So I’ve had the Google Analytics V5 Beta for almost a week now and I’ve had a little bit of time to have a rummage around and there are some great new features to ensure that it’s more than just a face-lift.
They’ve trimmed some of the fat (did anyone get any useful insight from Benchmarking?) and reorganised some reports into better categories (e.g. Goals and Ecommerce reports in the ‘Conversion’ category) and renamed others in a more logical way (e.g. Content > Top content has become Content > Site content > Pages).
Rather than try and discuss everything here I’d like to provide a more detailed analysis of one feature that has changed significantly in Version 5: Dashboards.
Multiple Dashboards: There are 20 of them. When delivering Google Analytics training we often try and encourage businesses to start by choosing five Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure and monitor. Allowing users to create dashboards for each KPI is a great new addition.
Widget editor: Having a uniform way of creating dashboard widgets is a useful new feature. It might take a bit of getting used to but I think it is an exciting addition and I can see how it might be developed further (see Cons).
Design: The point of a dashboard is to give you a quick snapshot of the key statistics all in one place. Having the primary navigation as a horizontal bar means that there is more width available for the dashboard than in the old design and we now have space for three widgets across the page rather than two.
Lack of sharing: One of my biggest gripes with Google Analytics has been the difficulty in sharing advanced segments, custom alerts and custom reports across user accounts. The share links were an improvement when they were added, but it is still a tedious process. It would also be helpful if it were possible to share Dashboards across profiles. The lack of ability to share dashboards is a real shame, although the help text suggests it may be in the pipeline: “As of this first release, you cannot share dashboards.”
Widget editor: I realise that the new dashboards are fundamentally different to the old one in the way they are built, but it seems a shame to have lost the option to add reports to the dashboard from the report pages. For more occasional users it was helpful to find the report and add it to the dashboard rather then have to build it from scratch.
Can’t be Segmented: Unfortunately dashboards cannot be segmented using advanced segments or applying filters. This means that they simply don’t offer the level of details required to find really insightful statistics.
Can’t be scheduled: In version 4 of Google Analytics it was possible to export or schedule the dashboard to be sent by email. These features are not available yet in the Beta and may never be added. Version 5 also sees the end of exports in PDF format.
I started writing this post because I was excited by the way this feature of Google Analytics has evolved and grown and to see whether dashboards would mount a challenge to the role of Custom Reports. I still have some enthusiasm for the new dashboards, however, having forced myself to weigh up the pros and cons I can’t help feel a bit disappointed that they just don’t quite live up to my expectations.
The main problem I have is that I just don’t know what I would use 20 dashboards for, although I understand that this is a request that many people have made to the Google Analytics team. If they could be segmented, filtered within a profile and shared across user accounts it would be a different story. As it is I think I would struggle to find that many generic figures that I want to track. I could probably fill one dashboard, which would provide a useful snapshot, but beyond that I need to be able to segment the data.
This is just my first impression and it may well be that the Google Analytics team know better and I'm sure there will be more to come, but for the moment I’ll be primarily using the standard reports and custom reports when required.
Let me know what you think, post a comment below.