Piwik: The Tool You Need to Ditch Google Analytics

Anyone that’s created or maintained a website will know that it’s crucial to know as much about your users as possible to ensure a website’s success. Tools like Google Analytics are perfect for this sort of task but there always comes a time where perhaps you need a little bit more control.

I came across this little gem a few years ago when I wasn’t even looking for an alternative and found it to be quite useful. I recently revisited it and was pleasantly surprised at how far the project has progressed.

Enter Piwik. With a rich feature set similar to the top website analytics apps that gracefully line the web, Piwik is also free and open source, which means you can install the latest stable version on any server. Read on to find out more!

Why Piwik?

There’s a lot of web apps today that can track your site’s analytics. Tools of this kind can be pretty pricey (unless you’re using the industry default, Google Analytics), and they also involve entrusting a third party with all of your precious visitor data. For your own and your visitors’ privacy, one of the best options if you want the best for your data and your users can be to handle this yourself. However, this requires a lot of time if you’re making it from scratch.

That’s where Piwik comes in. It’s a free, open-source app that’s definitely a worthy alternative to the other web analytics apps.

The Piwik Homepage

The Piwik Homepage

It’s self-hosted, so you own all of your data and can be sure that you’ve always got it in a format that isn’t restricted by another app’s export regulations. Also, due to the nature of open source projects (and the fact that Piwik is pretty popular) it’s regularly updated by a core team of developers, so the latest stable version is always available to download and install onto as many servers as needed, absolutely free of charge.

Let’s Go!

One of the great things about Piwik is that the installation process is incredibly simple. It’s clearly been built with total ease of use in mind, so you’re not spending valuable time installing it and you’re ready to get going straight away.

After ensuring the (really minimal) system requirements are met and following the fairly easy installation instructions, Piwik provides a JavaScript snippet that is easy to implement into any existing HTML page so that you can begin gathering stats instantly. Once this is done, you’re able to instantly jump into Piwik.

Installing Piwik

Installing Piwik

Dashboard

If you’re used to using web-based tools such as Google Analytics, the interface of Piwik will seem incredibly familiar to you. The dashboard is the hub of all stats and once you’ve accessed this for the first time, you’ll see why. It comprises of many widgets which show different details about the visitors to the website, and it’s fully customisable. You can choose how the dashboard columns should be displayed, and add or delete widgets as per your needs. This makes it incredibly useful for being able to quickly reference the stats you need and not have to scour the whole page to find what you require.

The Dashboard

The Dashboard

Stats

Delving into the app a bit more, Piwik provides a very comprehensive selection of statistics for each website that’s added. It gives a pretty detailed view of just about every stat regarding the recent active visitors to the website. Each of the segments of information are very clearly documented in the form of help icons to ensure that each stat can easily be understood, so it’s a lot less confusing for those that find website analytics baffling.

Piwik's Handy Tooltip System

Piwik’s Handy Tooltip System

As someone that uses Google Analytics primarily as a quick way of checking on how the website I manage are doing, I can often find that whilst the interface is quite minimalistic, it can sometimes be a bit confusing to understand what the app is telling me. After all, I’m no expert, I just want simple stats.

Piwik is the opposite and as someone that’s not exactly the most savvy when it comes to interpreting vast amounts of statistics, Piwik allows this data to be interpreted in a more human-friendly way and by allowing me to choose what I do and don’t want makes it a lot more suitable to me (and I imagine many others).

More Stats

More Stats

Conclusion

The good news is that if you’re looking for a free, open and self-contained analytics system for your (or your client’s) website, you’ve come to the right place with Piwik. One of the problems with hosted web apps is that unless a significant feature is released, you’re never fully sure whether it’s being regularly maintained and updated to ensure security for both your data and that of other users. However, due to the nature of Piwik and other open source projects, you can be sure that any security issues are addressed fairly quickly. This means that it can be a very reliable tool for the job, especially if you’re looking at using it in a production environment.

Overall, I’ve been incredibly impressed with Piwik since day one and after the very recent Google Readergate, a lot of people have been quite wary of relying on a Google service that could be shut down without much notice (though it’s quite unlikely in Analytics’ case) – still making Piwik perfect for avoiding reliance on something like this. It collects a very extensive range of information about each website and all of this is displayed in a brilliant admin panel.

I’m a big fan of projects like Piwik, so kudos to the team!


Summary

Piwik is an open source and self-hosted analytics app that provides a solution for the ongoing problem of 3rd party app reliance and ensures that comprehensive website stats can be at anyone's fingertips.

  • Piwik 1.11.1  | 
  • Free & Open Source  | 
  • Piwik
8

Responses

Add Yours
  • For some time now, I’ve suggested Piwik especially to my non-internet savvy clients. It’s so much easier for them to navigate through their stats, and they love that they can get emailed reports. Definitely worth using and supporting!

  • Piwik is 10/10

  • It’s always nice to have an open-source alternative when it comes to collecting data. But be aware that the industry standard GA integrates with powerful marketing tools like Google AdWords and other Google Services.