Mixpanel Launches Flow to Humanize Web Traffic Analysis

Data analysis firm Mixpanel is unveiling a new product today as it introduces Flow, a simple free data visualizer that can provide any website owner with insight into their on-site traffic. Like Google Analytics, it can be installed using just a single line of Javascript code, but Mixpanel is betting that its good looks and inuitive, streamlined navigation will help make it more relevant for the average user.

Flow is a free tool, too, which Mixpanel CEO Suhail Doshi is hoping will help not only drive more customers to Mixpanel’s paid offerings, but also raise awareness about the brand in general, and it’s also something they’ve seen demand for.

“A lot of customers used to ask us for a way to visualize their funnels, but wanted to tons of branched paths,” Doshi said about the impetus behind creating Flow. “A lot of people really wanted a way to explore how people were using their websites, and basically automatically see where drop-offs were occurring.” Flow’s dynamic visualization provides at-a-glance information about visitors’ paths through websites, with graphics providing quick looks at where users are leaving, and where they’re heading next. Drilling down to more specific information is as easy as hovering over any element, or clicking through to the next level.

Flow also gathers information in real-time, and Doshi said that the immediacy of feedback, combined with a focus on usable, attractive design are what help it stand out from competitive offerings. Insights that can be gleaned from the kind of information Flow provides are sometime obvious; users tend to click on links from left to right when they appear next to one another, for instance, with the left-aligned links often being clicked more frequently than the rest in navigation bars. But Doshi said that other information might surprise Flow users, as it did the Mixpanel team.

“We noticed that drop-off during the login process was massive,” Doshi said. “Often, people would go from login to login, some repeatedly, but many just gave up and left.” This isn’t an isolated trend, either; Doshi says if you have a login portal, you’ll probably see exactly the same thing. The result, he notes, is that websites are losing a considerable amount of visitors due to their frustration about the login process, and they aren’t even bothering with password reset forms. There’s a solution; Facebook sends users a login email after many failed attempts, which provides them with a direct login link that’s secure since its sent to their email, but it’s not something widely used. Doshi thinks coming to those kinds of realizations is something Flow is uniquely well-positioned to encourage.

There are limitations to the product, especially when compared to the competition. It doesn’t yet provide information about the source of traffic coming into the website like Google Analytics does, though Doshi says that is planned for eventual inclusion. But Mixpanel is putting an emphasis on design and accessibility of information that isn’t necessarily a priority among its competitors.

“People have done path analysis; there’s nothing incredibly new about it,” Doshi explained. “What’s really new is the way we visualize it. If you look at Google, I don’t think I can necessarily understand what’s going on in their visualizations, and with Flurry, it’s very basic. What we did with Flow is we made it really, really usable, because we believe that design is really important for data visualization.”

That’s similar to the view Visual.ly CEO and co-founder Stew Langille expressed in an interview with BetaKit last week, when he said that the future of data visualization would be determined by designers, and not necessarily data scientists. Apple has helped usher in a design-first mentality in many industries, and Doshi admitted its approach is designed for those who have an appreciation of what Apple, as well as similarly-inspired companies like Square, are doing. Smaller players like Mixpanel have the advantage of flexibility in terms of staying ahead of enterprise industry leaders like Omniture and Google, but the challenge will be in parlaying that into rapid subscriber expansion.

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