Sunday, September 14, 2008

"I hate hate hate hate the new SiteMeter."

ALERT: This blog post is now outdated -- see "UPDATE #3" below.


That's my mom's reaction to SiteMeter's revamped website, which debuted today. And I fully agree.

For those who don't know, SiteMeter is the website you get to if you click the little icon at the very bottom of the right-hand sidebar of this blog. It's the most popular service for giving people information about their website's traffic.

Or I should say, it was the most popular such service. I have to assume everyone will desert it now. And I just have a free account; as for the paying users, I can't imagine they'd want to actually spend money on this.

If you search for "sitemeter" on Google Blog Search right now, you get blogger after blogger complaining about the redesign. A representative sample of blog post titles:

I Hate The New Sitemeter

Bye-bye SiteMeter

The New Sitemeter is much much worse

New Sitemeter Really Sucks

They've ruined SiteMeter

The new Sitemeter is useless

A lot of people are saying the main new feature they'd like to see is an option to use the old design.

This blogger is immediately setting to work on programming a new traffic-tracking site for his wife's blog. He says:
My wife loves looking through the SiteMeter stats on her blog.... Today she was frustrated to find she can no longer access those stats. SiteMeter redid their user interface for free accounts, so that it is very difficult to actually access the stats. I waded through it for a while trying to find the stats, and someone as computer illiterate as my wife would never find it.

So, I told I'd have to build her a traffic meter. She jumped in glee that I'd be able to do that....

In the mean time SiteMeter will be gone since if the stats are unreadable, it's of no real purpose anymore.
Of course, that last sentence is what it's all about. SiteMeter seems to have failed to realize the purpose of their own website -- they were too distracted by frills, toys, gizmos, gimmicks.

I'm not seeing any positive comments from bloggers.

Well, I have seen an occasional comment along the lines of "Yes, it's prettier, but it's harder to use." But that's wrong! It's not prettier. It's a lot fancier. But that's not the same thing. The old version was a classic example of a basic, well-functioning website. It wasn't beautiful, but at least it was simple, and simplicity counts for a lot. The redesign has no focus. There are no orderly visual motifs that organize the information in a way that helps you understand what's being presented to you.

The type is extremely small, bordering on unreadable, and it can't be enlarged. It's like they didn't test this out on anyone before they launched it.

On top of all that, everything is slower (presumably because it now uses Flash). I'd be fine with that if it were a trade-off for real features. But the redesigned SiteMeter doesn't have "features" in the sense of "things you'd want to use."

I can't believe there are people who actually got paid to create this redesign and recommend implementing it. Why wasn't there anyone in charge who stepped in and said, "Wait, we can't do this -- it's just not good enough"?

What a huge mistake.

Time to figure out Google Analytics ...


A commenter over at my mom's site has some insight into the "What were they thinking?" question:
This type of change is the sign of a program manager trying to justify his salary. I've been seeing it all the time at the software companies I work at.

Note that by putting it into Flash, the program manager makes this content inaccessible to people with visual acuity issues. But hey, pretty colors! ...

Truly, young software developers are the most selfish and self-absorbed people in the world.
And this other commenter sums up the whole thing as concisely as possible:
The New Coke of websites!


I've added StatCounter. (Thanks to the commenter on my mom's blog who recommended it.)

You can see the StatCounter near the top of the sidebar of this blog. (If it's not there when you're reading this, check the very bottom of the screen -- I might move it later.)

I've just spent a few minutes browsing some of the features, and I'm tentatively convinced that StatCounter is even better than the old SiteMeter design, and a fortiori better than the new-and-destroyed SiteMeter. For instance, you can see the total percentages of how much traffic you're getting from each search term and referring site, whereas SiteMeter gives this info only to those with paid accounts; if you have a free SiteMeter account, you can also see those data, but only listed individually for each visitor rather than aggregated into percentages.

Again, that's just something I've noticed in the first few minutes -- I'll report back later on how I ended up liking StatCounter. But I have no doubt that it's better than the new SiteMeter.


Well, SiteMeter listened to us! They're changing it back.

They "apologize for the botched rollout," and they claim that future redesigns will be done smoothly.

But wow, I've never lost total confidence in a website so suddenly. I wonder whether most SiteMeter users will accept the quick correction to the problem, or whether this has permanently undermined their confidence in SiteMeter.

In my case, that won't matter, though, because SiteMeter has given me an excuse to check out competing sites by so thoroughly screwing up their own site. And it seems pretty clear that StatCounter, not SiteMeter, is the way to go. I mentioned some of its advantages over SiteMeter in the previous update. The statistics are comprehensive and aggregated instead of just piecemeal, though you still have the option to see the piecemeal data if you want. I also see that the free account shows you the past 500 visitors, which is 5 times as many as SiteMeter shows. [CORRECTION: I believe StatCounter just shows you the past 500 pageviews, not visitors -- so that's slightly less than I thought, but still much better than SiteMeter.]

So as of today, you'll only be seeing the StatCounter counter on this blog, not the SiteMeter -- thanks to SiteMeter!


Anonymous said...

Site Meter is one guy, David Smith. There's no program manager.

Anonymous said...

Then David Smith should've used his spare time on other stuff instead of tinkering with his web site.

This package is now completely, officially useless.

Simon said...

SiteMeter made the right call in rolling back, but their response really doesn't give one any confidence that they've learned their lesson. It talks about the care they will show in rolling out future changes, and focuses on the "premature" rollout of "new" sitemeter, but the problem wasn't that the new site rolled out too early, it was that no one liked the new version. Not all products need to be changed; some of them are just fine as they are and the best thing that management can do is benign neglect.