The View From 32


JUNE 6, 2007  

What I know about you

Detail of Google Analytics graphThanks to a couple of (unbelievably) free services, I can find out a great deal about you and others who visit my website.

Google Analytics, yet another of the ever-expanding suite of products offered by the search giant, tells me everything the typical web analytics program does—but better—and then adds more.

Once you sign up for the (did I mention this?) free service, you get a snippet of code that you insert in every page you want to track. You enter your URL, then sit back and wait. After a day or two you can look at reports that tell you everything from where your visitors are from (continent, country and city) to the browser, operating system and screen resolution they are using.

You can find out what version of Flash they have installed, and the type of connection they use (DSL, T1, dial-up). These are all important pieces of information that can help you build a site that works well for more of your visitors.

But wait, there's more:

And the list goes on. You can slice and dice the info in a variety of ways, including comparing, say the first week of last month with the first week of this month. In fact, probably the biggest downside to Google Analytics is that you can spend way too much time poking around in this wealth of information.

If you're involved with websites as a designer, developer, marketer or content provider, you need Google Analytics.

Oh. My. Gawd.

Today I tried another free service from, and my first reaction was "Unbelievable."

ClickTale gives you the kind of look at how people use your site formerly reserved for those who could afford fancy eye-tracking hardware and software. As with Google Analytics, once you set up your free ClickTale account you get two small pieces of javascript to add to the HTML of any pages you want to record.

Because the free account will only do a limited number of recording per day, a simple set-up wizard suggests what percentage of visitors it will randomly sample, based on the information you fill in. Once you've got pages set up for recording, you check in to the website as often as you want. In my case the first recordings showed up within minutes—in fact they were my own testing of the site!

The interface is simple but offers a fair amount of information:

ClickTrack website screenshot

The real magic starts when you click on the yellow "play" icon at the left. You see an image of your page with a "video" of the user's mouse movements superimposed on it. In addition to seeing where the mouse goes, you see where every left-, right- and middle-click takes place. It's like watching over the user's shoulder, even if the user is halfway across the world.

When you see clicks in areas that are important information, you know you've done your job pretty well. When you see clicks in areas that aren't actually links, you know the visitor is confused, and you need to try again. This takes some of the guesswork out of creating a usable site.

ClickTale is in beta form right now. You can sign up and ask to be a beta test site by visiting Try it now before they start charging a boatload of money for this great service!


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