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A briefing on the new Google Analytics update: 16th January 2013

A review of 9 updates to Google Analytics

Google Analytics have rolled out a series of fairly big changes to their User Interface. They do this every so often, either to incorporate extra functionality, or simply to clean up the user interface & improve user experience. (See the tweaks they made last time, for example). This time around most of the changes are purely around the interface, though there are some large, useful functionality tweaks too.

Editor's note: At the time of writing there isn't a new post on the Google Analytics blog to point you to for more detail, but we'll add that once available.

This post covers the 9 main changes made to Google Analytics:

1. Top Navigation Changes

The top navigation (and the overall information architecture) has changed quite considerably. There are still 4 options, but they’ve altered:

Here was the old top nav:

older-top-nav

Here’s the new top nav:

old-top-nav

The main changes there (including the bits you can’t see) are:

  1. The ‘Home’ tab has gone. (this used to house the ‘real time’, ‘dashboards’, ‘intelligence’ reports. To be honest the naming of it didn’t really make sense before, and it was really just a collection of arbitrary reports that didn’t have anywhere else to live).
  2. A ‘home’ icon has been added at the far left. This is totally different to the old ‘home’ tab (which took you to the ‘real time’, ‘dashboards’, ‘intelligence’ reports). It simply takes you back to the main list of all the Google Analytics accounts you have access to.
  3. The accounts dropdown (with new globe logo) has become much wider. (this is more useful than it sounds if you have lots of accounts & profiles, some with long names)
  4. ‘Custom Reporting’ has been renamed’ Customization’. (UK people may dislike the addition of the American Z here!) From what I can see, the content behind the ‘customization’ tab is exactly the same as it was previously at the moment, despite the name change.

 2. New Pinned Top Nav

A small change, but useful. As you scroll down the page, the top nav remains pinned so that you need not scroll up to navigate elsewhere. In the screengrab below you can see I’m scrolled halfway down the page, but the top nav is still present:

pinned-top-nav

I thought it may have been nice if they’d included ‘date range’ in that somehow, so that you needn’t scroll up to change that, but really that’s a tiny thing.

3. New ‘Recent Profiles’ Dropdown.

As mentioned, the ‘accounts’ dropdown is significantly wider. They’ve also added a ‘recent profiles’ area in the dropdown box (I’ve blurred out my recent profiles here, but hopefully you get the picture):

recent-accounts

That won’t be useful to you at all if you only have one account & one profile, but it’s really useful for web analysts with access to dozens of accounts & profiles, making it quicker to jump back & forth between ones you’ve used recently.

4. Left Navigation Changes

The left-hand navigation in ‘Standard Reporting’ has changed significantly. They’ve essentially shoehorned everything from the old ‘Home’ tab in here:

left-nav

I’ve screengrabbed those at the same height. As you can see, on the ‘old’ navigation, you can see quite a lot of the ‘help’ info there. On the ‘new’, it’s all pushed way down.

  1. The left-nav has been split into 2 sections: ‘My Stuff’ & ‘Standard Reports’. (below that, off the bottom of the screengrab, the useful ‘help’ area remains).
  2. The old reports that used to be accessed via the ‘Home’ top tab mostly now sit within the ‘My Stuff’ section there.
  3. ‘Advertising’ has gone from the top level navigation. It’s now been folded within ‘Audience’. (That makes a lot of sense. I do a lot of Google Analytics training & I’d often find myself saying “really ‘advertising’ should be in ‘traffic sources’”. I’d always presumed they pulled it out as a nudge toward AdWords, so it’s good to see they’ve chosen the user-centric option of putting it in the most logical place).
  4. ‘Real Time’ now sits within ‘Standard Reports’. (again, this used to sit within the ‘Home’ area)

On the plus side of that: It’s useful to be able to jump to any report within one area of navigation (the left nav). (Pro tip: You can even jump to customised reports here if you add them in to ‘shortcuts’). Another nice small tweak here is that the date range never resets like it used to when switching between the top navigation tabs.

On the negative side of it: Though the reports are now ordered logically, the items I find people use most frequently (‘Traffic Sources’, ‘Content’, & ‘Conversions’) are toward the bottom of the navigation so a bit more fiddly to navigate around. Alongside that, left nav can now become very, very long. Here’s just how long if you fold all of the options out (click for the full image):

 

all-folded-out

 

None of the options concertina up automatically, so it’s easy to get in a position where you have to scroll up & down the page to get to the report you want. The Google Analytics team have been sensible enough to make sure that all of the ‘top level’ options are visible even on smallish screens, but even at 1024×768, you can see that opening any of the menu items means you need to start scrolling. Note only the ‘Overview’ is available from the Multi-Channel Funnels reports in this 1024×768 screengrab:

dropoff

(Extra tip: Note the other recent change in that screengrab, you can now set a custom ‘lookback’ window in Multichannel funnels. Sadly limited to ’30′ at the moment.)

 5. New Dashboard Design + Advanced Segments

A minor tweak, but the look of the dashboards has been completely redrawn. Here you can see the ‘widgets’ are now neat white squares on a grey background:

dbdesign

The other big, big change you’ll notice if you look carefully at that screengrab is that you can now apply Advanced Segments to dashboards. That sounds like nothing, but it really, really improves how useful they are. Before if you were looking at a dashboard & wanted to know “what would that look like for iphone visitors?” you’d have to completely rebuild the dashboard, one widget at a time, filtered for iphone users. Now you can simply apply a segment (or multiple segments at once) with a few clicks.

6. New Dashboard Layouts.

As well as the redrawn ‘look’ of the dashboards, there are now various different layouts:

dbopts

Again, that sounds like a small thing, but it’s really useful, especially with the ‘Table’ widget which used to totally crunch up with the old ’3-column only’ layout. Here’s an example of a 2-column layout at 70/30:

2-column

 7. Two Additional Dashboard Widget Types

Dashboards are (as previously) made up of widgets. You can add up to 12 widgets to a dashboard. Previously the widget types were ‘metric’, ‘pie chart’, ‘timeline’ & ‘table’.

Alongside the look & feel changes to dashboards, and the ability to apply Advanced Segments, there are now 2 additional ‘widget types’ in Dashboards: ‘Geomaps’ & ‘Bars’:

new-options

Geomap widgets are exactly what they say – simple geographical maps. By default they show ‘The World’, but you can narrow them down by continent or subcontinent:

europe

The other new widget type ‘Bars’ is quite a sophisticated bar graph tool, offering the ability to pivot data, display it in different orientations, include axis values & titles, limit the number of bars displayed, etc. Here’s an example of the setup & all of the options available:

bar-graph

And here’s an example of the output from that:

baroutput

(A silly example, but hopefully you can get an idea of the types of things you could do with that).

8. Lots of odd areas cleaned up.

There are lots of small tweaks & bits of cleaning up that have happened. For example, take a look at the graphing on this multi-channel-funnel report:

mcfgraph

Or the tiny colour tweak from green to orange on the ‘prior date range’ block (pointed out by @mattycurry):

colour-tweak

9. Much Faster.

While hard to quantify, or to get across via a screengrab, the entire interface feels noticeably faster. Part of that seems to be an actual change in how fast reports load the first time you view them, and part of that is the effect of being able to navigate a little quicker around the better organised reports. Google Analytics was already way ahead of most of the enterprise tools in terms of analysis speed, this simply adds to that.

Summary

The changes they’ve made here are fairly large, but not so big as to confuse a regular user for too long. They are essentially improvements to the user interface, with just one or two (very useful) functional additions. The functional tweaks are largely around additional dashboard options. The interface tweaks are largely around information architecture, and improving the speed at which an analyst can make their way around the system.

There are a few downsides to some of the tweaks, but in the main they are really positive & don’t take anything useful away.

Have a play around, and do drop a comment if you think there’s anything interesting not covered here.

Editors note.

This blog post first appeared on Dan Barker's blog in a post Nine Google Analytics Changes. Thanks to Dan for sharing with Smart Insights readers too.

 

By Dan Barker

Dan Barker is the Smart Insights expert commentator on using Analytics for Ecommerce. He is an independent consultant, working across analytics, SEO, conversion optimisation, email, content and more. You can Follow Dan on Twitter or Connect with Dan on LinkedIn

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