In the wonderful novel by Garth Stein called The Art of Racing in the Rain, Enzo the dog narrates the story of his best friend Denny. Denny is a talented but overlooked race car driver whose specialty is racing in wet conditions, which are difficult and unpredictable circumstances, especially at high speeds. One of Denny's favorite racing aphorisms is “Look where you want to go”. This is apt advice, not just on a Formula One racetrack, but in many situations, including when you are building a website or mobile app.
Business in today’s economy could be viewed as a slippery high-speed endeavor, with conditions, markets, and competition changing on a moment’s notice. When you make an investment in a new website or a mobile app for iPhones or Android devices, keeping a focus on how that investment is performing against your goals is of paramount importance. Analytics tools are designed to help you do this, and some can even help you test your course corrections so you can get through those tight corners without drifting into the wall.
No one tool can do it all, so Xynergy® continually evaluates tools to help our clients get the most out their investment. Google Analytics is one of our go-to tools for websites, so much so that our marketing team is “Google Analytics Qualified.”. It’s a great tool for websites, and every client gets an account as part of our process. It’s possible to also use it for native mobile applications, but Google recognized that a tool designed for the web would not be ideal for mobile applications. So in 2014 Google acquired a company named Firebase, whose product line now includes app-specific analytics tools and tracking.
Including Firebase Analytics in your mobile application gives you immediate tracking of events that occur in your app.
Apps do not have “pages” or “sessions” the way websites do. Apps are primarily event-driven, and users jump in and out of them quickly. You touch a button or a part of a screen and the app responds in some way. Firebase can automatically track those interactions, while also capturing device configurations, user characteristics, purchase activity, event sequences of interest (often called “funnels”), engagement times, geographical regions, and user retention. This is all automatic in Firebase, but if a particular scenario needs additional attention, Firebase allows you to define your own custom events.
Firebase supports another valuable decision-making tool called A/B Testing.
Design decisions can be tough, and sometimes it is difficult to know whether particular phrases or colors are discouraging users from taking the actions you would expect them to take in your app. A/B Testing allows you to give random users slightly different versions of your app, containing the different options you would like to test for their effectiveness. So you test version A of your app against version B of your app, and then examine your analytics to see if one helps your users better than the other. Using this strategy over time, you can nudge your app into the inside lane!
It’s important to note that Firebase is not the only analytics tool for your app.
Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store provide overview data on app usage as part of their distribution services to you. Combine them with Firebase, and you can put together a detailed picture of your application’s performance.
All the tools mentioned in this article are available at no additional cost from their providers. There are a number of companies who advertise proprietary mobile analytics frameworks available for large licensing fees. If you are developing the next Angry Birds app and have Venture Capital funding, it’s quite possible that one of these tools is necessary. If not, try Firebase and let us know how it works for you!
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Stein, Garth. The Art of Racing in the Rain. New York: Harper Collins, 2008.