Piwik 1.0: A Review
October 30th, 2010
Piwik aims to be an open source alternative to Google Analytics. As a longterm user of Google's offerings I didn't really want to switch permanently but being a lover of all things open source I was interested by how this service would compare. My web host provider, Dreamhost offered a one-click install of Piwik so for me installation was a breeze but let me know if you have any experience with setting it up manually.
Once you've got it installed you're greeted with this:
Fairly attractive, but the fun starts when you login and this is what you have at your disposal:
Firstly, please don't laugh at my low visitor count. Secondly, all of those little graphs and displays are fully interactive, I thought because it's all open source that it would be done with Canvas and CSS but it's primarily Flash (same as Google Analytics).
A really nice feature is being able to see a real time display with a little icon showing where their from, their browser, how they got there, and what pages they were looking at. By default, Piwik will always start with yesterday's information but changing time periods is as simple as selecting them from the date picker which is simpler than Google's approach of typing in dates.
Piwik uses tag clouds to show you certain pieces of data like 'how long has a visitor stayed on my site?' which gives a really quick visual representation, sure it has bar charts for it as well but I thought it was a fairly novel approach. Being able to see visitors come in live is another brilliant feature, there's something, dare I say it, heartwarming when you see someone access your site.
Also, just like Google Analytics the whole dashboard interface is fully customisable the same way as Google's is by dragging and dropping modules. I must admit though, I've found the default layout to be super and apart from a slight rearranging to decrease scrolling have left it be. Useful modules that you could include can be found under the widgets menu at the top. These guys have thought about the details, hovering over a menu will bring up a submenu for example, under the main category of 'Referrers' we have a selection of 'List of keywords', 'List of campaigns', 'Best search engines' to name a few. Then hovering over one of these brings up the widget itself with the actual information it'll display so it'll perform the data analysis there and then so you can see if you think it'll be useful or not. If you so wish you can export certain data and graphs as either HTML, an image or as a dataset.
So why would you change from Google Analytics? Well, as I already mentioned it's open source but another thing that I like is that you own your own data, no longer is it stored on Google's servers and susceptible to whatever it is Google do with their data. It's also quite nice going to analytics.domain.com as opposed to using Google's, just a +1 geek point there. As you can tell, I love this and highly recommend that you give it a go. Even if you're fine with Google Analytics as I was, supporting services like Piwik will keep the open source web community going and it'll only get better as more people become aware of it.