In my first post, we examined the advantages and disadvantages of server-side data collection and analysis. Although the generated reports can be useful, they have their flaws. Today, we look at the alternative…
Client-side Data Collection and Analysis
Unfortunately, there are several drawbacks:
HTML pages only
It is only possible to analyze web pages which return HTML — the systems can not record CSS, images, MP3 or PDF file access. Google Analytics allows you to add on-click handlers to file download links, but there is no guarantee users will click them (they could receive the file URL via an email).
Script code must be manually added to every page you want to monitor. If you accidentally omit a page, it will never be recorded in your reports.
No historical data
Statistics can only be recorded from the point the script is added: it is not possible to generate historical reports.
Although many client-side analyzers produce great-looking and informative reports, the data collection process is inherently more volatile than server-side methods.
In the final post, we look at global statistics systems and summarize when, where, and how statistics can be useful.
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.