Web Analytics vs Mobile App Analytics


Chapter 02

Desktop Tablet

Analytics Tools include web analytics and mobile app analytics.

  • Web Analytics works on websites, uses JavaScript-based tracking codes to collect data, and identifies unique users with cookies.
  • Mobile app analytics works on apps (that run on mobile or tablet devices), uses SDKs to collect data, and identifies unique users with IDs (IDFA for iOS and/or AID for Android).

This is the Big List of 200+ analytics tools which are currently available in the world.

Websites

Web pages are coded mainly in HTML/CSS/JavaScript.

  • HTML defines the structure (or layout) of the pages.
  • CSS provides the look-and-feel of the pages.
  • JavaScript defines how users can interact with the pages.

Of course, most websites have to communicate with the backend (i.e. databases), and the codes may be written in PHP, Python, Java, Ruby, Asp.Net, etc. We aren't going to cover this topic.

Web Analytics Tools

The major objective of web analytics tools is to track data on websites.

Depending on the specific web analytics tool that you are using, usually a JavaScript based tracking code must be placed on each page of your website. When the tracking code has been implemented, the web analytics tool starts to track the data.

Scope of Web Analytics

Web analytics tools have been developed to solely track data for websites, whether the websites are optimized for desktop screens or mobile screens.

User -> Desktop -> Web Browser -> Website (Optimized for Desktop or Tablet) -> JavaScript-based Tracking Code -> Data Collection -> Data Processing -> Data Reports Appears in Web Analytics Tools

User -> Mobile -> Web Browser -> Website (Optimized for Mobile) -> JavaScript-based Tracking Code -> Data Collection -> Data Processing -> Data Reports Appears in Web Analytics Tools

How Websites Identify Unique Users

Websites identify unique users with cookies.

Cookies have been used on websites for many years. Cookies enables users to perform certain actions on websites. For example, the first time a user visits a ecommerce website and places an item in the shopping cart, but hasn't completed the entire transaction. A cookie has been placed on this user's web browser (e.g. Chrome) in order to remember him/her (and the item he/she places in the shopping cart). The second time the same user comes back to the ecommerce website and browses to his/her shopping cart. He/she sees his/her item in the shopping cart and continue to complete the transaction. Without a cookie, the website would not have been able to remember the shopping cart item for the user.

For web analytics tools, cookies are placed on users' web browsers. During subsequent visits of the same user to the website, the website will remember the user is the same person (cookie).

Below is an example of how the web browser cookie looks like.

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Set-Cookie: AHSID=AARONmxn67; Domain=example.com; Path=/; Expires=Wed, 13 Nov 2018 15:18:00 GMT; Secure; HttpOnly

The cookie's name is AHSID, and its value is AARONmxn67.

Issues of Using Cookies to Identify Unique Users

The cookies which were previously stored on the web browsers won't work for identifying unique users when:

  • A user switches to a different web browser (e.g. Firefox) from the web browser (e.g. Chrome) he/she was visiting your website last time.
  • A user switches to a new desktop computer and from this new desktop computer he/she visits your website.
  • A user visited your website through his/her desktop computer, but this time he/she visits your website from his/her mobile phone's web browser.
  • A user deletes cookies from his/her web browsers before he/she visits your website.

Mobile Apps

In mobile apps, the “pages” you can see aren't actually web pages that are coded in HTML/CSS/JavaScript. The pages on a mobile app is known as screens.

For example, an iPhone runs the iOS operating system. Mobile apps running on iPhones (and/or iPads) are coded mainly in Objective-C and/or Swift.

For example, an Android phone runs the Android operating system. Mobile apps running on Androids are coded mainly in Java.

Mobile App Analytics Tools

The major objective of mobile app analytics tools is to track data on mobile apps.

Depending on the specific mobile app analytics tool that you are using, usually a SDK (software development kit) must be implemented on your mobile app. When the SDK has been implemented, the mobile app analytics tool starts to track the data.

Note that mobile phones from different vendors are installed with different operating systems that are incompatible to one another. SDKs are operating system dependent.

  • An iOS SDK must be developed to specifically install and track data on mobile phones (i.e. iPhones) which are running the iOS operatin system.
  • An Android SDK must be developed to specifically install and track data on mobile phones (i.e. Android phones) which are running the Android operating system.
  • Other SDK must be developed to specifically install and track on mobile phones which are running other operating systems. Note, we aren't going cover the topics of mobile phones and operating systems other than iPhones / iOS and Android phones / Android operating system.

Scope of Mobile App Analytics

Mobile app analytics tools have been developed to solely track data for mobile apps, whether the apps are installed on iPhone/iPad (i.e. iOS) or Android. Note, we aren't going to discuss mobile app analytics tools for mobile operating systems other than iOS and Android.

User -> Mobile -> iOS App -> SDK (for iOS) -> Data Collection -> Data Processing -> Data Reports Appears in Mobile App Analytics Tools

User -> Mobile -> Android App -> SDK (for Android) -> Data Collection -> Data Processing -> Data Reports Appears in Mobile App Analytics Tools

How Mobile Apps Identify Unique Users

Mobile apps identify unique users with some unique device / operating system IDs.

iOS uses IDFAs (Identifier for Advertisers) to identify unique iPhone (and/or iPad) users. An IDFA is a 32-digit string in which the format is 8-4-4-4-12. Example of an IDFA:

6D92078A-8246-4BA4-AE5B-76104861E7DC

Android uses AIDs (Advertising IDs) to identity unique Android phone users. An AID is a 32-digit string in which the format is 8-4-4-4-12. Example of an AID:

51a463b6-6faa-4cc0-afb6-1deb91661fbb

Issues of Using IDFAs and AIDs to Identify Unique Users

IDFAs and AIDs have some issues when they are used for identifying unique users on iPhones and Android phones respectively.

  • IDFAs can be reset by iPhone (and/or iPad) users, An AIDs can be reset by Android phone users.
  • After re-installing the operating system on your phone, the IDFAs and/or AIDs are reset.

Why Identifying Unique Users is Important?

On websites, you identify unique users with cookies. On mobile apps, you identify unique users with IDFAs and/or AIDs depending on the type of phones and/or operating systems.

The reason behind this is for in-depth data analysis of your users, you will want to build the click stream (or even the conversion funnel) of each user.


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