With all the news about Apple and Android making databases of your location, I figured it’d be a great week to look at a mobile-specific Web analytics tool: PercentMobile.

Sure, most capable Web analytics packages do a good job of handling mobile visits already, but it’s nice to look around and see what would happen if someone approached monitoring mobile traffic from the ground up.

PercentMobile installs just like any other Web analytics package: via a bit of javascript that you put on your website. Once installed, PercentMobile starts tracking mobile devices with advanced browsers (aka the iPhone or Android). But it will also start gathering data on the more than 3,000 types of other mobile phones.

That "non-advanced" phone market for many areas is pretty big. PercentMobile is betting that if you knew more about them you might change the way you do some of your online stuff.

And since it has a giant database of all those non-smartphones and their capabilities, the company is in a good spot to present the complete mobile picture to you.

Another useful approach applied by PercentMobile is that it doesn’t equate "mobile" with "phone." Through the use of filters, it provides the possibility for understanding the whole post-PC mobile universe.

Mobile traffic can be filtered by "nonphone devices" like Android tablets, the iPad and iPod Touch, and other similar devices.

Seeing these devices lumped together with mobile phones doesn’t present an entirely accurate picture of what people are doing on your site or what sort of device they’re using to access your site on the go.

When faced with a decision about what sort of devices to support on your website, seeing the total scope (including non-smartphones) and seeing the trends by segments which are meaningful (such as nonphone devices vs. phone devices) helps you make better decisions.

We’ve all heard the clamor about the approaching mobile universe and the post-PC digital world. But until you’ve got a set of measurements to understand how all of this is impacting (or not) your own site and business, it’s just a pile of buzzwords.

One of the things that starts to become clear when looking at the analytics presented via PercentMobile is how much of a Wild West scenario the mobile Web experience is. It’s sort of like the old "browser wars" days. There are widely differing screen resolutions, device capabilities, operating system capabilities, browser capabilities and so on.

To date, the easiest path has been to develop for the smartphones, and partly because the smartphones are the easiest to measure using existing Web analytics tools. But once you can start to observe the full scope of what’s out there, it gets thornier.

There’s little doubt in my mind that eventually the device capabilities and software will start to settle down. Eventually we’ll end up with a situation like we have on the Web today — two or three common device/browser/operating system configurations. But we’re nowhere close to that today.

The path between here and that theoretically settled-down mobile, post-PC landscape is anything but clear. The ultimate winners in that scenario are probably around today.

But the amount of time it will take before the majority of meaningful Web traffic occurs via mobile is an unknown. And it will probably vary market to market, industry to industry, task to task.

This likely variance is what makes a specialized mobile analytics tool valuable. We will continue to hear about best practices or things that worked for someone else. But given how each of our audiences is very different — especially when it comes to mobile — having a useful tool to segment and understand mobile user behavior can be the difference between a successful and useful launch and a lot of money wasted.

PercentMobile could use some work in the area of conversion metrics. Most of the data now gathered is based on users’ engagement, or device profiles: What device they’re using, how many pages they see, and so on. These are useful for understanding your traffic a bit. But they aren’t useful in helping you understand which device profile is most likely to become a customer.

For now, PercentMobile will be most helpful in monitoring how quickly the change is from a computer-driven Web experience to a post-PC mobile experience. It won’t, in its current form, be helpful in optimizing user experience for mobile users.

So use this analytics tool to primarily help you determine feature sets for the mobile users coming to your site.

(Oh yeah, and PercentMobile does QR codes, too.)

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