iPad, Mobile Analytics, and Web Analytics 3.0
If you follow me on Twitter (@erictpeterson) you are likely already annoyingly aware that I rushed right out last week and bought Apple’s new iPad. I got the device for a few reasons but fundamentally it was because I’m a technology geek–always have been really–and despite knowing the iPad will only get better over time I was happy to shell out $500 to see what the future of computing and all media would look like.
Yeah, I see the iPad as the future of computing and all media. Bold, sure, but hear me out … and I promise I’ll make this relevant to web analytics, eventually.
I believe that all that the “average user” of any technology really wants is a simple solution to whatever problem they may have at the time. At a high level people look towards their operating system to simplify access to the multitude of applications and documents they use; at a lower level we want our applications to simplify whatever process we’re undertaking.
Proof points for my belief are everywhere, ranging from the adoption of speed dial on phones (simplifies calling your friends and family), power seats in cars (simplifies getting comfortable when you switch drivers), and even into web analytics where a substantial growth driver behind Google Analytics has been the profound simplicity with which important tasks such as custom report creation and segmentation are accomplished.
The iPad, and to some extent the iPhone and it’s clones, absolutely crushes simplicity in a way that is simultaneously brilliant and powerful. Want to read a book? Touch the iBooks application, touch the book you want, and start reading. Want to send an email? Touch the Mail app, touch the new icon, and start writing. Want to play a game or send an SMS or Tweet something? It all works exactly the same way … tap, swipe, smile.
Sure, the iPad is a little heavier than is optimal, and yeah it shows fingerprints and costs a lot of money and isn’t open source and … blah, blah, blah, blah. The complainers are gonna complain no matter what–you’re Apple or your not in this world I guess. But the complainers I think fail to grasp the opportunity the iPad creates:
- The iPad takes mobile computing to an entirely new level. With iPad you have a 1.5 lb device that will let you read, write, watch, and generally stay connected from just about anywhere for up to 10 hours between charging. What computer or phone does that? None that I know of, and so iPad gives us a simple answer to “I need to work but I’m away from the office.”
- The iPad enforces usability of applications, and this is a very good thing. The complainers complain that Apple asserts too much control over app design via their App Store acceptance processes. Apparently these folks haven’t used enough crappy software in their lifetimes and are hungry for more. Apple’s model and their application design toolkit gives us a simple answer to “I wish this software was easier to use.”
- The iPad changes media consumption forever. Despite the Flash-issue, one I suspect will become a non-issue very quickly thanks to the adoption of HTML5, the iPad is the most amazing media consumption device ever created. It is a portable, high-definition TV, it is a near-complete movie library, it provides access to hundreds of thousands of books, and it allows you to surf the Internet in a way that can only be described as “delightful”. By definition the iPad gives us a simple answer to “I wish I had a way to keep my books, my movies, my newspapers, my TV shows, … all of my media, in a single place that could be accessed anytime from anywhere.”
- The iPad changes education forever. I’m making a bet that by the time my first grade daughter hits middle school a significant number of children will carry iPads to school, not expensive, heavy, and immediately out-dated textbooks. Think about this for a second: interactive textbooks that can be updated as easily as a web site, think about young people’s media consumption model today, and think for just a second about why Apple would be motivated to provide “significant educational discounts” for the device. The iPad in schools gives us a simple answer to “How can we provide a common platform for learning that any student or teacher can immediately master and reflects our rapidly changing world?”
Think that last piece isn’t important? Have a look at the image at the right, sent to me by @VABeachKevin (thanks man!) where he has already translated all three of my books into the ePub format and placed them on his iBooks bookshelf! This collection gives any web analyst with the iPad instant access to hundreds of pages of web analytics insight, anywhere, anytime. How cool is that?
(And heck, these aren’t even Jim, Avinash, or Bryan’s books … I bet Kevin’s converting those as we speak!)
I suspect you cannot appreciate this until you have one in your hands but the iPad has or soon will remove the necessity to purchase printed books, newspapers, and magazines. More importantly it gives the holder the ability to work efficiently from nearly any location around the world–all you need is a Wifi connection today and later this month that will be augmented with a 3G option.
Yeah, I’m an Apple fanboy, and yeah, I’m lucky to be able to drop $500 on technology without giving it much thought, but wait and see … I bet the adoption curve on the iPad will very much mirror the iPhone which is essentially ubiquitous these days. And just wait until someone develops a full-featured web analytics data viewer that takes advantage of all the pinching, swiping, dragging, and zoom UI capabilities of the iPad, that will simply be awesome! Imagine:
- Scrolling along through time by simply swiping left or right
- Zooming in on data by tapping or dragging across several dates
- Adding metrics and dimensions by dragging them onto the existing graph or table
- Changing from graph to table by simply rotating the device
Total “Minority Report” for web analytics … and I bet we see this within nine months time. In fact, if you’re a Apple developer looking for an awesome project … call me! I’d love to help guide a team developing next-generation web analytics interfaces on tablet computers.
Why This Matters to Web Analytics Professionals
I said I would try and make this relevant to web analytics practitioners so here I go. The iPad matters to measurement folks for exactly the reason I outlined back in September, 2007 when I first wrote about mobile’s impact on digital measurement. Web Analytics 3.0, a term I coined at the time and one I still use, is essentially the addition of a completely new dimension for analysis: user location.
In a digitally ubiquitous world–again one I described in 2007 that has more or less come to pass (although the prediction was kind of like predicting gridlock in Washington or rain in Oregon in April)–where a visitor is accessing information from becomes increasingly important and adds potentially significant context to any analysis we conduct. Location coupled with the device they’re using will likely have a profound impact on their likelihood to transact or otherwise use your site.
For example, a visitor accessing your site from home will likely have different needs and goals than one in their car, in an airport, in a coffeeshop, or in one of your competitors stores. In a world where an increasing number of visits are “out of home/out of office” visits conducted using mobile devices our collective approach towards analysis needs to change, perhaps dramatically.
To be fair, this is not something you need to solve and resolve today. While our ability to discern and differentiate mobile visits is getting better all the time, our overall analytical capabilities for mobile including the ability to tie mobile, fixed web, and offline visitors together is still unfortunately complicated. On top of that, while applications are increasingly able to pass over geographic information, most web browsers are not, and so our ability to gather large quantities of this data are still limited …
… at least for the time being.
For now I stand by what I said back in 2007–digital ubiquity and location-awareness changes everything. Back then the devices and platforms were just an idea; now we have the iPhone and it’s clones, the iPad is about to usher in a new era of mobile computing, Google and Apple are both behind mobile advertising, and the full scope of our analytical challenges are just beginning to emerge. If you’re struggling with how to measure your mobile investment and thinking about how that strategy needs to evolve please consider giving us a call.
What do you think? Do you have an iPad or do you refuse to purchase one? Why or why not? Have you already started to struggle measuring mobile devices or do you have it all worked out? Is this all as exciting to you as it is to me? As always I welcome your thoughts and comments.