Yeah, that was click-baity, wasn't it? As long-time users of Google Analytics, we have seen the platform evolve significantly since UA meant "Urchin Analytics". Now, we're living in the age of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and with it comes a new web analytics philosophy.
As with most progress, that too comes the opportunity for improvement. In this blog post, we'll share our wish list for the next version of Google Analytics, we'll call it GA5. Our dream GA includes a focus on user experience and, of course, addressing the shortcomings of GA4.
1. Reinstate Views
In Universal Analytics, views were essential for testing and cleaning data. The absence of this feature in GA4 properties is a tremendous miss. For GA5, we hope to see the return of configurable views to allow for better data management and segmentation.
2. Expanded IP Filtering
Limited IP filtering in GA4 has presented challenges, particularly the lack of support for RegEx. For organizations that need to block a range of IP addresses, the current limitations can be a hindrance. An expanded, more flexible IP filtering system would be a valuable addition to GA5. We'd also love to see something clever from Google to help with filtering traffic from employees connecting from home.
3. Implementing Hostname Filters
While available through Google Tag Manager, a direct hostname filter in GA4 is missing. Adding this feature into GA5 would streamline the setup process and enhance security measures.
4. Increasing Custom Dimensions Limits
The limit of 50 event-scoped custom dimensions in free GA4 can be restrictive, especially for e-commerce businesses. We hope GA5 will increase this limit to provide richer, more detailed analytics. We've used more than 50 to support some of our more complicated customers.
5. Redesigning for Enhanced Navigation
GA4's new analytics philosophy encourages an improved business question driven approach to dashboarding. We approve of the initiative to drive thoughtful analysis. However, the dashboards available in GA4 are more limited than the previous Universal Analytics version. In addition, GA4's design, while modern, can be challenging to navigate. Improving the user interface for intuitive navigation and flexible report building would make GA5 more user-friendly and effective.
6. Bringing Back Recurring Email Report
The ability to set up recurring email reports was a time-saving feature in previous versions. Its absence in GA4 is notable. We hope GA5 reintroduces the email feature to automate reporting and maintain consistent communication with clients and stakeholders.
7. Restoring Missing Reports and Custom Annotations
Several useful reports available in Universal Analytics, like the behavior flow report, are missing in GA4. Additionally, the ability to add custom annotations was a valuable tool for marking events and changes. We would like to see these features make a comeback in GA5 and for annotations to finally have an API to allow tools to programmatically push those updates.
8. Combine Explorations and Reports
When a question arises in GA4, the next move almost always includes an exploration. This requirement to go to another area of the platform, or even off-platform to use BigQuery, feels like a clear flaw. We hope that GA5 enhances reporting to allow for immediate customization and analysis.
9. Enhance the Event Based Data Model
The idea of the event based data model of GA4 is fantastic. In theory, it should allow users to customize their web analytics to meet their unique reporting needs. In practice, it follows nearly the same guidelines as Universal Analytics, but is more confusing.
For example, parameter scoping issues are still prevalent in GA4, where event-scoped parameters can only be used with event data and product-scoped parameters can only be used with product data. Yet, the overwhelming communication from GA4 claims an all event based model.
In GA5, we would like to see true, event based customization come to fruition. Allowing businesses to fully customize their tracking and reporting to gain the most impactful insights possible.
Despite it's faults, Google Analytics continues to be a critical tool for digital marketers, webmasters, and businesses. Addressing the above concerns will enhance both the functionality and overall value of Google Analytics.