Stop Being Anal

Today I removed Google Analytics from my website. I realised that I had no real intention of doing anything with the data that I was collecting.

Google Analytics may be a useful tool; if you want evidence for things like “what browsers do people use?” or other technical information.

For this website I have no intention of doing this. I don’t care what the bounce rate is. I don’t care which of my pages gets the most traffic. This website is a vanity project. It’s not a service for people, just something I wanted to do.

Do I need to gather my own evidence that people use mobile devices and different browsers? I already know that people do, so what insight am I gaining?

I had been thinking about doing this for a while. Privacy is probably the biggest issue for the web to address.

I get why agencies and designers include analytics on websites. The idea of the feedback loop is a staple of design thinking.

Services like Google Analytics allow us to do this anonymously; without interruption for the user. This seems like a good idea with no downside.

But scandals like Cambridge Analytica and Facebook we see analysis turn into surveillance. Along with the existence of bodies like GCHQ who monitor everything, people are rightly concerned.

The problem for many – myself included – is that we use these companies all the time. I have multiple Google accounts, use iCloud, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter and so on. Simply “not using” them is difficult.

For instance at work we setup Google Analytics on every project. Clients even ask for it.

But here’s the rub: we never look at it. And I’m pretty sure the clients don’t either.

That beggars the question, why bother?

I think it goes back to intent and, to put it simply, whether you have one or not. We sell analytics on the perceived benefit of real data. But gathering data on it’s own is a pointless exercise.

If you have a reason then, by all means, consider using analytics. Otherwise you’re probably better off without.

I have no reason so I’ve gone with the latter.

— Alexander Blackman