The Windows 8 and Windows Phone developer dashboards offer some fantastic and useful metrics without developers having to lift a finger. This is great for tracking the basics such as purchases, downloads, & crashes but if you’re serious about understanding your users and improving your apps, you’ll quickly realize there are easily dozens of questions this data fails to answer. Or maybe you just want near real time information.
In a quest to improve my own apps: PuzzleTouch for Windows Phone and PuzzleTouch for Windows 8, I created the Google Analytics SDK for Windows 8 and Windows Phone and am excited to share my work with other developers. This SDK is a full featured Google Analytics client-side open source library to help your app report data to the new Google Analytics service just released last month. It supports both Windows 8 store apps and Windows Phone 7 & 8 apps and includes the same features offered in the Google Analytics SDKs for iOS and Android.
Aren’t there already some great open source Google Analytics libraries out there for Win8 and WP developers?
The short answer: Yes, but they don’t work with the latest version of Google Analytics. If you want all the great new features supported today by Google Analytics or if you are setting up Google Analytics for your app for the first time, you are are required to use an SDK that supports the new Google Analytics Measurement Protocol. This new protocol is completely different from the older UTM protocol and is not backward compatible. As far as I am aware, no others libraries exist at the time of this post.
Find out more on the Google Analytics for Windows 8 and Windows Phone SDK CodePlex page about how and if this affects your existing apps.
What additional features does the new Google Analytics service include?
The ability to track and filter by app name and version.
This is extremely powerful and allows you to:
- Create one property for all your apps (Windows 8, Windows Phone, Android, iOS, …etc) and use filters to view them separately.
- On the flip side, it also allows you to compare all apps against each other.
- Create arbitrary filters to allow you to group certain apps (for example, you could see data for both the WP7 and WP8 version of your app as well as see that data separately.
- Radically change what data you track from one version to the next and create a new filter to only view data from newer versions of your app without loosing old data or having it pollute new data.
- Track different editions of the same app. For example, you might have a free and a paid version that you want to track together yet be able to filter on.
Track exceptions and crashes
The Windows Phone and Windows Store dashboard both offer a way to see stack traces from crashes. However, the Windows store requires some effort to see your stack traces (for Xaml based apps) and both take at least two days before data data shows up (often much longer from my experience).
When you release a new version of your app, one of the most valuable things you could possibly know is “did I break something”? The new Google Analytics service offers a great way to capture errors (handled and unhandled) in near real-time so you can analyze what went wrong and try to ship a fix before more users are affected. Don’t think you’re immune to needing this! :)
Custom dimensions and metrics
Custom dimensions and custom metrics are like default dimensions and metrics (e.g. sessions and page views), except you create them yourself. You can use them to collect up to 200 data points that Google Analytics doesn’t automatically track. These offer numerous advantages to the old custom variable feature. Read more about custom dimensions and metrics.
Screen views and more
If you’re familiar with the classic version of Google Analytics, you may remember that screen views were displayed as page views. Google Analytics classic tried to treat your app like a website and with it came irrelevant information such as bounce rate and referrers. The new version of Google Analytics knows if you’re tracking an app and the reporting tools have been overhauled to easily help you find information relevant for apps, not websites.
Additionally, there are some additional improvements to allow you to tie custom events to specific screens in your app. No longer will you have to create 2 different events and prefix the name with the name of the page from whence it came.
Possibly the best new feature of all is E-Commerce tracking. Now you can treat transactions like transactions and not have to stuff them in custom events with overloaded point values. Google Analytics easily shows you how much money you’re making in your currency of choice and information about what lead up to a purchase.
Plus, there are many other new features in Google Analytics like app timings (e.g. how long did it take my game play screen to load?), social network tracking (e.g. do users like sharing on FaceBook or Twitter more?), and much more.
How do I get started?
If you have an iOS or Android app, Google has already built SDKs for you.
The Google Analytics SDK for Windows 8 and Windows Phone is free and open source under the Ms-PL license (basically don’t sue me and use it for whatever you want).
What about other 3rd party analytics services?
There are other 3rd party analytics services available today with their own SDK. Some of these might be better than Google Analytics but I haven’t had a chance to check them out personally. Feel free to post a comment from your own experience with another analytics services.