Google announced March 17 that it would be rolling out a major revision of its free web analytics software, Google Analytics, raising it from version 4 to 5. The enhancements are essentially to the user interface, in an attempt to make it more customizable, more user friendly and better organized, as well as more competitive with other analytics packages.
The major UI change is the addition of "widgets" that can be positioned on the screen to create a custom view comprising different data points. AJAX-based screen layouts have become a standard feature in other analytics packages such as Omniture Sitesearch and Webtrends, so Google is playing catch up to a degree, but clearly it was a necessary (and welcome) feature as more and more reports have been added to GA's interface.
The ubiquitous line chart that tracks activity over time has been augmented with a motion chart (it existed before, but was hard to find), which shows activity trending using colored points instead of continuous lines.
Some traffic sources and content reports can now be organized to display a “term cloud” visually differentiating keywords by size instead of displaying them in rows.
This feature will be useful for quickly assessing the most effective keywords on your website, as well as which have the highest bounce rates.
Though much of the content and features are still here, reports deemed less useful or popular by the GA team have been removed, and many of the sections have been renamed. “Visitors” has been split into “Demographic Reports” and “Technology Reports”, separating user data from underlying tech data like browsers and ISPs. Google notes that this is to make the interface more “user friendly” to non-technical users.
Major changes have been made to the custom reports section, allowing you to apply filters directly to reports instead having to first create advanced segments, and the ability to create “flat” reports with multiple dimensions displayed in columns of data, a feature which has been a component of other analytics packages for some time.
Google Analytics version 5 is still in beta, but like the Caffeine update to the search engine, it will be rolled out in different markets in the near future. We’ll post more info on this new GUI as it becomes available.