We've already discussed the importance of using Application Analytics in order to make informed decisions on how to prioritize development work. In this blog post we will take a deeper dive into some of the benefits of tracking feature usage. In future blog posts we will also delve into the technical implementation details of including an analytics monitor in your application.
Tracking feature usage gives us concrete insight into how users actually interact with a particular application. We are able to deduce the most commonly used features as well as those that are not used much at all. This comes in handy in an organization for multiple reasons:
Every member of a product team can benefit from the knowledge that the work that they have delivered is being actively used and is providing benefit to their users. Many times users of an application are not necessarily outwardly appreciative of the dedication and work done by product teams. For some, it seems like a thankless job, except when feature usage tracking is in use, the quantifiable data provides the team with the satisfaction that they have accomplished a job well done. Developers on the team in particular can gain confidence and satisfaction in their skills and deliverables.
Logically, it makes sense to invest in enhancements and bug fixes to the more commonly used features of an application. It is a product team's responsibility to provide as much value for the time and money spent on development work as possible. Without application analytics, product teams would need to guess what work items should be prioritized and scheduled for implementation based purely on their hunches and intuition. When using analytics to track feature usage, the choices become much clearer with accurate data to back up any decisions as to which features are most popular. Furthermore, users will become more satisfied with the product teams as the work being delivered to them is highly visible.
When you know the most popular features of an application, it makes sense that enhancement requests to this feature, or the new implementation of similar or complementary features can provide greater value to your users. For instance, if the feature usage data shows that a grid is most commonly being exported to Excel format by users, it makes sense to look into how they are using this exported file. Upon further investigation with the users, it may be discovered that the users could really use an Export to PDF option. You may also discover that what they really need is an easy way to share this file, and can benefit from a feature where the exported file can be sent via email . Feature usage data is a great way to identify usage patterns of the application and is a great tool to have when discussing potential development requirements with your users.
Mobile application development and responsive web design are pillars in an increasingly mobile world. With this world comes multiple form factors, from small phone screens to larger tablet devices. Dealing with available space on these devices yet remaining usable is a common situation that needs to be overcome. Especially when dealing with the smaller form factors, you must pick and choose the options to be made immediately visible and available on the application menu. For instance, if you have an existing production application that you would like to make mobile client for. The existing application has 12 menu items, but you only have room to display 6 on the smaller mobile device. You can use the feature usage data of your existing application to identify the top 6 features of the application and concentrate on implementing those when developing your mobile client. The same situation is equally as valid when defining the menu of a new mobile-ready responsive website. You are able to display and collapse menu items based on the screen size by prioritizing the visibility of menu items based on their rank in the feature usage data of the application. When developing a mobile application or website it is in your best interest to take advantage of application analytics in these applications as well!
Application maintenance is the most lengthy and expensive stage of the Software Development Lifecycle. It is a general rule of thumb that the more code that you have to maintain, the more costly it becomes. Using feature usage tracking, you are able to see features that are scarcely used or not used at all. This code is distracting from the core feature set of the application and the organization can benefit from having it removed from the footprint of the application. This will reduce the amount of code that is being maintained and will save time as there are less code artifacts to sift through when finding issues with the application.
In this blog post we focused on the benefits of tracking feature usage in applications. Feel free to join this discussion in the comments below if you know of other benefits of this crucial data.
Get started with application analytics today by visiting the Telerik Analytics website where adding analytics monitoring to your first application (up to 100 users) is free!
Carey Payette is a Developer Advocate. You can follow Carey on Twitter @careypayette or read her personal blog at www.codingbandit.com.