Piwik’s Live Visitors

Users seem to rarely have any influence over the design of much custom software so it is possible to be in the situation where post-release no-one knows how the software is actually being used. Web analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Piwik provide a relatively cheap way for website based systems to get statistical information on entry and exit pages, durations of stays, repeat visits and so on. Sometimes though you really wish you could be standing behind the shoulder of a user and see what they are clicking on.

Recently I’ve been using Piwik, an open-source web analytics tool hosted locally, and its “Live Visitors!” tool to get a simple view onto this. In near real-time you can see the URL of each page a user visits pop up which you can then use to follow them with. Visitors are ordered from the top of the page by most recent hit on the site, whether the site was reached directly or if not the referrer site, then a marker for each page on the site that the visitor has hit. Hovering over the page marker will show you the URL.

Looking at the screen shots you can no doubt imagine how quickly one could get overwhelmed by lots of traffic, however the concrete trace of activity can provide a lot of clues beyond the other aggregate recordings.

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