Mint: Sweet & Swift Analytics for Your Site

If you’re like the vast majority of web developers, you’ve used Google Analytics to stay on top of your site’s traffic info and never gave it a second thought. Google Analytics is free, pain-free to setup, and gives you more detailed data about your traffic than you could know what to do with. What more could you ask?

Actually, there’s a lot more you could ask for. For starters, Google Analytics may be free, but all of your data is on Google’s servers. Some may prefer to keep their traffic data private, while others would just like more control over the data and reporting. Then, Google Analytics can be slow at times, and doesn’t display up-to-the-minute stats. Additionally, the charts are Flash-powered, so if you’re using an iOS device or have simply banished flash from your browser, you’ll only have the raw data.

Mint is a refreshing alternative that wins at every point Google Analytics comes short. It’s a self-hosted webapp so you can own and manage all of your own site’s data. It’s lightweight and expendable so you can make it work just like you want, uses native web charts so you won’t have to use flash, and shows visits as soon as they happen. Let’s see how to setup Mint on your site and take a tour of the features so you can see if it’s finally time for you to switch to a fresher analytics solution.

Getting Started

Developed by Shaun Inman, also known for the Fever° RSS reader, Mint is a lightweight, self-hosted analytics app for your site that can help you keep track of your traffic and more. It offers “A Fresh Look at your Site” that will help you know who’s talking about your site, how many people are visiting, how they found your site, and more.

Mint's homepage

The only catch to switching to Mint analytics is that it costs $30 per site, and you’ll have to set it up on your own servers or hosting account. The one-time price is actually very reasonable when compared to other for-pay hosted analytics options that charge a per-month fee, and definitely is justifiable for business and professional sites, blogs, and more. And, if you’re used to setting up webapps such as WordPress, you’ll find it simple to install Mint.

Check Your Server’s Compatibility

Before you take the leap and purchase Mint for your site, download the Mint Compatibility Suite. This makes sure your server is ready for Mint. Mint requires MySQL 3.x or newer, as well as PHP 4.2.3 or newer and a recent version of Apache or a similar webserver. Do note that the developer doesn’t offer any post-purchase support for problems that could be detected with the Compatibility Suite, so be sure to run it first.

Just download the Compatibility Suite, unzip it, and upload it to a /mint-scs folder on your site. Browse to yourdomain.com/mint-scs, and follow the directions to test your site. You’ll need your MySQL server info and a database setup to test it, so have the info for those ready to enter.

In four steps, you'll see if everything on your server is ready for Mint

If your server passes all four steps, then you’ll be ready to install Mint. The test doesn’t guarantee that Mint will work, but if you don’t encounter any errors, then in all likelihood you’ll have no problem at all using Mint. Click the hook them up link to head back over to Mint’s site to purchase a copy for your site.

Congratulations! Your server is ready for Mint.

Creating an Account

Before you can purchase Mint, you’ll need to create an account. Just enter you personal info, select a forum name, and choose your current time zone to create an account. Alternately, if you already have a Mint account and want to add it to a new site, just login with your existing account above.

Create a new account to manager your Mint licenses and download Mint and Pepper

Mint  is licensed per site, so you’ll need to enter the URLs of the sites you want to add Mint to. if you ever decide to switch which site you’re using Mint on, you can transfer your license later. Then, you’ll need to pay $30 per license via PayPal, and minutes later you’ll receive registration keys and download links for your site.

Add the domains you want to use with Mint

Installing Mint

Ready to get Mint on your site? Once you’ve purchased it, download and extract it as before. This time, though, open the /mint/config/db.php file in your favorite code or text editor, and add your MySQL database info. Save the changes, and then upload the /mint folder to your site.

Add your database data to the db.php file before uploading Mint to your server

Once everything’s uploaded, browse to yoursite.com/mint to start the installation process. You’ll need to accept the license agreement, then enter the activation key you received when you purchased Mint for your site. Finally, enter your info to create an account for your Mint login. Make sure the time listed on the bottom is the same as your local time; otherwise, your stats may not look accurate time-wise to you.

See, installing Mint isn't too hard!

To get stats about your site’s visitors, you’ll need to add the Mint script to the <head> of your site. If your site is a static HTML site, then simply add it after the <title> tag but before the </head> closing tag on each page. If your site is CMS based, then you’ll need to add the script to your site’s header file. For WordPress based sites, your theme settings will often contain a box to paste analytics code, and you can simply add the code there if you wish.

Copy the code and add it to the head of your site's HTML

Click Done when you’re finished to see Mint in action. There’s not much to see yet since Mint hasn’t had time to collect data, but you’ll quickly start seeing the page fill up with details about your visitors. We’ll look back at the Mint page in a minute, but first, you may want to add some Pepper to your Mint.

Welcome to your fresh Mint install!

Adding More Features with Pepper

Your fresh Mint install will track your site’s visits, referrers, searches, and pages viewed. It also includes two default themes: Vanilla Mint, a white and green theme as above, and Mint Chocolate, a brown and green theme. This is plenty for many uses, but if you want to learn more about your visitors or tweak the design, head over to the Peppermill. This is an “App Store” of sorts for Mint, with numerous free addons called Pepper. You’ll find Peppers to see your visitor’s location, browser and OS version, screen size, and more. If you find one you want to add, just download the zip file, extract the contents, and upload to the folder specified in the included Readme file. Then, select Install in your Mint Settings pane, and you’ll have all the new features you need.

Make Mint work just like you want with Pepper

Using Your Data

After you’ve had Mint installed for a while, you’ll begin to see more info about your visitors. You can see visitors broken down by the time they visited, what pages are most popular, and how they got to your site. Many of the panes include graphs that load almost instantly and give you a quick overview of your site’s info. Mint will work on any browser from IE6 to the latest dev build of Chrome. The panes automatically rearrange based on your screen and window size, so you’ll never have to scroll left or right to access your data.

View detailed data with lists, charts, and more

The design is simple enough for anyone to use without having to learn to navigate it, but it’s powerful as well. You can drill down into your data and see exactly how many visits you’ve had from each link on a domain. Or, if you want to make sure to keep up with the traffic from one page, click the plus sign to watch that page. Want to know exactly when a new referring link comes through? You can subscribe to a built-in RSS feed so you’ll know as soon as a visitor comes from a new site.

Drill down into your data to see exactly where your traffic is coming from and more

Plus, you can track even more data with Pepper addons. From visit duration to browser version to the size of visitors’ browser window, there’s a Pepper for almost anything you’d like to find out. All of them use the same simple UI that’s fast and easy to use. Now you can plan changes to your site informatively and target the majority of your audience.

Get even more data with your favorite Pepper addons

You can even keep up with your analytics away from your browser. There’s a Mint Dashboard Widget, Windows Gadget, and a Pepper to turn Mint into a beautiful mobile webapp with a home screen icon for your iOS devices.

Windows, OS X, or Mobile, you'll always have access to your analytics

That’s All, Folks!

Actually, that’s not all. With the multitude of Peppers you can install and the versatility of a cleanly-coded, self-hosted analytics app, there’s tons you could do with Mint. If you’ve been wishing you could take more control of your site’s analytics, or just want to see more up-to-date info about your traffic, Mint might be a good option for your site. The price is definitely justifiable when compared to the price of many hosted analytics services, and it’s about as easy to install as a webapp can be. If you’d like to take a look at Mint in action, be sure to check out Mint’s live demo which lets you see all of the features running on a live site.

How do you keep up with your websites’ analytics? Have you ever given Mint a try? Let us know your experiences in the comments!


Summary

Mint is a self-hosted analytics that's lightweight and simple to use but still shows detailed info about your site's traffic. Plus, with a wide selection of free Pepper addons, you can tweak Mint and get the exact features and info you want.

8