Why I Paid $30 For Something I Already Got For Free

Let me start this off by saying I’m a huge fan of Google. My last article here focused on how awesome Gmail is (see The Little Things: Behind the Scenes User Experience), I use Google Docs at work and Google Reader to get my newsfix. Google Maps gets me where I need to go and their search really can’t be beat. Overall, they do a lot of things really well.

One thing that I don’t find they do well and I’m no longer using is Google Analytics and it’s not because it’s not useful.

Why I left

To put it simply, the user experience sucked. My main gripes:

  • It’s confusing. Just take a look at the Goals setup.
  • To look at anything real, it requires that you go to another page.
  • It’s ugly. So subjective and vein, I know. But true nonteheless. I like pretty things and Analytics is not that.

However none of those reasons are the reason I left. The reason I ended up finally leaving Google Analytics and using something else is:

I couldn’t find out how to re-add tracking to a site I redesigned.

Don’t worry, I ended up finding it. But I had to Google it. (Maybe that’s their strategy? Haha.) The page that ended up telling me how to do it involved six steps and a screenshot. I had to “Edit” the “Actions” of a profile to “Check Status”. Save for edit, none of those would give you any clue as to their function, and that was the last straw.

Where I went

But then I thought, “Why does it have to be free?”

I’ve disliked Google Analytics for as long as I can remember using it, but I never had any other choice when it comes to the free sector of analytical software. Awstats comes preinstalled with most hosts, unfortunately it overstates your traffic with inefficient ignore rules which makes it less than optimal. Google Analytics is incredibly popular and so I checked them out years ago and have been with them ever since, although I was never truly satisfied with the experience.

But then I thought, “Why does it have to be free?” and found Mint. I’m not going to go over the software right now but you can check out their website for more details. It’s not nearly as powerful as Google Analytics (no Goals, for example) but I don’t care. It’s easy and shows me my website stats. So I gave them $30 and haven’t looked back.

To wrap up

My analytics needs were essentially being met. I could find out the information I needed for no cost and even though I didn’t love the software, I have been using it for years. Then one little thing made me decide I was fed up and had to move on. I decided I would rather pay money for a less complex Analytics program than be frustrated by an insanely popular program I’ve been using for years. You might not agree with me but that’s not relevant to Mint’s pockets.

It just goes to show you how important an easy and friendly user experience really is.

Thoughts?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Philips May 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Two things.
1. Why do you have links to external sites open in the same window as your blog making a user leave your site? Just wondering since you do have user experience background and it's not good to direct a user a way from your site. I clicked on the Back button only because I wanted to post a comment.
2. Did you try StatCounter (http://www.statcounter.com/)? It's free, easy to use and provides the same info plus more than Google Analytics.

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BRANKKO May 26, 2010 at 11:12 am

OKay, you hated complexity of setting up “Goals” on Google's free service Analytics, and you moved to other one which you pay 30 bucks and like it because it's don't have (optional) feature which you don't use anyway?
Heh, I tough that Apple is king of expensively selling regular-featured products by design and fancy user experience, but Mint is my new favorite :)

@Jay Philips Stat counter is great, but free service is not so useful (for analytics of longer time usage) and paid one is too expensive. And they didn't changed anything on their site/services for a years…

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matthewlyle May 26, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I don't like to force anything on my readers, including new windows. If someone wants something open in another page, they can do that, but I'm not going to make them. It can get quite overwhelming, especially on smaller monitors or when somebody already has a lot going on already. I've noticed no negative effects, and people come back when they want to come back.

Some more articles on the topic:

Should Links Open in New Windows? by Smashing Magazine
Not Opening New Windows by Dive into Accessibility
Beware of Opening Links in New Windows by SitePoint
New Window for a New Link? by Pro Blog Design
Top 10 New Mistakes of Web Design by Jakob Neilson (point #2)

Regarding StatCounter, see Brankko's remarks.

Thanks for the comment,
Matt

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matthewlyle May 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Yeah. Goals was just one example, but it outlines the difficulty with everything. For example, my biggest use of Goals was to see how many people who went to a sign-up page completed it. Just add the URLS to “Watch list” in Mint and you can see this information right away.

And $30 isn't exorbitant for anything. “regular-featured products by design and fancy user experience” is what makes it worth it to me. It's a regular featured product made to perform regular features for me, but has a great design and isn't bogged down by anything. I can get the information I need quickly and easily and that's what's important, not how many features they can put in a list.

But what's right for me won't always be what's right for you which won't always be right for the next guy. Mint is what's right for me, because it's quick and easy and gives me what I want.

Thanks for the comment,
Matt

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Jay Philips May 26, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Thanks for the response back. Interesting points.

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Derek Featherstone June 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I love Mint as well — simple and gets the job done. Analytics seems clunky and has too much in it to be accessed easily, especially when all you’re looking for is that quick overview.

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Mia June 20, 2010 at 9:33 am

Google Analytics simply SUX – and in more ways than 1 . Aside from it being ugly ( and yes – we all love to look upon beautiful things ) – it’s usage can be somewhat overwhelming for a first time user ( a.k.a : noob ) . Another little glitch which surfaced not too long ago ( since WP 3.0 ) was that it conflicted with the WP Text Editor’s Image Uploader ( at least for my particular theme ) . Other users whom I have spoken with , reported certain Theme & Plugin issues since the (WP 3 ) upgrade, and since I experienced this minor glitch firsthand – I figured that the same issue could be affecting other users as well – Turns out I was correct : As soon as Google Analytics was disabled everything began working fine again . I dont know what those boys are throwing into the Google Analytics brew , but its def Wicked Ugly ! .
I will def check out Mint right now ! Thank you for the info :)

M.

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Lauhakari [mikko] June 25, 2010 at 10:55 am

@Mia

Heard about some themes breaking slightly and bugging after WP3.0 upgrade.
But you really think it’s because of analytics?? Sounds s bit wierd. If it was to blame, I feel like more people should’ve been affected. More likely it was some theme(s) and/or plugins (for ex. an Analytics plugin perhaps?) that caused breaks.
Just speculating, but =)

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