Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New Google Analytics comes with Flash flavor

This week Google Analytics subscribers will notice big changes. Google spent a year working on the new update, and, finally, it's out.

One of the biggest additions is new graphs made in Flash. They are auto-resizable and take the full screen width. I say, it's about time. Seriously, it isn't too difficult to implement something like this in Flash. But the difference is huge - I found it very handy on my widescreen laptop. Compare the old and the new Flash visitors graphs (actual proportions from my screen):

Now you see the difference. It's like trying to watch a movie through a keyhole and then getting a HDTV!

The sole fact of Google using Flash is worth mentioning. I'm not going to give a big propaganda speech on Flash. But there are some things this technology is good for besides web games and "flashy" animations: data visualization and interaction. Google graphs are packed with nice features: rollover hints, draggable timeline range picker, overlapping graphs and more. It's light, fast and informative.

I don't even know why you wouldn't do such things in Flash. Still, I find other companies trying less obvious paths. For example, Yahoo Pipes pushed javascript to the maximum. The same solution made in Flash would be much more "native". I think it's about the skills range in such companies. There is historical alienation of "pure" developers from technologies like Flash. It's still more on designers side. Macromedia, now Adobe, is changing things through Flex, but it still needs time to become mainstream.

When companies embrace Flash for what it's good for, the results are amazing. Check, for example, Digg Labs with their BigSpy, Stack and Swarm tools. Those things are not developed in-house, which is not surprising. But their partnership with stamen design has proven very productive.

Sure, development and design is not about the tools. The results are what matters in the end. At the same time, some tools are just better at some things and when taking advantage of it, the outcome can be very rewarding.