ChartBeat is just cool

We ran across this tool for real time analytics about a week ago called “chartbeat” – which is just plain cool.  I learned of it while enjoying the podcast “This Week in Startups” by Jason Calacanis and crew.  #twist

This offers a real time (within seconds) look at the visitors to our site.  Some of the metrics are total people on the site; if people are reading, writing or idle; average USER page load times (more how this works later); and a very niffty twitter monitor.

Oh yea – and it keeps a historical record.  (At least 30 days worth.)

So How Does it work?

I have had a lot of people ask “How does it work?” and “Doesn’t it cause the server to slow down?” – which is actually the brilliant part about the whole deal.  It works with AJAX and analysis on the chartbeat side.

Here’s picture:

chartbeat visual

Step 1

User goes to your site (which already has the chartbeat embeded in the page.)

Step 2

Server sends the code back to user’s computer.  At this time, a javascript timer is executed within the users browser – to give us an idea of the page load speed.

Step 3

After the page loads – the browser communicates in very, very small files to the chartbeat server, telling it the information about the page and what they have done.  It does this with AJAX and after the page loads – as to not interfere with the transfer of information.  (AJAX is asynchronous communication with the server, or stated differently, a message sent to/from the server which doesn’t interfere with the user’s browsing.)

Then What?

chartbeat takes that data and crunches the numbers, and builds the very cool charts, graphs and dials.  Which gives us a look at our site’s performance.

It’s a great idea and one that has saved us a lot of time wondering if the site is slow because of a programming issue – or if we have a sudden influx of users.  We can see in real time the story.  The cost is $10/month for 5 sites, and is well worth it.  (They do not sponsor this blog – I just really, really like the product.)

Take a test drive here.  It is a demo chart they have running.  Let me know if you like it – or have used it.