Which analytics for when?

Data. It helps guide your Product squad to a higher confidence for their predicted outcomes. It starts to pull the squad away from guess work and gut checks being the only source of truth.

Whether you’re looking to codify a UAT (User Acceptance Testing) report, or understand your DAU (Daily Active Users) on a platform, it moves your squad further away from bias towards a realm filled with more certainties.

But, which analytics tools should you use and why? Here’s a simple run down from what I know so far.

Google Analytics

🧭 For starting up and big questions

The “free” tool. With just a simple block of code, the WDs can start to feed your PM world with some handy and sometimes generic data. Like, how many visitors a day, their time spent on site, pages which are more popular, or potentially taking up too much of your user’s time.

Honestly, if you’re starting out, GA is a solid route for your product. However… it’s important to know it’s strength is in supporting marketing and sales sites, so if you’re using it for building a SaaS tool it appears to need more setup to extract meaningful insight.

We’ve been going through a process of fine tuning the page titles, sending custom events from our single page app and soon we’ll be using it to build reports.

Unless you fine tune it, it seems best for the big questions, like how many users, when are they here, and roughly what are they doing.

HotJar

🔍 For focused work

A tool with a “free” tier. This is like a great add-on to maybe an existing suite (like GA). You can use it to gather a variety of less standard “hit and count” type metrics and give you more qualitative data for your platform.

Presently, we’re focusing its screen recording tool to give us insights in to how our users are using a page. It literally creates a recording from a user’s session showing how they clicked, scrolled and interacted.

By having these recordings on select pages, the aim is by seeing how our users use a particular tool in the platform, we can take a deeper dive in to the weeds of their use for a particular feature. It’s less high level and better for taking a focused approach on a problem. Don’t use it to choose which mountain to climb, use it to check the flag is in the spot at the top.

Aside from screen recording it also comes with a really nifty survey tool which means you can gather feedback on a quick question at the point of need from your users. So instead of having a whacking great modal over your page asking for users to take part in a 10 minute survey (no thanks), you ask one question and gauge opinion there.

Heap, ThoughtSpot, Amplitude and Bi

⚽ For the big-league

When you start to realise that GA is a tool for marketers and not best for SaaS or learning platforms, it’s time to consider getting in to the big-league.

In some ways, this now goes way ahead of what I / we focus on in our Product squad, but it doesn’t mean it’s not interesting.

Here my knowledge is limited however I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of exploratory sessions on some of these tools as I prep. up an Alpha pitch for our analytics vision.

Really, these tools will take time to set up. These tools are for running proper behaviour analysis and attempting to move the needle on your North Star Metric. These tools cost 😊

BI

From Microsoft. You dump a load of data in to it frequently and then build your reports slowly. It’s used my massive corporations and doesn’t look pretty (told you I’m out of my league here if my analytics includes colours!). However, the delay in building reports and getting data in there seem to be a sticking point for adoption with new teams.

Heap

Analytics for product, they have differentiated themselves away from GA for marketeers, and show talk about themselves as being, “for product”. It’s about getting action from insight swiftly and confirming or denying your gut checks. Check out their Heap analytics 101 video to understand their positioning more.

ThoughtSpot

Lovely people and took us through a demo of how you can build dashboards for what you need now, rather than waiting on a BI team to develop it 2 months later. See their, “dashboards are dead” book for more info.

Amplitude

This tool looks like a beast. It’s used by some massive companies and comes in many different flavours. Check out their offering on their Amplitude analytics product page.  

By Dan Course

Senior Instructional Designer. Partnerships, people, products, delivery, agile tech and online edu. Naturally curious, innovative and willing to challenge the status quo.

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