Just a few years ago it was a struggle just to get a map on the web. But now with the likes of Mapbox, CartoDB, Esri’s JS API and open source GIS mapping tools, it’s easier than ever to build a map to rule them all. Unfortunately, the metrics provided by most analytics services give broad overviews of your progress, but give little insights as to how users are interacting with your map and where they are converting.

Pageviews and visitor counts are decent metrics, but behind those metrics are real people. Not digging and understanding the actual interaction a user has with your web map leads to quoting metrics that don’t connect the person behind the metric, therefore providing little value in actually moving the needle in terms of design decisions and business goals. In the analytics community, this is what we call vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics are the numbers that you’ll typically hear in a board room. “We were able to drive 10,000 views to our map this month”. This may be a nice thing to say in a meeting, but to the team members responsible for delivering actual results, these numbers don’t surface anything of value. It’s akin to saying “We had 20,000 people come through our store this month.” That’s great, but how many purchased an item? And what were our sales? 20,000 window shoppers who purchased 100 items is less significant than 10,000 shoppers who purchased 5,000 times.

Similarly, web traffic and pageviews don’t answer key questions like “How quickly are users able to find what they’re looking for?”, “Where are users looking on a map?”, “Are users from Florida looking at an area in California?”. To answer these questions, you have to dig deeper with user interaction metrics.

Focusing on a few key metrics that have a direct correlation with how people are actually discovering your web map and tracking events that are unique to your web map is what actually matters.

Modern product development emphasizes constant experimentation and the testing of ideas. Technical marketing teams and development teams make their decisions based on data, using tools such as Tableau, Somo, KissMetrics, Google Analytics and many more to help perfect the user experience.

As a GIS web map developer you should also be paying attention the metrics that will actually translate into something useful and will help you make decisions that will affect the real business goals. Getting a map on the web, just isn’t cutting it anymore. Being aware of your vanity metrics and identifying actionable metrics is key to a successful product.

Measure what matters.
Let’s say your web map visits look like the graph below:


The graph shows that visits spiked near the end of the month twice. That’s great, but what does that really mean? Nothing really. Maybe some marketing campaigns could be driving the traffic or a blogger tweeted out your site. We have no idea. We don’t even know where to start. Not only do we have to figure out why visits went up, then we have to figure out if those those visitors actually reached their goal and interacted with the map.

To really get a better understanding of what’s engaging users on your web map, you have to dive deep into how users are interacting it. Seeing where your users are looking on your map by tracking their zoom levels, where they pan and where they’re clicking for more information.

Track metrics on your web maps, not your website.
Most people pick key metrics based on what they might already have by logging into Google Analytics and view whatever is accessible. The issue with that is you’re stuck with numbers that hardly mean anything to the map, the user experience and business goals. Pages/visit, visitors, and time spent on site are all nice but how do they actually influence anyone’s capability of building a better map?


Activities/user: to answer key questions like, how many and which markers users are viewing.
Pans: How and where users are panning around on a web map?
Zooms: How and where are users zooming in or out of a web map?
Layer load times: How quickly are layers rendering and are there any tile errors?
Bounce rates: How many users load the map but never interact with it?


If you want to learn more on how to setup analytics for your web map, book a demo with us.