Last weekend, Google Analytics announced the launch of version 5 – a brand new version of the world’s most popular web analytics tool. It’s more than a cosmetic change, the inner workings of the GA system have been overhauled and there are many major fundamental changes in this version.
This upgrade consists of a number of visual upgrades to bring up GA to the new style of all the Google tools (Gmail, Groups etc). It also includes a major rehaul of the navigation system of Google Analytics. So much so that they’ve started a new “Report finder” helper tool to help people figure out where their old reports have gone.
We had gotten a sneak peek at this version at last year’s Google Analytics Partner Conference, and have been using the beta version since late last year. There’s a lot to like about it, and a couple of major things to hate – here’s our tough but fair review of the Google Analytics version 5 (as it stands).
Home Screen – Completely Rehauled & Retooled (Two Thumbs Up)
The home screen of Google Analytics is the first thing you see when you log in – it contains links to the different accounts you have access to and it has gotten a major rehaul. Here’s the rundown of home screen features:
Things that have gotten better in the Google Analytics v5 Home Screen:
- Visual style upgraded, looks decisively cooler now with more subdued fonts, better font size hierarchy and much less clutter.
- All accounts AND their profiles listed in one view now. A huge time saver and saves one un-necessary screen in between.
- Deep links into Visitors, Traffic Sources, Content and Conversion reports directly from the home screen. Saves sooo many clicks.
- This home screen is AJAX-ably accessible from every other page in GA.
- The top nav drop down also contains every account and profile now, another huge time saver.
Things that have gotten worse in the Google Analytics v5 Home Screen:
- The old home used to contain critical stats from all your accounts, great snapshot view. Now there’s no way to do that.
- It opens up the first account alphabetically when you click on the “Dashboard”, “My Site” and “Custom Reports” views. Not great to have your friend’s blog pop up when you open up your GA account on the projector in a hurried meeting.
- Basic Help links and resources gone from the side nav.
Overall though, the improvements far outweigh the problems, and the home screen revamp gets two thumbs up from us.
Profile Dashboard – “Now, I’m a little lost” (One Thumb Down)
The dashboard is probably the biggest (and most shocking) change in the new version of GA. And you’re either really going to love it … or really hate it. The Google Analytics team believes that the Dashboard was the most underused feature, and set out to revamp it completely last year.
Things that have gotten better in the GA version 5 Dashboard:
- You can have multiple dashboards
- Because of the new URL structures, you can share links to these multiple dashboards
- They’re highly customizable – using a new widget structure, you can have very detailed control over what shows in the Dashboard.
Things that have gotten worse in the GA version 5 Dashboard:
- It’s moved to it’s own top navigation item. By default, an account opens up into the Visitors Overview. That’s a little misleading in the beginning.
- Tough to customize. Earlier, you could navigate to any piece of data in your account and “Add it to Dashboard”. Now, you gotto master the tricky widget system and be very sure about “Metrics” and “Dimensions”
- At the time of writing this, there is no way to export the data from a Dashboard into CSV, XML etc.
- PDF reports are gone!!! It’s not in this version, and the GA team might not add them back in, because they say it’s pretty hard to maintain them.
While a lot of thought has gone into it, and the GA team has worked hard to make this customizable – I’m personally a little stunned by the changes. In this case, I gotto give it one thumbs down.
Navigation – Very Thoughtfully Reorganized (Two Thumbs Up)
The side navigation has been subtly, but thoughtfully improved.
Things that have gotten better in the GA v 5 Navigation:
- A number of less relevant stats have been combined (e.g. Visit Duration & Page Depth, together are now Engagement)
- Tree structure within each major category (e.g. Visitors has Demographics, Behaviour & Technology)
- New AJAX-y behaviour lets you expand menus and see options without being forced to go into other sections.
- Elegantly allows for 6-7 levels of navigation (e.g. Login -> Account -> Profile -> My Site -> Reports -> Visitors -> Demographics ->Location)
Things that have gotten worse in the GA v 5 Navigation:
- Some Navigation choices a little arbitrary (Dashboard – My Site – Custom Reports are the three main categories??)
- In-Page Analytics missing in the current beta
- Benchmarking feature removed from GA for now
- No Email reports right now, hopefully they’ll be back soon
Although on paper, there are a couple of steps back here too – Overall, the positives are significantly better than negatives. And from us, this is a confident two thumbs up.
Pages & Other Features – Better Look, Worse Functionality (One Thumb Down)
The individual statistics pages have gotten a minor rehaul in appearance (look better, easier navigation) and a significant reduction in features (hopefully to be ironed out by end of BETA).
Things that have gotten better in the Google Analytics v 5 Pages:
- Sleeker appearance
- AJAX-y, nicer in-page navigation (important because many pages have been combined)
- Custom reports (not technically here) have gotten a upgrade to allow for filters within them
- Goals can now include Events (yayy)
- Cool, new “Term Cloud” view
Things that have gotten worse in the Google Analytics v 5 Pages:
- Email Options gone (sooo important)
- PDF downloads gone (sooo important)
Although there are only two major downsides, Email and PDF are two such critical features that their absence forces me to give a thumb down in this department. It would’ve been two thumbs down if it wasn’t for the numerous other navigational and feature upgrades. If they manage to fix these two features back to their original glory, I’m happy to change this area’s grade to two thumbs up.
Overall Grade and What To Do Next
If we average out the score of the four different areas we’ve reviewed … the final review for the current edition of Google Analytics is one (cautious) thumbs up! Hopefully, the kinks and missing features will return before this rolls out to all users and we can enthusiastically endorse it from the rooftops.
If your organization uses Google Analytics extensively, here’s a 5 step plan for you to get ready for Google Analytics version 5
- Sign up for the beta – If you haven’t yet, head down here to get your Google ID whitelisted for the beta. You’ll need to play around for a few days to get the hang of the new interface.
- Love the new Report Finder – Use this handy tool to see where your favourite old reports have gone in the new interface
- Leave Feedback & Ask Questions – The GA team is very responsive and there’s a strong user community in the GA forums
- Warn your occassional GA users – Those users who rarely login and get email reports, will experience little changes when this comes out of BETA. Warn them changes are coming and you’re watching over them.
- Organizing a Google Analytics Training for regular users – Your regular GA users who use the interface for data analysis, regularly run reports, implement GA code should get a detailed walkthrough and training of the changes that are coming.
If you would like us to come to your organization and run a 2-4 hour training outlining the changes for Google Analytics v5, drop us a message. Our training will cover the following topics and more:
- v5 Interface & Navigation changes
- v5 Functionality & Features changes
- The new “Widgets” and how to use them in a powerful fashion
- Multiple dashboards and their benefits
- Custom Reporting changes
- How to use the “Term Cloud” and “Pivot” functionality
- Advanced Segmentation and it’s common scenarios
- And anything else your complex installation needs!
You can reach us here to learn more about this program.
We want to thank the Google Analytics team for all their hard work in this upgrade, and the Google Analytics Certified Partners group for the lively discussion over these features. Happy Analyzing with GA v5!