Notes about GoatCounter's design

GoatCounter’s main design is quite different from various other solutions. The main difference is that the statistics are displayed per path on the dashboard, rather than as totals.

I originally developed GoatCounter specifically for my own website/blog, where “site totals” are fairly useless, and “path totals” are much more useful. I think this applies for many sites; if you have a webshop with different /category-1 and /category-2 paths then being able to quickly see which categories are popular and being able to see detailed stats for them seems pretty useful to me.

The downside of this is that the dashboard can appear as “busy”, “intimidating”, or “overwhelming” at a glance. A simple “630 visitors today” is certainly a lot clearer. On the other hand, it’s also a lot less useful for many cases.

Is it “more technical”? I don’t know; maybe. Personally I think it’s just a more useful way to display data, and I think (semi-)serious users of all technical skills should be able to work with it.

GoatCounter isn’t intentionally different – I just built whatever I thought made sense. That ended up being somewhat different than many other solutions. Looking at the current landscape I think that GoatCounter being somewhat different is not a bad thing; There’s not much point in just making a copy of an existing product right?

Some other points about GoatCounter’s design:

Good user experience, which may not necessarily be the same as “looks nice at a glance”

GoatCounter is very boring. Not for the sake of it, but it’s just a very “function over form” kind of design. I generally feel that “flashy” things aren’t necessarily better. In fact, they’re not infrequently just worse UX.

For example, some people have proposed that the “locations” could be replaced with a map, which looks nicer. I agree, but is it also easier to use? With the current “boring” list it tells me everything you more or less need to know in just a few seconds. With a map, this is much harder.

I would consider GoatCounter to be very user-centred. I feel that in the last decade or so a lot of questions of “design” have shifted too much towards “graphical design”, rather than “good user interface design”; these are two very different things. Not that graphic design or making things look nice isn’t important, but it matters less than user interface design.

Of course, different people have different preferences, which is why I wouldn’t object to adding something like an optional feature to display the locations overview as a map. But at the same time it seems to me that the current “boring” list is better for most users.

Minimize clicks

For example for example it shows the “day · month (..)” in the top navigation as text links quite purposefully, as I find having them there within reach of a single click is easier than using a drop-down or some other more advanced UI widget. The more advanced widget would probably look better, but isn’t necessarily easier to use.

Useful aggregate statistics rather than not-so-useful detailed statistics

Chromium is just displayed as “Chrome”, as are Opera, Edge, and a bunch of other Chromium-based browsers. Do you really care if someone is using Chrome or Opera? The reason you care about this information is to be able to make informed decisions about browser and platform support. Since it’s the same same engine with the same behaviour, it doesn’t really matter.

Similarly, Firefox on iOS is just displayed as Safari.

I tried Matomo for a while before I built GoatCounter and it displayed a lot of really detailed information about all sorts of stuff. Quite frankly, almost all of it was just useless, and getting meaningful aggregate data out of it wasn’t something I was able to do.