but judging by six months spent with WebTrends(shudder), I tend to think Google stands a pretty good chance of disrupting the online analytics world if they focus on simplifying the interface.

There's a lot of things that these analytic software packages do well, but having an easy to understand user interface that scales well when dealing with a large number sites is not one of them. I used to provide technical support to roughly 90 web properties under a single umbrella organization that used WebTrends and it was the single most needlessly confusing piece of software I had ever used. WebTrends had forced migration from their Live variation, to their newer, "better" WebTrends OnDemand.

What a pile of junk.

I have no doubt that WebTrends has some very intelligent people working for their organization, their customer support is generally good, and my experience with their regional contractors was excellent. In addition, there were occasional glimmers of hope that they understood the problems inherent in their interface, some of which were occasionally improved incrementally.

However, this post isn't meant to be a direct slam at WebTrends, moreso a "I hope they clean up their act due to increased competition" post. Unfortunately, I have my doubts that this will happen in any significant manner. My best guess is that while Google will leverage their integration of AdWords and offering of a self service, free solution, making them an ever deeper, true, "Web 2.0" company. Meanwhile, WebTrends will focus on ever larger clients, and offering a better customer experience. Of course, the problem with this model is that it generally assumes a certain level of difficultly in using their software. As McAfee recently displayed (and other smart companies have known for awhile), a properly designed user interface can alleviate a lot of support necessary for a product to succeed.

Ultimately, I think WebTrends will have to change drastically, and possibly merge with the likes of Yahoo or Microsoft in order to survive in what is quickly becoming a Google dominated web.

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