The Top Analytics Tools of 2021 for Web and Mobile Applications

THIRD PARTY-APIS

Reviewing prod­ucts and pro­vid­ing feed­back has evolved ex­ten­sively over the last 50 years. Focus groups used to be the method of choice and prod­uct man­agers would al­most need to pry out feed­back just to get some­thing con­struc­tive they could work on.

This was (and still is to some de­gree) the feed­back model for tan­gi­ble prod­ucts such as toys, cos­met­ics, ap­pli­ances, etc. but it is rid­dled with bias and does­n’t re­ally pro­vide the full story of how peo­ple use a prod­uct. Thankfully, with the dig­i­tal age, our shift from tan­gi­ble prod­ucts to on­line ap­pli­ca­tions has meant our abil­ity to cap­ture real-time us­age data has evolved ex­ten­sively.

At WorkingMouse, we de­velop soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions with an in­ten­tion of achiev­ing goals for our cus­tomers’ busi­ness and their cus­tomers. When we launch an ap­pli­ca­tion to mar­ket, there are cer­tain as­pects we need to track to en­sure the suc­cess of the ap­pli­ca­tion (i.e., achiev­ing the goals it was de­signed to do against data points).

Success track­ing el­e­ments of an ap­pli­ca­tion can take dif­fer­ent forms, we can track:

  • Conversions (e.g. sales)
  • Customer us­age data (the data of how cus­tomers/​users/​vis­i­tors use the soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tion/​web­site)
  • Overall per­for­mance of the ap­pli­ca­tion (e.g. when it’s crashed or has load­ing is­sues)
  • and many more!

Naturally, there is an ar­ray of track­ing plat­forms in the mar­ket that spe­cialise in track­ing the above el­e­ments and pre­sent­ing data in var­i­ous ways.

Before I get into my rec­om­mended an­a­lyt­ics pro­grams, I am go­ing to pick out a few as­pects I look for in choos­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent plat­forms.

1. Data rep­re­sen­ta­tion

When an an­a­lyt­ics plat­form starts to track us­age data, the sheer amount of num­bers pulling in can make some­one feel like they are in the ma­trix…be­lieve me, I have been there. And as much as I love a good spread­sheet of data, num­bers are mean­ing­less with­out value.

So, it is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant that the an­a­lyt­ics plat­form you choose is able to syn­the­sise data in a way that is leg­i­ble for you and your team. Your team might flour­ish with line graphs, where some might do bet­ter with heat maps.

What to ask your­self here is two-fold; does my team un­der­stand the story be­hind the num­bers from the graph­i­cal dash­boards pro­vided, and is this data rep­re­sented ac­cu­rately enough so the graph matches the story?

2. Mobile vs Web Technological Limitations

When im­ple­ment­ing an an­a­lyt­ics pro­gram, you will need to know what your tech­no­log­i­cal break­down is to en­sure the com­pat­i­bil­ity be­tween the an­a­lyt­ics pro­gram and us­age data. What I mean here is that some­times (now not as of­ten as it used to be), there are lim­i­ta­tions in an­a­lyt­ics plat­forms be­ing blocked by cer­tain code for­mats.

The best way to ap­proach this is to know what tech­nol­ogy stack/​s your ap­pli­ca­tion is writ­ten in. From here, head to the an­a­lyt­ics pro­grams’ doc­u­men­ta­tion and see if there is any lim­i­ta­tion — if they do have one, they are usu­ally pretty clear about it. Although, if you don’t think you have the full an­swer from their doc­u­men­ta­tion, hit them up! Submit a con­tact form and ask them di­rectly (and if they have no idea what you are talk­ing about…don’t use them!)

3. Developer Necessity

If you have used Google Analytics be­fore, or Google Tag Manager, you will know, there are code snip­pets that get slid into the back­end of your web­site. This is a sim­i­lar arrange­ment for an­a­lyt­ics plat­forms for soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions, plus a lit­tle more.

Because an­a­lyt­ics pro­grams track el­e­ments of your ap­pli­ca­tion, it is im­por­tant that you pin­point in the pro­gram which ar­eas need track­ing. Some pro­grams will need a de­vel­oper to hard­code these track­ing el­e­ments, whereas oth­ers al­low for these tags to be arranged on the front end (even by a non-tech­ni­cal per­son!).

If a de­vel­oper is needed to im­ple­ment the track­ing tags, just re­mem­ber that this can be costly and needs to be main­tained con­sis­tently. In say­ing this, the ac­cu­racy level is far greater when the tags are tracked by a de­vel­oper, so this will come down to your im­ple­men­ta­tion bud­get.

Below I am go­ing to high­light a few of my favourite an­a­lyt­ics soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions that are avail­able in the mar­ket cur­rently. Each of these have their own USP (unique sell­ing point) so when you are ready to choose, I en­cour­age you to re­call these high­lighted points as part of your de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

My Analytics Platform Recommendations

An illustration showing the various analytics tools discussed in this blog, including smartlook, pendo & fullstory, segmented into buget tiers for small, medium and large budgets.

Small Budget & New to Analytics

If this is the first time you have tapped into the an­a­lyt­ics space and re­ally don’t know where to start (because let’s be hon­est, it can be daunt­ing), I would rec­om­mend a few pro­grams:

1. Firebase

Firebase is what Google Analytics is for web­sites, ex­cept that is it for soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions. It is great at pulling in that pre­lim­i­nary data about how peo­ple are in­ter­act­ing with your plat­form, where they are log­ging in from and what de­vices/​op­er­at­ing sys­tems they are us­ing.

Firebase is free to a cer­tain ex­tent, the paid ver­sion kicks in af­ter a very high level of data stor­age, to which if you hit this point, you re­ally should be us­ing a dif­fer­ent an­a­lyt­ics plat­form (keep read­ing!).

I al­ways rec­om­mend that us­ing Firebase at the be­gin­ning of an ap­pli­ca­tions’ lifes­pan is use­ful in val­i­dat­ing user de­mo­graphic data, high traf­fic pe­ri­ods and pop­u­lar ar­eas of the ap­pli­ca­tion.

2. Smartlook

If you are new to us­ing an­a­lyt­ics plat­forms and are wor­ried about get­ting bogged down in the dash­boards and data, this is a good one to start with. Its un­com­pli­cated dash­board and lean fea­ture set mean that it is easy to fol­low for new an­a­lysts.

One of its most pop­u­lar fea­tures is the con­ver­sion fun­nels. I par­tic­u­larly like how in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of data from these con­ver­sion fun­nels, you can break down the drop-off points fur­ther and start to un­der­stand where po­ten­tial is­sues may be.

For ex­am­ple, when analysing a par­tic­u­lar ap­pli­ca­tion, I no­ticed a higher pro­por­tion of users on mo­bile drop­ping off at a cru­cial point. When look­ing into this fur­ther, I was able to watch a few ses­sion record­ings of this hap­pen­ing and no­ticed the main but­ton users needed to click to progress them to the next stage in the fun­nel was not an in­tu­itive po­si­tion. We were able to put some hours in, move the but­ton and voilà more con­ver­sions.

a screenshot of the smartlook analytics tool dashboard

3. Hotjar

Similar to Smartlook, Hotjar is not overly com­pli­cated in its rep­re­sen­ta­tion of data. It is a great re­source for vi­sual an­a­lysts. It com­piles user be­hav­iour into heatmaps of var­i­ous kinds, such as a scroll map, a click map and a move map. From this, an an­a­lyst can triage the data and pick out ar­eas of suc­cess or im­prove­ment.

An area of suc­cess, val­i­dated by the heat map, would be seen in a nav­i­ga­tion panel. Yes, it might seem that the nav­i­ga­tion panel is just a list of op­tions to click on, but there is a lot of re­search that goes into the de­sign of that or­der. Therefore, when this is val­i­dated, it’s a suc­cess. It might also be the op­po­site, the heatmap data could pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for im­prove­ment.

The use of Hotjar is great for a web ap­pli­ca­tion or a web­site. As with a mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion, there is a lot more move­ment on the screen so it is harder to cap­ture that in one map.

Medium Budget & Still Learning Analytics (but not a Beginner)

1. UXCam

This is an an­a­lyt­ics plat­form that is specif­i­cally de­signed to track na­tive mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions. This is great if your ap­pli­ca­tion is only avail­able on mo­bile. If your ap­pli­ca­tion is avail­able on web and mo­bile, then I would stick to a plat­form that of­fers both.

This an­a­lyt­ics ap­pli­ca­tion is de­signed to in­form mul­ti­ple team mem­bers mean­ing it is great for high user vol­ume ap­pli­ca­tions. An ex­am­ple of a high-vol­ume ap­pli­ca­tion is Instagram. It ex­cels in be­ing able to trans­form data sets for the ap­pro­pri­ate groups. For ex­am­ple, an ap­pli­ca­tions’ sales team are very in­ter­ested in churn rates, where the prod­uct team is more in­ter­ested in why users are churn­ing. Although these two as­pects are linked, the teams will analyse the data pre­sented to them dif­fer­ently and pro­vide dif­fer­ent ar­eas of im­prove­ment to en­sure the con­tin­ued suc­cess of the ap­pli­ca­tion.

2. MixPanel

I men­tioned ear­lier that choos­ing an an­a­lyt­ics plat­form should be in­flu­enced by the way the data is pre­sented, es­pe­cially in dash­boards. MixPanel has bril­liant (customisable) dash­boards. This means that de­pend­ing on your busi­ness ob­jec­tives, you can keep cer­tain KPIs at the fore­front of your mind con­tin­u­ously.

Another ben­e­fit of MixPanel is its abil­ity to seg­ment eas­ily. Creating seg­ments to drill down in the data is im­por­tant to un­der­stand your dif­fer­ent types of users/​cus­tomers. For ex­am­ple, if there is a par­tic­u­lar drop-off on a page in the ap­pli­ca­tion and we seg­ment the data to gain in­sight into the dif­fer­ent seg­ments in­volved, we can quickly find ar­eas of op­por­tu­nity.

This is a great tool if you have the bud­get to spend but also if you have an idea of how dif­fer­ent met­rics can paint a pic­ture on a dash­board. If you have never used a dash­board be­fore for cus­tom re­port­ing and seg­men­ta­tion, this pro­gram might be a lit­tle com­plex for you. You can al­ways start us­ing it fur­ther down the track.

3. Pendo

Pendo is rapidly gain­ing trac­tion glob­ally. It is a rel­a­tively new-to-mar­ket an­a­lyt­ics pro­gram and is al­ready gain­ing some pretty top-notch cus­tomers. It is a multi-app an­a­lyt­ics plat­form which means it can analyse web and mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions.

Similar to MixPanel, it also has cus­tomis­able dash­boards. Comparatively, these dash­boards fo­cus on fewer graphs to de­pict ar­eas of op­por­tu­nity. What I mean by this is the dash­board screen is­n’t a sea of 6 dif­fer­ent graphs, it’s a good mix of 3 or 4.

One of the main fea­tures of Pendo is its en­gage­ment func­tion­al­ity, mean­ing it pin­points ar­eas of low en­gage­ment from your users and can ad­dress ways to op­ti­mise this.

a screenshot of the Pendo anayltics tool dashboard

Large Budget & Expert Software Analyst

1. Amplitude

This fea­ture-rich an­a­lyt­ics ap­pli­ca­tion comes at a steeper price point, but don’t let that be a de­ter­rent. Amplitude (or more specif­i­cally, Amplitude Analytics) is a ro­bust an­a­lyt­ics prod­uct that sits with a range of other prod­ucts within the Amplitude fam­ily.

When deal­ing with huge prod­ucts that are re­leased to the en­tire world, hav­ing a pro­gram that is part of (or in­te­grates bril­liantly with) a big­ger net­work, can work in your favour. These kinds of an­a­lyt­ics plat­forms are great for ap­pli­ca­tions that also need to ad­ver­tise, grow a com­mu­nity, (or on some oc­ca­sions) man­age staff, but most im­por­tantly, co­he­sively de­liver the same brand ex­pe­ri­ence.

This might sound a lit­tle off-topic, but think about it - you can open some ap­pli­ca­tions (such as Facebook or Linkedin) and know ex­actly what ap­pli­ca­tion you are on due to the brand­ing. I guar­an­tee that if some­thing looked out of place, as in not on brand (e.g. a colour or font change) you might not nec­es­sar­ily pick up ex­actly what is dif­fer­ent, but you would know some­thing is not quite right.

2. Upland (aka Localytics)

Similar to Amplitude, Upland is the par­ent com­pany of a range of prod­ucts that as­sist the suc­cess of an ap­pli­ca­tion (mobile and web). Localytics is its an­a­lyt­ics arm which is fea­ture-rich, highly in­te­grable and great for high vol­ume ap­pli­ca­tions. Upland can gain in­for­ma­tion about cus­tomers from both web and mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions, while Localytics is their mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion-spe­cific an­a­lyt­ics prod­uct.

As one of Upland’s sub-prod­ucts houses the abil­ity to mar­ket the ap­pli­ca­tion, the user jour­ney from the mo­ment of lead to cus­tomer can be tracked the en­tire way through their sys­tem. Moreover, by us­ing a fleet of prod­ucts housed by one brand, they can seam­lessly in­te­grate and pro­vide in­sight about each cus­tomer at every stage of the buy­er’s jour­ney.

3. Full Story

My ab­solute favourite an­a­lyt­ics plat­form to use and the one that got me hooked on an­a­lyt­ics in the first place is Full Story. Why I like this par­tic­u­lar an­a­lyt­ics soft­ware is that it clearly la­bels dash­boards and ar­eas of im­prove­ment.

In say­ing this, I have placed it in this cat­e­gory be­cause it takes a de­cent amount of know-how and an­a­lyt­ics back­ground to set up seg­ments, dash­boards and other ar­eas of the plat­form to make it a suc­cess for you. Luckily, I worked with a prod­uct man­ager to de­sign how each of our seg­ments should look and what in­for­ma­tion would be use­ful to us to fur­ther the im­prove­ment of the ap­pli­ca­tion we were work­ing on.

It’s a costly piece of soft­ware, but it saved me and the prod­uct team nu­mer­ous hours of triag­ing data sets so we could make knowl­edge­able de­ci­sions and progress the ap­pli­ca­tion.

a screenshot of the Fullstory analytics tool dashboard

There are a lot of op­tions out there, and new ones are hit­ting the mar­ket con­stantly. From a suc­cess point of view, hav­ing the abil­ity to proac­tively analyse how users are in­ter­act­ing with an ap­pli­ca­tion is a sys­tem­atic way to im­prove the user ex­pe­ri­ences through con­tin­u­ous it­er­a­tion and re­ceive pos­i­tive re­sults. As we saw in 3 Strategies for Product Growth, con­struc­tive crit­i­cism of a prod­uct is cru­cial to mar­ket pen­e­tra­tion and the growth of your ap­pli­ca­tion.

If you are con­sid­er­ing build­ing cus­tom soft­ware and im­ple­ment­ing an­a­lyt­ics tools on your next pro­ject, reach out to us for a free Product Strategy ses­sion!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Spies

KPI mo­ti­va­tor and res­i­dent head chef

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