I've been working for a while on various proof-of-concept applications for social network privacy, which I've evaluated for publication with various user studies.

Is there a useful, free, framework (or even a jQuery plugin) that tracks user actions in an easily understandable manner? Due to resource restrictions as well as anonymity restrictions for academic publication I can not perform eye tracking, so I'd like to get as detailed of an idea of the user's focus and workflow as possible.

Note: I'm fairly new to "User Experience" so if I've done a poor job of finding duplicates, links to a couple similar questions would be extremely useful. If I'm not asking the right kind of question due to my ignorance in the field, let me know and I can either clarify or rephrase entirely.

  • Do the answers on this question help?
    – Ben Brocka
    Apr 15 '12 at 19:41
  • A little bit--it provided a jumping off point and at least gave me some understanding of which search terms to use. Unfortunately they are prohibitively expensive for academic research in my case. I may end up writing a plugin that will just save all user actions that jQuery/JS can capture.
    – ramblinjan
    Apr 15 '12 at 19:51
  • Actually the mouse tracing information in the presentation may be pretty helpful. Thanks for the link.
    – ramblinjan
    Apr 15 '12 at 20:00

If you mean to track all the user actions like: how many people downloaded a file, how many readed a document, how many visited a page; you can use Google Analytics.

Obviously you need to set it up in order to track everything.

Take a look at the features that GA offer: http://www.google.com/analytics/features/content.html

There is also a real time tracking since few weeks, so you can follow users and see what they do in your website. More info here.

Hope it helps.

  • This doesn't really fit my use case, especially since it doesn't follow a normal site structure (I generally use AJAX as it's a web app versus a web site), and traditional web analytics doesn't tell me much about user actions and understanding.
    – ramblinjan
    Apr 15 '12 at 19:50
  • 1
    you can track ajax as well... using Asynchronous syntax: code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/tracking/… Apr 15 '12 at 19:54
  • Thanks--that's interesting. I may use that and simply have certain pages called with AJAX when specific actions are performed, though I'm not sure yet if it gives me all the information I need, or at least would like to have.
    – ramblinjan
    Apr 15 '12 at 19:56
  • 1
    it's Google. I think they thought everything about tracking... Apr 15 '12 at 20:00

If a properly setup Google Analytics isn't telling you what you need, you may have a hard time integrating action tracking into an existing application.

Just like exception logging, the onus is on you to integrate the tracking of a user into the application itself. Every action should be recorded and logged as part of the application, giving you granular and realtime control over what you are and are not tracking. This, to me, is a day 1 consideration that should be built into any app.

As you mentioned in the comments, relying on JavaScript for tracking may impact your UX negatively, as that requires some client side horsepower.

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