Reasoning and motivation for change

Hi. Regarding our new interface. We've been blogging and tweeting about it and had it publicly available to all users for over a month, because we value your feedback and we care about you. If you care about Clicky, we feel it is your responsibility to monitor these communication channels that we use on a very regular basis. We are very open and transparent about everything we do. Some would say too transparent, although I would disagree.

During the beta period, we had many thousands of people use it and the vast majority of the feedback was very positive. Just go look at the old blog posts yourself to see the comments people were leaving. The only consistent complaint we got was that it's not centered, but otherwise most people loved it. Based on that much feedback from that many people, we knew we were going in the right direction.

I have a theory regarding why the beta testers were so much more positive compared to the comments that have been left here. If you're willing to test beta software, you are open to change already. You know things will be new and different and hence you will more accepting of them, especially because the old Clicky was still available. But even with thousands of testers, I would guess that only 5-10% of our users at the very most saw the beta. The rest of you had no idea it was coming, so it was a shock. But again, we tried to be as open about this as possible and got a ton of feedback before making it live. (So please, if you're not already, subscribe to our blog or follow us on Twitter).

People are resistant to change. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Well, Clicky wasn't "broken" per se, but it was starting to feel dated. Sexy competitors like Chartbeat and Woopra have popped up and while we feel that our product is much more feature complete than either of them, people rave about their interfaces all the time. We get plenty of compliments on our (old) interface too, because of its simplicity and ease of use, but the difference is that Clicky felt like a web site, while the others feel like web apps. (And in the case of Woopra, it is literally a desktop app, although they offer a web version now as well).

We wanted to feel like an app too. It's the way the web is moving and we were feeling left out. Hence, the navigational changes - fixed sidebar navigation, everything loading via Ajax, page loading animations, auto-updating reports, etc.

This isn't change just for the sake of change. The new Clicky has been floating around in my head for close to a year, but I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted it to do. Over the summer my vision became clear and in mid-August I decided it was time to act. Two months later, here we are. This is the longest I've ever spent on developing a new "feature" for Clicky. I'm very proud of it, but that makes the negative comments hurt that much more.

Please give the new Clicky a chance to grow on you. I promise that it will for most of you, once the initial shock wears off. I'm a huge believer in UI and UX, and believe this is one of the major reasons for our success. I'd like to think I know what I'm doing, so please place your trust in me to deliver you the best analytics experience possible.

One last thing. Please keep your criticisms constructive. If you don't like, don't just say "it sucks". That doesn't help. Tell us specifically why you don't like it. We will adjust things based on your feedback over the coming weeks and months. We are listening to what you have to say.
73 comments |   Oct 17 2010 10:05am

The New Clicky

After nearly 2 months of development, the new Clicky is now live. Here's what it looks like:

If you haven't been following our blog, we've had a public beta of our new interface available since September 16. (Hint: this is a good reason to read our blog. We announce important things on it!). The vast majority of the feedback has been very positive, which is remarkable for such a big change.

This is still the same Clicky you know and love, the main difference is the navigation. The goal here was to make it faster to get to other pages, and to load them faster too. We also wanted the entire site to feel like a true "app" instead of just a web site.

So, we created a fixed sidebar that stays with you as you scroll up and down the page (as long as your browser window is at least ~700px tall), and literally everything loads via Ajax, including form submissions (unless you're using Internet Explorer, which has WAY too many problems to support this functionality). However, this new interface is a bit wider than the standard 1024 that most sites aim for. So if we detect that your browser window is less than 1100px wide, the sidebar moves back to the top of the window so it works fairly similar to the old design with the tabs on top. The tabs aren't quite as stylized as they used to be, because we have more of them now so we need to conserve space:

Update: Some users are experiencing bugs with "small site" mode being enabled even when their browser window is plenty big. We've temporarily disabled this until we get it figured out.

To learn more about everything that's new, please read the previous posts we've made about the beta:

Sep 16: Help test the new Clicky beta
Sep 21: Beta updates
Sep 24: More beta updates

If you've been following the beta this whole time, here's what has changed since the last release:

  • Aforementioned 1024 support
  • We detect mouse movement now and keep track of the last time you were active, so if you were away and then come back to Clicky, whatever report you are viewing will automatically refresh so that it's up to date with live data. This only happens if you're viewing reports for "today" though.
  • When a page would load via Ajax, we used to replace the entire "main" area with a loading graphic. We found it somewhat annoying to have everything be blank essentially until the next page loaded, so instead we now overlay a semi-transparent box over the entire area so you can still see stuff (but not click anything), and the loading graphic is now fixed in the top right corner of the page (so if you scroll up and down while a page is loading, it's always visible).
  • We investigated replacing the flash graphs with a native javascript solution, spent almost a week on it in fact, but none of the libraries are quite there yet. They all have at least one super annoying limitation or bug, typically having to do with tooltips or the axis/grid. We tried highcharts, flot, and dygraphs. We also looked at other options like raphael, but none of then had the functionality we needed. I'll probably write a blog post in the future about the state of javascript graphing, but that's for another time. So for now, we're staying with flash.
  • Spy fixed for MSIE (turned out to be some weird conflict with jQuery 1.4.2, so we've gone back to 1.4.1. 1.4.3 just came out today but the problem remains. We'll have to dig deeper).
  • The biggest complaint we have received is that it's no longer centered. We played around with this quite a bit but ultimately were not satisfied with how it looked centered with a sidebar. Even with a fairly big screen (mine is 1900px wide), I still think it looks good. Just give it a chance to grow on you, ok?

We've had an average of 1,000 people using this every day, even without posting any updates for a couple of weeks. So we know people are loving it, but we also know that we have almost 200,000 users so a lot of you haven't seen it yet. If there's something you don't like about it, please read through the previous posts linked above. There has been a lot of discussion between us and our beta testers about why things work a certain way or the reasoning behind certain design decisions.

But based on the feedback so far, we know that most of you will appreciate the changes we made.

Oh, and if you're a white label customer - it will be about another month before this change is pushed to the white label. This is because there are a number of changes to our layout and CSS, and we want to give you a chance to update everything you need to before it goes live. We'll be emailing you soon with more details.
82 comments |   Oct 16 2010 3:28pm

Advice on moving to the cloud?

From day 1 we've managed our own physical servers. We buy them and build them and configure Linux on them and throw them in the data center ourselves. This allows us to configure things exactly as needed, and is quite cost efficient. But man are we getting sick of it. So much time is spent dealing with servers!

People have often asked us why we don't use a cloud environment, such as Amazon. There's two main reasons. First of all, bandwidth - our load balancers are pumping almost 4,000 requests per second through them during peak hours, and a total of about 250,000,000 requests per day (which is almost 300GB of data - per day). Last I checked, Amazon only includes 5,000,000 requests per month, and you have to pay overages for extra. I don't know what the overage price is but considering we'll be over our limit 30 minutes into any given month, this is a big concern.

The second reason is reliability. Cloud servers are not really guaranteed from what I understand and they can pop offline at any time. This is a very big deal when it comes to large database being stored on this type of service. Some of our database servers have over 300GB of data, although the average is closer to 100GB. And we have almost 40 database servers. If our databases were in a cloud environment and one of them popped offline, it's going to need repairs done on it before coming back online, since it would not have been shut down properly. Not something I want to deal with.

So... do any of you have experience running high bandwidth services in a cloud environment? Doesn't have to be Amazon. If so, how do you find the pricing? Also, any experience with running a large database in the cloud? How have you found the reliability? Any advice from people with experience with either of these scenarios is much appreciated.

We're not necessarily going to do this. It's just under consideration. We just want some input first!

Update: The overall consensus is that we're insane to consider this, so it's unlikely to happen. It was just an option we were thinking about. Thanks for your advice.

One thing I was thinking about is what if someone like Google decided to move to a hosted cloud environment. Obviously they're 10000x bigger than us but still - that'd be insane right? To run a high bandwidth and huge I/O service, you need to go old school.
46 comments |   Oct 07 2010 9:23pm

More beta updates; and we're off to San Francisco

On Saturday, we're taking the train down to San Francisco for TechCrunch Disrupt. We'll be down there for an entire week. We'll try to be good about answering emails, but unless your message is urgent, your patience is appreciated.

We were really hoping to get the beta finished and turn it on for everyone before leaving, but it's not quite there yet. The only bugs left that we know of are very minor and are not holding us back, but there's just a bit more polishing to do. Also, we don't want to flip the switch and find out there's some major problem while we're on the road. We've been getting about 1,000 people a day consistently using it, which is great, but once that jumps to over 30,000, a serious problem may surface that we didn't know about. So, we're going to wait until we're back, which will be October 2. We'll probably spend a few more days working on it and then push it out to everyone.

Here's everything that's new since our last beta release:
  • When viewing Spy, it's always updated the document title to include the number of online visitors, but no other report did that. Now that we're always displaying this data at the top of every report (which we call "stats header" for short), it's included in the document title as well no matter what report you're viewing.
  • Speaking of stats header, Spy will now also update all of those numbers in real time, instead of just visitors online. When viewing any other report, they update once per minute instead.
  • Command-key support for Macs to open links in new windows
  • Clicking on a username or IP address in Spy now works
  • 1024 support - if your browser window is less than ~1100 pixels wide, the sidebar now auto-hides itself. Just move your mouse over it to show the full thing. This is one thing we want really feedback on. Only 7% of our users have windows 1024 or smaller, which is awesome, but we still want to provide a good experience for you. So let us know if the auto-hide thing is good for you. We think it could be better and we will improve it, but for now this is what we got. It's not really possible to move the tabs back on top, as we were originally thinking, because of the way a bunch of things work together in our new layout.
  • Fixed the popular filters form
  • Fixed bug when filtering visitors by page URL (this was pretty major - any link you clicked on after doing that was completely broken)
  • Tons of minor bug fixes

There is only one major bug right now, and that's that somehow Spy broke for MSIE. No idea why. And there's about 10 minor bugs left. We'll be fixing all of those once we get back, then putting a bit more spit and polish on this bad boy and pushing it out the door.
13 comments |   Sep 24 2010 7:29pm

Beta updates

Thank you to everyone who has tested our new beta interface and sent us great feedback on it. The vast majority of the feedback has been very positive, and for such a big change, that's very promising. If you haven't tried yet, you should.

We've been squashing tons of bugs and adding more functionality this week, and we just uploaded all of the changes. As usual, please test and report on any bugs (by leaving a comment on this post).

One of the biggest changes since the last release is our new user homepage. We heard you loud and clear, you want it to be cleaner and you want your sites above the fold. We used to allow you to hide the forum posts on the user homepage, but always left the blog there because we want as many people reading our posts as possible to stay up to date with what we're doing. With the new layout, there's no need for either of those options anymore, because those things no longer takes up unnecessary vertical space, as you can see from the screenshot below. We took all of the most important user links (upgrade, affiliate, etc) and put them in your face at the top, and put the blog/forum posts next to them. New blog and forum posts will also be highlighted in red so you can see when there's something new to read.

Changes since the last release

  • New user homepage, as mentioned above
  • Shift/control clicking a link should now open it in a new window/tab instead of still loading it via ajax
  • All links that open in a new window should now be fixed (quite a few were broken), except for links inside Spy - those are still broken but we hope to have them fixed tomorrow.
  • Many of the "next page" links at the bottom of reports didn't work, but they do now!
  • Spy basic has been added back in
  • When viewing "mega" Spy, there is no longer a dedicated Spy "version" of visitors online. It now updates the global value at the top of window instead.
  • We have quite a few javascript files. Most of them (the ones that rarely change) have been consolidated into one large file, which should result in much faster loading
  • Header stats now show up for MSIE or for any browser that loads a stats page directly (a bug was preventing this from happening before)
  • If you had scrolled down and tried to open the calendar, it didn't show up. Now it is fixed position so it scrolls up and down with you while it's open.
  • Tons of other minor bug fixes

Things coming soon

  • 1024 support
  • Sidebar menu options only change highlighting when clicked. If you click one, then click back, the old one stays highlighted. This will be fixed.
  • When viewing Spy, it updates the document title with the visitors online, but no other reports do even though we have a dedicated box at the top of every report showing this value. We'll be updating the entire reporting interface so this is done no matter what page you are viewing.
  • Links in Spy (e.g. clicking an IP address) will be fixed very soon!
  • We've had a lot of people ask us, why don't we move to a native (javascript) graphing engine and ditch the flash one while we're redoing the whole site? Well, we do want to do this, but it's a much bigger task than it sounds. There's a ton of backend stuff that would need to be updated. So I don't think this will happen before this is officially released. But we want to do this, so it will happen soon!
19 comments |   Sep 21 2010 6:13pm

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