Keys-by-TEARN mobile platform
Diary of a passionate, tech Dad
from TEARN i.e. teach to learn

Jan 27, 2011

Challenge of Mobile Metrics

The combination of mobile phones and tablets has caused a sea-change for Internet use. These new devices are expected to become the dominate means to access the new web --- driving the majority of website views. Unfortunately, the legacy tools that track this change has not been updated. This article extends the description of the problems.

Mobile Challenges

Legacy systems use cookies to track visitors and page views. Advanced systems like Google Analytics (GA) track exits on a page - to determine the length of a visit. The exit monitor depends on an HTTP feature that often fails.

The combination of failed cookies and slower networks with mobile devices causes GA to understate actual use by 70% or worse. In other words, GA captures only 2 of 10 actual page views.

The problem gets worse.

Apps Versus Web Pages

Is an app just a web page? Updated with HTML5 features?

This past article concludes that an app can replace a website, but a website is not always an app. Let's take a more detailed look at the problem.
  • App View: Each Keys app is equivalent to a 500+ page book. The entire book is downloaded in one HTTP request. Legacy systems track an app view as only one page view.
  • Page View: Users flick through the pages of an app - which is not tracked by legacy systems. Since tracking of every page change can impact performance on slow mobile networks and devices, we sample app use to track page views. Our sample shows that users can flick through one to 50 pages per app. The mean is double digits, but the variance is extremely high.
  • Slide View: Each page presents a slideshow where each slide can be intepreted as a page view. Our sampling shows that users can view 1 to 1,000 slides per app. The mean is triple digits, but again, the variance is so high that we cannot conclude any significance to the mean value.
Since GA and other tools cannot count page and slide views without impacting mobile performance - we can only conclude that the data reported by GA is only a sampling of how users interact with Keys. The actual data suggests that user interaction with the Keys platform is over 20 times any legacy measures of web use.

Our problems are similar to any multi-level game or ebook reader. Thus, the mobile metrics problem may be universal to the new web ecosystem.

Mobile Web Emergence

Morgan Stanley projects that mobile will pass desktop use in 2014. With the exploding purchase of smartphones in 2010 and significant under-counting of mobile use documented here --- has mobile access already passed web access? The inflection point is clearly 2011, not 2014.

Much has been written about Facebook and Twitter. What has not been raised is that these companies represent the leaders among mobile apps developers. Without mobile apps, these companies would not have grown that quickly.


Mobile is already the most important aspect of web use. Poor measurement systems hide the sea-change from the public.

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